Prevent Mud Fever with 5 Easy Ideas


Ok, maybe using the word “easy” is wrong here. To prevent mud fever it’s a significant effort with lots of angles to attack. Unfortunately, the most obvious solution to getting rid of mud fever is the absolute hardest to do.  


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horse pastern with healing mud fever

This case of mud fever is on the way to full healing.  


What is mud fever?


  • Mud fever, also called scratches, dew poisoning, and greasy heel, is part of the larger collection of skin conditions called equine pastern dermatitis (EPD).  


  • Mud fever is usually a bacterial infection of the skin around the pastern and fetlock, although some cases extend up the leg. There may be a secondary fungal component, too. 


  • When these microbes have warmth, moisture, and a horse’s delicate skin, mud fever can happen. It can be itchy, and you will see scabby skin, usually with some hair loss. These lesions love to spread, and can even lead to cellulitis and lymphangitis.  


  • Other EPD causes include liver problems, mites, allergies, and sunlight. You are not always dealing with bacteria and microbes. 

See some more photos and details about EPD here

Manage the mud 


  • Mud carries bacteria and moisture to your horse’s lower legs. Then the mud rudely creates a sticky barrier to trap it all. Do what you can to minimize the mud.  

Drainage is vital


  • There are many ways to create drainage, including using hills, digging little ditches, adding french drains, and screaming into the void. 


  • You can block off extra muddy parts of the paddocks with temporary fencing. Make the areas around gates, water troughs, and feeders less likely to be muddy with bark, wood chips, or mats. Old carpet also makes an excellent surface under a thin dirt or crushed stone layer. Horses will grind dirt into the carpet and eventually wear it out, but it keeps the deep mud at bay. 


tractor making a trench for water

This tractor is making a small trench outside of a barn aisle for drainage.


Move things around


  • Rotate pastures frequently for gate areas, corners, and popular paths to allow ground cover to fill in any blanks. 


  • You may also want to drag your feeders and water troughs to different locations. The area under the tubs will keep growing, and the footing around the tubs won’t ever be stomped into oblivion. 


horse eating from a hay net inside a tub outside

Move your feeders around for mud control!  This paddock is also crushed stone, great for drainage.


Your horse’s feathers need a haircut. Maybe.


  • Now address your horse’s feathers. These gorgeous and floofy leg curtains are the breed standard for some horses, but sometimes at a price.  


  • Feathers create a fabulous hairy petri dish for skin infections to take hold. A mite also loves to live in feathers, which can cause so much trouble that the skin and legs are permanently swollen and damaged. Many horses become lame from feather mites. 


  • Feathers also hinder your eyes and fingers from quickly noticing skin infections and complicate applying medications. 

feathered legs on gypsy vanner horse

Gorgeous feathers on clean bedding for the win


The question becomes – to clip or not to clip?


  • Trimming feathers may sound like a crime against feathers, but it may help prevent mud fever on your horse. Each horse will have different pasture, paddock, and barn environments that determine the benefits of clipping. 


  • But, clipping the feathers is something to consider if you constantly battle mud fever.  


  • If you find a scab or patch of skin infection, you need to clip the area and ensure it stays dry and clean. Feathers don’t let that happen! Using your vet’s prescribed topical products for treatment is also less messy with trimmed feathers.  


trimming up a horse fetlock

You never have to clip to the skin unless you want to, or it’s medically necessary.  Trimming off the chaos can be enough.


Grooming oils for feathers


  • Drowning the feathers in grooming oil is an excellent idea for some horses. The No. 2 Heavy Oil or pig oil are great choices. Do this when there is no skin infection going on. The oil makes a slippery barrier on the feathers and mud removes easily. You may need to re-apply daily.

Keep your horse’s legs clean and dry


  • Your goal is to heal the skin and prevent infections. Clean and dry is your new mantra.  


  • Mud is not the only culprit of wet legs. Over-bathing, too much rain, or horses that like to wade into streams or ponds can have the same issues. 


  • Old towels and dish rags are always handy to have at the barn to dry legs.  Some horse people will also use a blow dryer, but use it with caution to avoid burning the skin.


white hoof standing in grass with a sock on

Horse socks with silver embedded fabric create a barrier, allowing the skin to heal.


Cover the legs with socks or mud boots


  • The easiest way to prevent mud fever is to create a barrier between your horse’s leg and their world. Socks and rain jackets for lower legs are two ways to make that happen.  


  • Contrary to logic, unique fabric socks can get wet and muddy. They are dense enough to protect the skin and airy enough to keep the skin happy.  


  • Use rain jackets for horse legs with or without an underlying wrap. Horses that have bandages, wound coverings, or standing wraps will keep their legs and wraps clean and dry.  

mud prevention boots and bell boot for horses

The mud boots and special mud bells prevent mud on the skin, hooves, and bandages.


Keep your horse’s bedding clean to prevent mud fever


  • Your horse needs clean sheets. Dirty shavings cause stains, can harbor mold, love to pump out harmful ammonia, and offer a home to bacteria.  You may need to experiment with types of bedding to find the best one(s) for your horse.


  • Keep your horse’s bedding clean! You may spend some time picking out the best shavings for your horse, and maybe add another round of stall cleaning to your day. And if your horse has an outdoor shed, nothing changes.  


  • If your horse has wet legs, for whatever reason, let them dry before turning them out into mud or shavings.  

Get expert help


  • Get with your vet for a diagnosis, medications, and treatment plan. With the multitude of causes for EPD, save some time and get your vet involved at the first sign of trouble. You’ll also save money in the long run, and your horse will feel better sooner. 




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Whinny Wellies from Sox For Horses

Tough, weather-resistant covering for wraps and bandaging.

Silver Bells - Sox For Horses

For hoof protection when equine pastern dermatitis is a risk.

02/20/2024 10:42 pm GMT
SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz

The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

02/20/2024 06:13 pm GMT
Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious flax formula.


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