Larry has Mud Fever


Larry has mud fever, weeping crusty scabs on the back of his pasterns.

Not surprising as the relentless October rain makes for poached gateways, muddy paddocks, muddy tracks, and water filled potholes – the perfect conditions for mud fever, so what is it exactly? What causes it? And how do you beat it?

What is mud fever?

Clinical signs of mud fever are sores on the lower legs, especially round the back of the pastern. It can range in severity from a few small scabs to a lame horse with swollen, scabby, bleeding legs needing antibiotics and painkillers.

Signs include matted areas of hair and crusty scabs; reddened area of skin; small circular ulcerated moist lesions some with scabs; some discharge – can be orange goo to thick, yellow pus; scabs may remove hair in clumps; deep cracks in the skin – these are often horizontal; hair loss leaving raw looking areas which may bleed; horses with mud fever can have swollen legs; mud fever can lead to lameness.

What causes mud fever?

A bacteria called Dermatophilus congolensis, which is found on the skin of grazing animals, is the culprit. Usually, it is not a problem but if the skin is compromised it can cause problems by invading vulnerable skin and causing an infection. Skin is damaged by getting wet or scratched by thistles or sand. Pink skin under white legs seems more prone to mud fever.

How do you combat mud fever?

Keeping the skin of the legs clean and dry is key, which may mean the horse needs to be stabled for some time.

There are many conflicting views on the treatment of mud fever. Some vets are keen on using hibiscrub, picking off scabs etc. My experience of hibiscrub used on people and in hospitals is that it is harsh and irritates the skin, so if you opt for hibiscrub, use it sparingly and dilute it a lot. I would also err on the side of caution re picking off scabs –  in a hospital environment, you would never pick off a scab in the treatment of people unless the wound was necrotic. Generally a scab forms and healing goes on under the scab. Picking off scabs causes bleeding and increases the risk of bacteria entering the skin. Yes, the cream you are applying needs to get to the infection, but you need to be very careful about how you go about this.

If you are applying a cream to treat the mud fever from your vet eg Yellow mud fever cream, the area should be clean and dry. If it is not clean, wash with a mild disinfectant such as diluted dettol, extremely dilute chlorhexidine (hibiscrub) – extremely dilute as this is nasty skin drying stuff and can aggravate skin and make skin worse. Vets sometimes recommend pov-iodine wash or a medicated shampoo eg Allermyl. Don’t get the legs too wet, too often and if they are wet, dry them carefully. Pat them dry with a soft towel.

Dry the limb thoroughly before any creams are applied. You must dry the legs very gently so that no further trauma to the skin occurs.

There are a lot of creams on the market and your vet may also prescribe a cream with antibiotics and corticosteroids. For very bad cases antibiotics and pain killers may be necessary.

Any brushes that have been in contact with the infected skin will need to be disinfected.

Interestingly, some people advocate the topical treatment of the affected area with Manuka honey. I have heard of the healing properties of Manuka honey but have never tried it myself. (It’s not just any old honey, it is only ‘Manuka’ honey that has healing properties.)

How to prevent mud fever

Try to ensure your horses aren’t standing in muddy, waterlogged fields. Use electric fencing to fence off muddy areas.

Rotate paddocks to avoid poaching.

Avoid riding in abrasive surfaces eg sand if your horses is prone to mud fever.

Make sure the bedding in the stable is clean and dry.

Don’t overwash legs or groom legs too vigorously.

Consider barrier creams on clean, dry legs prior to turn out eg tea tree oil, aloe vera, honey with vitamin E, dermisol cream, filtabac, udder cream or petroleum jelly.

Some people like breathable, waterproof leg wraps eg Equiwraps.

Keep your eyes open as the sooner you spot mud fever, the sooner you can stop it turning into a costly recovery.

Larry seems to like Yellow Mud Fever Cream! There is a God!

