Sunday, August 10, 2014

Muck-Itch for Rain Rot

First, let me assure you that I am still actively riding. However, my rides have taken on a more utilitarian personality. Rather than having adventures on the side of a mountain, we are just frequenting some of our usual haunts like Andy Guest State Park, the Manassas Battlefield, Phelps Wildlife Management Area, and the Shenandoah National Park for conditioning rides as well as continuing our dressage work. I'll write a little bit more about how the rides are going in a subsequent post, but first I wanted to write about The Worst Skin Affliction Ever.

Last August, Nimo got what I thought was a case of rain rot on his back. I assumed that it was caused by all the wet saddle pads and longer rides plus the typical humidity of Virginia in August. I always sponged or hosed sweat off of him after our rides, but apparently that wasn't enough. Anyway, I remember that the rain rot took awhile to heal and was worse than anything I'd seen on Nimo (he has never had much trouble with rain rot in the past). There was some skin damage on one side of his back as a result, and a very small spot of white hair grew in.

After that incident, I vowed to be extra careful this year and be aggressive in treating any sign of something similar. Well, by the end of May this year, I caught the first signs of the rain rot reappearing, first on the left side and then the right side of Nimo's back. I immediately started washing it with Zephyr's Calm and Clean Shampoo, which has a nice assortment of anti-bacterial/anti-fungal ingredients like lavender and tea tree.  I also started using some of the random sprays/ointments that I had on hand that said they were anti-bacterial and anti-fungal because I honestly wasn't sure if the skin issue was a bacteria or a fungus, so I figured I would cover my bases.

Anyway, weeks went by and none of the products I tried were really helping.  By early July, I was pretty sure Nimo was going to lose all the skin on his back.  While I had continued to ride, I had tried to space rides out a little more to give a few days between them so healing could take place.  But, I could tell that the affected area was now quite sensitive to the touch and I felt uncomfortable continuing to ride.  I was feeling pretty upset about the whole thing because I was worried I wouldn't have time to get the conditioning work in yet again and I'd have to forego my plans to do an endurance ride in October.  Also, I felt like I had to get the vet out to do a skin scraping to figure out exactly what kind of infection I was dealing with and prescribe specific drugs for the problem.  I expected to see several hundred dollars go out the window for that process, and I was not super happy about that either because I had plans for that several hundred dollars.

I happened to mention my intent to call the vet to the barn owner and she said, "Well, before you call your vet and spend a whole bunch of money, why don't you try something that my vet recommends for rain rot.  I've had a lot of success with it."  I sort of internally signed.  You know how it is if you have a problem - everyone has a suggestion about what you should do to fix it.  Whether it's a special bit for a training issue or a special shoe for a lameness issue, there's always another product or method to try.  I'm absolutely not trying to belittle the recommendations that I've gotten from people in the past or for this problem, it's just frustrating to have a quagmire of products available and to know that time is of the essence for solving the problem.

As it happened, it was July 3 (the Thursday before the three-day holiday weekend), so I knew that it would probably not be until July 7 before I could get the vet out anyway, unless I wanted to add an emergency call fee to my bill.  I figured it wouldn't hurt to give it a try for a couple of days, and if I didn't see any effect, I'd call my vet on Saturday.

The product my barn owner recommended was Muck-Itch.  I read the directions, shook the bottle, and sprayed onto the affected areas.  And basically assumed that it wasn't going to work.

When I came out the next day, the rain rot definitely didn't look any worse, so I sprayed the Muck-Itch on again.  And the next day, things looked markedly improved.  So improved, in fact, that I felt compelled to take a picture.  I wish I would have taken a good quality picture of the yuckiness on my horse's back before I started using this product, but I didn't really have any faith that it would actually work.  However, let me assure you that it was a disgusting mass of crusty, peeling, grossness that was painful.

Here is a picture of what the worst of it looked like after 2 days:

It's hard to tell from the picture (dear Apple, for such an expensive phone, the iphone's camera sucks), but the area that looks white is actually pinkish/white skin (normally Nimo's skin is black).  Also hard to see is that there is an area that was in the process of losing hair surrounding the white area.

I kept using the Muck-Itch every day and within a couple of weeks, the hair had completely regrown on the right side of Nimo's back.  There were a handful of white hairs, but otherwise, things were as good as new.  In the picture below, the darker hair represents the area that was affected with the rain rot.

Right side after rain rot is healed

The left side took a little longer to heal because it was in significantly worse shape than the right side, but the skin did clear up and hair regrew.  Unfortunately, I think the degree of the skin infection was such that it permanently damaged part of the area, so Nimo is left with a white patch.  Again, the darker hairs are the regrowth, so you can see that a substantial area of Nimo's back was affected.

Left side after rain rot is healed
I'm thrilled that Nimo's back is healed and that the damage wasn't worse.  I am sad about the white spot, although it does provide a nice identifying feature.  Because all Friesians are solid black, it can be hard to tell them apart!  I imagine that I will now be explaining, "No, it wasn't a saddle fit issue - it was a bad case of rain rot" to everyone, but at least I have a functional horse again.

I ended up giving Nimo nine days off after I started the Muck-Itch treatment to make sure that the saddle didn't aggravate the healing process, so that was a big hit to my conditioning plans, but we are back on track.

And, if you have a stubborn case of rain rot, my recommendation is Muck-Itch:)


  1. Glad you got it figured out! I might suggest this product to a fellow boarder who is having nearly the same issue. Her horse is just miserable at this point and this happens to her every summer.

  2. Maybe you'll get lucky like I did with Q after her mystery back skin issue - it grew in white, then when her winter coat came in it was less white, and then by spring it was all dark again!

    I always suspected it was a friction-based saddle rub, but as she never had issues with the saddle or pain (only weird sweat marks) and I switched saddles shortly after, I'll never know!