what to do about manure stains and urine scald on horses

Manure, diarrhea, and urine scald can create problems on your horse’s legs.


  • This is usually a mare’s problem in the urine department unless you have a particularly talented gelding or he likes to pee in the middle of tornados. Mares tend to have the likelihood of urinating on the underside of their tails, and in some cases, this can evolve into urinating down the hind legs.


  • This is not to be confused with cannon keratosis, which is the leg funk that any horse can get on the front of the cannon bones. This is a skin condition, not caused by urine, that results in scaly and greasy clumps on the front cannons.


cannon keratosis on a horse hind leg cannon bone

This is cannon keratosis, which is not urine-related.


OK – back to actual urine scald.


  • There’s the staining that can occur on your horse’s tail. Urine is notorious for creating dark yellow tails that are also STICKY. You don’t want to be shampooing daily, but you can rinse with white vinegar daily. I do suggest that after a thorough shampoo, perhaps with a blueing shampoo and not a detergent, you deep condition. Harsh shampoos strip protective oils from your horse’s hair. This means stains have an engraved invitation to take up permanent shop in the brittle hair. Condition the SNOT out of the tail. Then use a grooming oil to create a physical barrier to stains. This will help the daily maintenance of the stinky and sticky urine stain tail. For more tips, this article has you covered.


  • There’s the problem of the staining that can happen on your horse’s coat and legs. Same thing here – you want to keep your horse’s coat conditioned and not brittle or dried out from detergents. Using a spot remover to lift stains is a good idea, as is using conditioners and grooming oils.



urine and manure stains on horse's gray tail

Urine can create awful stains on a horse’s tail.


  • Don’t forget about the smell. Flies love smells! Urine and manure smells are the milkshake that brings all the flies to the yard. Some spot removers, like Easy Out, are also natural deodorizers that get rid of odors and smelly funk. This will help.


  • And the urine and manure can actually “burn” your horse’s skin and remove the hair. If it comes to this, your Vet needs to help you figure out the best ointments to use. The goal here is to help heal the burned skin, and provide a slippery surface for any subsequent urine to stay away from the skin. Some people swear by petroleum jelly, but I’m a bit leery of using a petroleum product on a horse, especially one with sensitive and raw skin. There’s an element to healing that probably can do with something more targeted and appropriate and will still create that barrier to keep urine away – like a burn cream or antibiotic ointment. In a nutshell, your Vet will help.


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Light oil is a great conditioner, and it helps stains and “stuff” slide off.



Then, and most importantly, find out WHY urine scald is happening.

  • This is the most important problem to tackle. Please get your Vet involved. Some of these situations are dire.


  • It could be your mare’s heat cycle. When your mare is cycling, she changes her urination habits in order to attract a stallion. She uses small amounts of urine dribbling down to pick up vaginal secretions. These let any stallions in the area know she is in heat. The smaller amounts of urine have a tendency to fall on the inside of the legs which may be a source of the problem.


  • Urinary tract or bladder infections. These situations create inflammation, which oftentimes tells your horse to urinate more frequently, even when the bladder is not full. This is also seen in some colic situations, as a horse will try anything to get rid of the pressure in his gut. Point is – the frequent and smaller urination may be dribbling down the hind legs.


  • It’s also worth mentioning that stones in a horse’s bladder can cause massive problems and the dribbling of urine down a mare’s hind legs. As you recall from the excellent article about horse urine, it’s cloudy and full of things like calcium carbonate. Which, incidentally, is responsible for making bladder stones as well as enteroliths, the sometimes giant stones that form in a horse’s GI tract. Some horses, depending on their diet, will have too much phosphorus, which can also lead to stones.


  • Stones in the kidneys are mostly rare in horses, stones in the bladder are more common than those in the kidneys. Like a generic urinary infection, they cause inflammation, discomfort, and may mimic colic. Unfortunately, they can also cause death. A blocked urinary tract can easily rupture a horse’s bladder causing death.


horse belly and urine patch in the sand

Knowing your horse’s normal urine output and characteristics is important!


  • These urinary problems are possible in mares and geldings and stallions, it’s just mares that may make them a bit more obvious. I can’t stress this enough – get your Vet involved. You should already know what your horse’s normal urination habits are, the volume of urine that’s normal, and what it looks like. This includes how foamy it is, the color, and even the smell.


  • Dehydrated horses will also concentrate their urine, in which case it will be darker and “stronger”, and may be more likely to scald your horse.


  • There are also some neurological conditions that create difficulty for your horse to lift her tail while urinating. Same for muscle issues, hind leg joint problems, and lamenesses. It’s entirely possible for your horse to be uncomfortable in some areas and still appear to be sound, so your Vet can help you here, too.


  • Your horse may also be having some urine scald issues because of blanket straps or leg straps. When a mare urinates, there’s a good chance that the urine stream is hitting any blanket straps that loop under the tail. This can saturate them and then rest against your horse. Same for some types of leg straps. A horse blanket’s tail cover might also be interfering with the urination process. Something to consider when you and your Vet have exhausted all options.


  • There are a slew of medical issues that can cause diarrhea or drippy manure in horses. Definitely seek your Vet’s advice here. From food allergies to dangerous weeds in the pasture to colic to hindgut issues like acidosis and colitis and even parasites, loose manure is a warning sign that needs to be addressed.


urine scald on horse's hind leg



If you and your Vet have eliminated all medical issues, time to get creative in how you keep this area clean and try to prevent more staining and scalding.


  • You can loosely french braid the top portion of your horse’s tail so that the shorter hairs are clear of the urine stream.


  • Use grooming oil to help the tail and hind legs stay slick!


  • Remove any tail coverings from blankets and play around with different styles of leg straps. I would definitely suggest not using an under the tail strap, in which case you definitely need some sort of leg strap.


  • Consider doing some selective clipping in the winter. Long winter coats will trap sticky urine, which makes things hard to clean and treat. Some trial and error is called for here.

Investigate why your horse may be having some urine or manure scald, then move on to dealing with it.




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