Streaming with cold


I am streaming with cold. I’ve not had a cold in ages, which is probably why I am feeling so awful. I have forgotten how horrible having a cold actually is.

I didn’t feel great at work on Sunday, in fact in the afternoon I felt a bit sick and very tired, but I carried on and managed to get all the horses in before the rain closed in – apart from Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth, whom Laura had asked to be left out.

Leaving them out came as music to my ears, as Ted is once again a nightmare, probably to do with being fed too much and doing no work.

There is a link between doing no work and being fed too much, Laura liking Ted the Teeth to look like a show pony, that is to say, fat and to keep him fat, she has to feed him a lot and when he’s fed a lot he is unmanageable. He was fed a lot before and little Grace, who was ‘loaning’ him,  with Laura’s help, was bucked off at least once every time she rode him, so she’s no longer loaning him, as finally Grace’s mum realised it wasn’t normal to be bucked off every time you got on. And so now Ted the Teeth is getting just as much food if not more, is doing no work at all, and is unmanageable verging on dangerous. God help us all!

However, my delight at not having to bring them in was tempered by Bella looking as if she was about to jump the fence any minute and bring herself in – something she has done before on more than one occasion.

I think next time Laura asks me to leave them out, I’ll make sure Bella’s stable door is open so she can just run straight in, should she jump the fence.

Laura and Chris arrived just as I was leaving. Their humour matched the grey sky and drizzle.

Laura dispatched her brooding welsh husband to muck out while she went to collect Back Legs Bella and Ted the Teeth from the field.

I walked back across my newly swept yard to see it covered in clods of earth from Bella and Ted’s feet.

I couldn’t bear to watch any more. Doubtless it would soon be covered with straw from the brooding welsh husband’s wheelbarrow.

Laura has always blamed Dave (who pronounces his name ‘Doof’) for all the straw on the main yard, which is actually hard to do now as all the horses on the main yard are on shavings.

I imagine she will have left the feed room door open too.

I think I am getting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about sweeping and yard tidiness!

This is worrying.




Hello, Good Bye, Wow Wow


Today was a strange day at the stables, marked by the reappearance of Wow Wow, a stripey grey cat with white paws, whose trademark was his loud ‘wow, wow’ miaow.

His arrival was noted mid morning, a crisp or rather more than crisp Sunday morning; his plaintive wowing becoming so loud and persistent, you couldn’t ignore him.

At first he was timid. He stood on a bale of hay and wowed and if you moved towards him, he ran off, but then he waited.

He waited and wowed.

I’ve seen him before, only once. Last weekend I saw him trying to catch a mouse in the long grass. He crouched, waited and pounced. He looked well.

In fact, he still looks well. He is a young, well covered cat.

We watched him for a while Sunday morning. He climbed out of the haybarn, so we could see him, and slowly, slowly he crept forward. He came closer and closer.

I crouched down and Wow Wow smoothed against my jodphurs and purred.

He went to see Lucy and purred.

He was going to make us late.

Having given him lots of love and strokes, we decided we better get on. He followed us and wowed.

Thankfully, when I led leapy about Larry out to his field and Lucy put Punch out, Wow Wow stayed still and waited patiently for our return.

We had half the stables still to muck out and were being followed round by a wowing cat!

Was he hungry? Was he lost? Was he hungry and lost?

One of the dogs had killed a rabbit last week, the remains of which had been found in a stable with cat prints in the shavings. Was it Wow Wow, who had dragged the rabbit into the stable?

Two hours later Wow Wow was still moaning, so we gave him a saucer of milk. I know you’re not supposed to give cats cow’s milk, but we didn’t have anything else to give him.

He lapped it up and then he started wowing again.

Lucy went home at 1 o’clock. Her lift arrived with some cat biscuits for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow ate them, not starvingly and left quite a lot. He obviously wasn’t starving, but he was still very vocal.

Lucy left and Wow Wow stayed and wowed.

