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Caring for horses in wet weather

Horse in muddy paddock_edited.jpg

Horses and mud! 

Wet paddocks can cause a number of problems for horses and ponies.  Muddy footing in paddocks not only increases the  daily maintenance for owners, but creates a living environment for your horse that is neither safe nor healthy.

Mud is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungi that cause, among other conditions, mud fever, greesy heel and thrush.  Muddy footing can also lead to lost horseshoes, soft hooves, and injuries caused by slipping on the slick footing.


Feeding on a muddy surface can result in ingestion of dirt or sand particles that could cause colic.

Mud often becomes worse in high traffic areas of the paddock – gateways, around the water trough, feeding areas – where the frequent tramping of horse hooves churns up the topsoil and compacts the soil below. If possible it helps to move the feed/ water areas to less frequently used parts of the paddock. 

Tips for managing horses in the wet:

  • Move your horses to a higher location if possible BEFORE the rain sets in.

  • Have a reserve of feed prepared in the dry, higher location.  With pregnant mares and ponies, it is crucial to ensure access to good quality hay as a lack of access to feed for 1-5 days can cause hyperlipidaemia, a potentially fatal condition (*high fibre feed such as hay is preferable due to possibility of stress causing stomach ulcers and/or tying up)

  • Ensure your float and towing vehicle are adequately maintained and ready to go if necessary.

  • Provide access to shelter from the elements if possible.

  • To reduce the risk of rain scald occurring resultant of heavy rainfall, apply paraffin oil lightly to back and sides to increase water resistance.

  • Always ensure access to clean drinking water as flood water is often contaminated and thus can cause illness in horses.

  • Ensure horse feed is kept dry, as if it becomes damp it may become mouldy and potentially very dangerous to horses - stack hay on pallets with bales tightly pushed together but if possible, do not cover with plastic tarps as this may cause hay to “sweat” and become mouldy.

  • Remove halters, fly masks, and rugs if there is any concern the horse may need to swim to safety as these may become entangled around debris and lead to the horse becoming trapped.

  • Ensure your horse is up to date with tetanus vaccination in case of injury during severe weather.

  • Consider how identifiable your horse is - microchips, freeze brands, and photographs may be useful if your horse goes missing (if your horse does not have any identification, attach a metal tag into his or her mane with your contact details).

  • Be aware that heavy rainfall can increase the risk of insect-carried diseases and monitor for signs of these in your horse (Ross River Virus, West Nile Virus, etc)

  • Regularly check your horse for signs of injury and illness, including wounds, swellings, fever, discomfort, etc. 

  • With the increased risk of greasy heel/mud fever occurring during very wet conditions, diluted iodine or betadine may be used to clean the lower limbs daily or every second day before rinsing, drying and applying “Deri Sal” ointment (available from Illawarra Equine Centre).

  • Keep your horse away from any dead carcasses as grazing near these may predispose horses to diseases such as botulism.

    If in any doubt, call Illawarra Equine Centre on Ph: 4448 6488

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