Nutrition: Sensitive Summer Skin

Are you and your equine friends adjusting to a new routine in lockdown? We speak to NAF Equine’s Senior Nutritionist, Kate Hore RNutr (Animal), about looking after sensitive skin this Summer. 

This year we’re facing some unique challenges, but some things never change, and one thing that even Covid 19 can’t stop is the nuisance of summer insects. Unfortunately, that is not good news for sensitive equines.

Sweet Itch is an allergic reaction to the bite of the Culicoides midge. Signs include intense itching, particularly along the mane and top of the tail, though we also see head and belly rubbing. Hair loss and sore, inflamed areas of skin may be seen, as will raised, ridged skin if the condition worsens. Needless to say affected horses and ponies will also be particularly irritated by flying insects, and especially those pesky midges!

The correct management can be useful to help those suffering. Consider stabling during the day in a clean, airy stable, when insects are at their height. For turnout try to choose an open aspect field, preferably on a hill, which encourages a constant light breeze. Avoiding standing ponds or any water sources where flies congregate is a must, and don’t forget regular use of a strong, proven fly repellent – check it is registered for safety and efficacy with a HSE or BPR registration number.

To nutritionally support from the inside out, feed a naturally sourced antioxidant based product for skin health daily. The inclusion of MSM alongside the antioxidants supports skin cell health from within and provides the building blocks for repair. Lastly it is recommend to also supplement with linseed oil daily, as research has shown that the omega 3 rich linseed oil can support seasonal skin health.*

Alongside supplementary support, using the right applications topically will help maintain those skin defences. Look for a skin wash targeting lumps and bumps through natural ingredients for skin immunity, and to maintain comfort in summer skin. Your horse will thank you for a cooling wash all over after riding, but high risk areas, such as the mane and tail-head, will need a more concentrated approach.

By taking some simple management and dietary steps we can help our midge sensitive horses and ponies to enjoy the long summer days as much as we do.

* O-Neill W, McKee S & Clarke A.F (2002) Flaxseed [linseed] supplementation associated with reduced skin test lesional area in horses with Culicoides hypersensitivity. Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. 66(4)

For more information on supplementing through warm weather, contact NAF’s FREE Nutritional Advice Line. They would love to hear from you and love to speak about horses! 0800 373106 /


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