Ann and Katherine saw Wow wow and gave him some attention, while they waited for the non arrival of Justine to clip their horse, Ellie. They popped home and picked up a tin of cat food for Wow Wow.

Wow Wow tried it, quite liked it, but clearly wasn’t starving.

I went to feed the horses in the field, and wondered if Wow Wow were microchipped. Should I take him to the vet to see if he was microchipped? Should I wait and see if he lost any weight? How long should I wait? Maybe we need a yard cat?

When I got back, Wow Wow had gone.

Maybe he does live locally after all?

I hope so, he’s too nice to be lost.





Purdy has turned into a kite


Mud sprays and the fillies shriek and gallop. Purdy, Pippa and Toe screech to a halt and slide towards the electric fence. They charge again, up and down the muddy field. The cries of the Egyptian geese roosting in the branches of a dead tree accompany them.

And I think, what…?

The water butt is rolling drunkenly across the entrance to the field.

Purdy, a pretty rain spider of a filly is about to fly – She is trailing a length of vetwrap  She had an abscess on her near side hind foot and has a poultice on it or rather had a poultice on it.

I walk closer.

The removal of the vetwrap turns out to be a time consuming process as I have to wait for all three to stop leaping around before I can go into the field and extricate Purdy from it.

If she moves off too quickly the vetwrap scares her and the scene of chaos starts over.

Why does this kind of thing always happen? The day was going so well!

I get the the three of them to stand still long enough to pull off the vetwrap and what is left of the plastic bag that was keeping the poultice clean.

How do these fillies get into so much trouble? They are the reason for checking your horse in the field!

I breathe a sigh of relief at managing to get the trailing vetwrap off and ponder how on earth I’m going to get water down here without a tractor!

I put their feeds in the field, which is what I had been going to do before Purdy’s kite flying display, and I watch them eating.

All is calm.




Larry is lame


Larry is lame, hopping lame. Well, not hopping lame today, but he was after eventing on Monday. Today he is limpingly lame… He’s got a splint on his nearside fore.

And looking at him, having a splint appears to be pretty painful.

What is a splint?

A splint is an inflamed area on either the inside or the outside of the canon bone. There may be a swelling and heat, and the horse will try to keep weight off the affected leg when trotting.

The front canon bone has on either side a smaller splint bone, and these smaller splint bones fuse into the canon bone as the horse matures, but in a young horse ligaments hold the splint bones to the central canon bone.

The upper two thirds of each splint bone is attached to the canon bone by the interosseous ligament (dense fibrous tissue). The lower section flares away from the canon bone and is connected to the surrounding structures by soft tissue.  The lower end of the splint bone has a small pea like button, which can be felt through the horse’s skin.

As the horse matures, the ligaments ossify and all three bones become one. Usually by the age of four the splint and cannon bone will be one bone.

Splints are more likely to occur in young horses, as the ligament is still flexible.

If you feel along the sides of the canon bone outside or inside, you will find a very sore spot that indicates the inflamed area. Heat and swelling may be present and the swelling may start to feel hard as the ligament calcifies. Because of how the leg bones are angled, it is more common for splints to develop on the inside of the leg. It is also possible for a horse to develop multiple splints.

There is also a type of splint that you can’t feel called a blind splint. In a blind splint the bony reaction happens on the inside border between the splint bone and the canon bone, where it cannot be seen and it cannot be felt. With a blind splint, the swelling can impinge on the suspensory ligament.

What causes a splint?

Direct trauma

Direct trauma is a common cause of splints. The periosteum is damaged by the trauma and new bone is laid down in the injured area. Splints caused by trauma are often seen lower down the leg than those caused by strain.


Working a horse on hard surfaces increases the concussion received by the interosseous ligament, which causes tearing. Splints caused by concussion are usually found on both front legs, most commonly on the inside of the leg a few inches below the knee.


Overworking young or unfit horses at speed or in tight circles may cause splints. The uneven loading of the limb in tight circles places excessive force on the medial splint, which can cause it to move excessively relative to the canon bone.


