Horse owners, competitors and grooms care deeply about providing the very best for their equine partner. Good health comes from the inside out, so diligent attention to every detail is essential to the horse’s well-being. Choosing the right forage, feeds and supplements for the horse is the first step in getting a horse to ‘sparkle from the inside out’. Part of that everyday ‘sparkle’ comes from consistent grooming and attention to managing issues that may arise in the largest organ of any animal, the skin. Choosing the correct care product that is suited to the horse is essential.
For bathing horses, many professional grooms have traditionally utilized strong detergents, which are more suitable for washing dishes and breaking down grease than for cleaning the horse’s sensitive skin. These highly alkaline agents strip away the natural protective lipid layer of the horse’s skin and remove its natural defense against pathogens. This potentially allows secondary infections to arise in the skin that the lipid layer is designed to protect. At best, this may result in dry, itchy and flaky skin. At worst, it may subject the horse to infections leading to issues like scratches or cellulitis.
In contrast to strong detergents, other horse caregivers use human shampoos under the illusion that these products will be gentler on the horse’s skin. However, human shampoos will pull moisture from the horse’s skin and can cause dry skin or irritation due to the difference in the pH of products developed for humans vs. horses.
For the best results for both horse health and coat appearance, it is best to select a pH balanced shampoo that is scientifically designed specifically for the horse. The skin is composed of an outer layer (stratum corneum), which consists of sweat, skin cells, and bacteria. This composition determines the pH of the horse’s skin.
Unlike humans whose skin is acidic and can handle the highly alkaline shampoos, the horse’s skin has a neutral pH of 7 to 7.4. To maintain the natural protective lipid layer that the horse depends on for optimal skin health, it makes sense that an overly alkaline or acidic product is not the best product to use to bathe horses. This is especially important in high-performance equine athletes who are routinely bathed more than once a day.
It is also important to note that as the horse sweats the pH of the skin becomes elevated allowing potentially harmful pathogens to penetrate the skin’s protective barrier. Using a pH neutral shampoo brings the horse’s skin back to a pH neutral level that puts it into a natural balance allowing the most resistance to harmful pathogens. Unbalanced care products that are routinely applied to the horse can unnecessarily strip the horse of his natural healthy skin and first line of defense against the environment.
But, a pH neutral product isn’t the only thing that determines a well-designed care product. The quality of the ingredients is also crucial. Thus including ingredients of the highest quality together with a carefully formulated pH product creates the healthiest and best result. For example, look for provitamin B5 and glycerin to condition and moisturize the equine coat and skin. These ingredients provide gloss for the horse’s coat and add volume and flexibility to the mane and tail.
A product that also includes high-quality complementary ingredients such as essential oils, can also make the care product smell fantastic and provide additional health benefits. For example, some essential oils help to deter biting insects, help hair grow back on bald spots, or speed up wound healing.
In reality not all shampoos or skin care products are created equal, even across the horse market. Cheaper products often include ingredients that are detrimental to the skin and are not scientifically balanced to suit the horse. One way to tell if higher quality ingredients are used is the price. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for”. It is important to keep this in mind when choosing a care product and the price factor should be considered in the buying process.
For example, where care products such as detanglers for the equine mane and tail are concerned, the same rules applies. There is a massive difference in the quality of silicone that can be included in these products and a high-quality silicone ingredient that will protect the hair is a vast improvement over those of lesser quality that will dry out the hair and result in brittle hair that is susceptible to breakage.
In regards to preventing skin issues, protecting the outer lipid layer with the right cleaning agents when bathing and grooming is clearly important, but it is equally important to incorporate smart pH balanced products when it comes to any skin care or topical product that is used on the horse for skin infections. Let’s look at a common issue for horses such as mud fever or scratches and what are some potential ingredients to look for in a balanced topical skin care product for horses with skin infections.
General treatment for scratches will require a product with an antiseptic to clear the bacteria from the area of the pastern, such as tea tree and eucalyptus. This topical care product should also incorporate ingredients that will increase circulation to the area to create rapid healing and lessen scar tissue, such as lavender. Less scar tissue means more coat will grow back and this will help prevent future issues.
For the comfort of the horse the treatment should include an analgesic. Look for a product that also incorporates moisturizers like aloe vera that will keep the skin elastic and pliable to prevent skin cracks. The latter can be a particular problem in intensive exercise disciplines such as showjumping, where a horse is consistently stretching the pastern tissues.
There are many equine care products on the market for all different needs, but the bottom line is not all care products are created equal. Look for pH neutral products with good quality ingredients that work from multiple angles which allows for numerous benefits to the horse. There is no need to compromise when it comes to skin care, and it certainly pays to do your research.
PLEASE NOTE: This article is available for use in its entirety without edit, in any media format on condition that credit is given to Cavalor North America, and Cavalor North America URL address is included. Cavalor would appreciate notification of any publication and please contact author for photos to accompany the article.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Cavalor North America, Dalton, GA– with thanks to Elynn Thys, Junior Project Manager at Nutriquine N.V. at Drongen-Belgium, Cavalor’s Global headquarters. Please visit the U.S.A. website at http://www.cavalor.us to learn more.
About Cavalor North America, Dalton, GA: Cavalor is a global brand that can justifiably be called the world leader in equine nutrition for high-performance horses. Cavalor products are available in more than 50 countries worldwide and are used by champion riders. Cavalor offers a complete line of horse feed, supplements and care products. All are the result of years of intense research and development, thorough testing, selection of the highest quality ingredients, and strict manufacturing and quality control processes.
The company's values are: Innovation - Quality - Results. They dedicate themselves to inventing, manufacturing and distributing the best quality and most effective equine nutrition products in the world for the health, performance and happiness of all horses, from a foal’s first steps to retirement.
Please visit http://www.cavalor.us to learn more about their top quality line of products used by advanced riders for their high performance horses, ‘when the result counts.’
Cavalor North America
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