Horses with ‘bench kneed’ conformation can suffer from splints due to excess loading of the medial splint bone

 What is the usual treatment for a splint?

The usual treatment for a splint is a short time of box rest, turnout on soft ground and reduced workload for 1 – 3 weeks, cold hosing and your vet may prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and prevent excess calcification.


DMSO with other drugs in it may be prescribed.  DMSO acts as an anti-inflammatory, but it also has a property, which will enable it to also carry other drugs through the skin to the affected area.

The area where it is to be applied needs to be clean and free from dirt as the DMSO could also carry dirt through the skin of the horse.

DMSO is a solution that you paint on the splint with a brush if you have a patient, ‘good will to all men’ kind of horse.

Larry is not that kind of horse. He is more of the ‘take no prisoners’ kind and if he sees you’ve got the bottle of DMSO or smells it, he runs round his stable and turns his hind quarters on you before you can even get a head collar on him.

To be fair to him, it is lethal stuff and you have to wear gloves to apply it as it is quickly absorbed through your skin; If you do get it on your skin, you will smell like rotting asparagus; worryingly, you mustn’t touch it at all if you’re pregnant – it must be bad; you need to seek medical treatment immediately if you get it in your eyes and it can cause neurotoxicity;  I’m not quite sure how come it is used so liberally in horses?

I can only guess how DMSO makes his leg feel – suffice to say, he leaps about after it has been applied!

Applying DMSO in Larry’s case, it’s easier to catch him by surprise, and wearing gloves run a small DMSO soaked ball of cotton wool quickly over the splint, or your chances of getting near him are limited. You mustn’t soak the area of the splint however, just brush it over with the solution, so a quick wipe with cotton wool will do.

Wear rubber gloves rather than vinyl as DMSO is horrible stuff and it permeates vinyl gloves and your skin very quickly. Getting the gloves off without getting it on your skin can also be a challenge, especially as there are only a handful of gloves on the side in the tack room.

DMSO needs to be applied twice a day – a source of great joy to those with the task of applying it!

The morning application is not too bad. I think Larry is still half asleep. It’s the afternoon application, when you are ready to go home, where Larry runs round his box like the clappers.

All I can say is, I hope his splint is soon better!

Surprise party


It’s Saturday tea-time and the phone rings. “It’s Jeanette’s birthday tomorrow. We’re having a surprise party at the yard from 5.30pm. Would you like to come?” asks Justine.

I don’t have to think about it. I’d love to.

“We’re taking her for a hack and that will give time to set everything up. Everyone who is coming will hide in the tack room.”

It sounds fun.

The next question throws me a little. Would I like to bring my husband and children along? That one I have to ponder. I’m not sure I would.

Quent is driving back to London either Sunday evening or Monday morning and his scale of sociability varies enormously from delightful through to disdainful. I am amazed he holds down a job where he has to be not only polite to people, but also has to be charming on a regular basis. And as for the boys, well their behaviour has a similar scale, ranging from angelic to demonic.

So I run it past them, would they like to go. If they don’t that’s fine, if they do, that’s also fine. I would like them to go if they all tow the line.

Do we need to bring anything? I was thinking along the lines of wine, crisps, salad, dessert, serviettes , that kind of thing, but I learn we need burgers, sausages and buns. Mm…not stuff we’ve got in the fridge in any great quantiites.

I say I’ll run over to Co op afer I’ve had a bath. I can’t do anything till I’ve had a Radox ‘Muscle Soak’ bubble bath.

Incredibly Quent offers to go and get some, but he returns empty handed from Co op, which had reverted from Olympic opening times to ‘inconvenience’ store times and was shut already. I ask why didn’t he carry on to Tesco and wonder why I didn’t go myself.

The next morning I am nearly late as I have to write Quentin a note about what to buy and have to run out to the utility room for a couple of bottles of wine to take to work with me, in case Quent forgets the cool bag with them in later. At least, if he fails with the sausages, there will be something to drink!

All day at work, I wonder whether Quent will manage to get the sausages, be pleasant and amiable, and whether the boys will behave.

It’s 5.30pm. Balloons are in place, candles are on cake, guests are hiding in tack room, wine is poured in plastic cups, barbecue is smoking and …

“Surprise! Happy Birthday!” Jeanette looks… I’m not quite sure how to describe how she looks, a combination of surprised, moved and mortified. Becky pours drinks and everyone chats.

The boys pat Larry. Not a horse I’d recommend they shower with affection and I suggest they go find another horse to pat. They go off and when I go to check they are okay, find them patting Little Ted, a Welsh Section A, whose teeth marks are regularly on my arm. I guide the boys back to the barbecue.

They eat a hot dog but it doesn’t take them long to be drawn back to Larry, who seems to have magnetic powers over them. He doesn’t seem to mind them. In fact he seems to be rather enjoying the fuss. They feed him grass.

“Remember flat hands!’

The boys remember flat hands, Larry loves them and keeps them good for hours. They feed him more grass, eat hot dogs and drink lemonade.

The evening finishes with a delicious birthday cake, which tastes as if Nigella had baked it

… and a good time was had by all.



Hit that arena ball!


Here I am again at Norfolk Polo, ready for my second lesson.

I can’t wait or I wouldn’t have been able to wait, if the friend I was coming with, hadn’t cried off earlier in the week, and I hadn’t experienced the pleasure of driving through the market town of Loddon, where its gurning inhabitants force you to reverse over a mile down a winding street because the cars are on your side of the road, when they could simply stop at the junction for a moment and let you through.

Next time I will ignore sat nav if it tries to take me this way.

I walk into the clubhouse, catch sight of my instructor and bound over to say hi and pay before the lesson.

The instructor looks up, says hi and carries on looking at the computer and chatting to the woman next to him. I shuffle and play with my keys.

Thankfully, a glossy haired woman arrives at the adjacent desk to take my money.  I sink into a black leather sofa and filck through the Norfolk Polo Club magazine.

It is now 12.30, time for my lesson; the instructor collects me, a polo stick and a polo pony en route.

Today’s horse is Baja, a nippy little mare and I learn that last week’s horse was called Capito, not Pepito. Translated as Captain, but Capito isn’t spanish for Captain?

The lesson is an hour long, where I am very much left to my own devices, while the instructor fiddles with his phone. I am hitting the ball with minimal professional input and think I could do this at home if I bought a stick and some arena balls! The instructor on the other hand, is probably thinking, if I don’t look at her, she might hit the ball!

It’s windy and my right eye is watering. My polo stick feels like lead today, but when the wind catches it, it blows all over the place and I struggle to keep it in the air. What am I doing here?

I am annoyed that the instructor is still fiddling with his phone and more annoyed with myself for not telling him to stop! Not that I would tell him to stop, which makes me even more annoyed with myself. I cringe at the price of the lesson and some more when I think I’m not sure he’s even seen me hit a ball!

My hour is up. I feel deflated. Maybe this is how all second lessons go; you practise?

The instructor asks if I have my own horse but doesn’t wait to hear the answer and is fiddling with his phone again. And I wonder if I were wanting to buy and livery my own polo ponies there whether he’d be more interested or whether he has the same amicable ambivalence for anyone at this stage in their game.

Or could it be he is interested in my game, but just can’t bear to watch as I hack the sand and struggle with my polo stick in the wind?

As my instructor is going to South Africa for three weeks, I think maybe I should still have lessons while he’s away or I’ll never hit that arena ball, but he’s Norfolk Polo’s only instructor; Suffolk Polo doesn’t have any polo ponies, you have to have your own; and another local arena club has all their ponies on winter livery.

Will I have the skills and resources to play a game of polo by the start of next season?

All I can say is, it is a good job I’ve started early!