Mud Fever (or Scratches) and Flowers of Sulphur

Well its that time of year where here in the UK the mud is working its way up to knee level and we all need to start thinking about mud fever, (also known as Scratches in the US) & hopefully preventing it rather then treating it.

Mud fever is an infection of the heel & pastern area, which leads to inflammation and develops into pussy scabs, if left untreated it can become quite severe leading to swelling and possibly lameness.

various mud fever images

various mud fever images

Fortunately Jasper is not overly prone to this condition although 2 of the other horses stabled with him seem to get it year in and year out without fail.

I was therefore intrigued whilst with Barney & Pj at Okavango Horse Safaris in the Okavango Delta, Botswana to see how they prevented it as there horses are in & out of mud & water several times a day and yet they don’t seem to have a problem.

It seems their success is 2 fold firstly unlike most of us in the UK they don’t have an obsessive compulsion to hose off their horses legs everyday to get rid of a bit of unsightly mud & secondly they dust all the horses legs with Flowers of Sulphur everyday. This involves one of the grooms going round first thing in the morning with a bucket of the powdered flowers of sulphur & dusting it over the dry lower leg, working it slightly into the hair. This was my first exposure to flowers of sulphur and I was interested to learn more.

I found it for sale on and have bought some to test it out on Olli (who has lovely white legs & apparently can suffer from a bit of mud fever), on the site they recommend mixing the powder with an oil based cream such as Sudocrem (1 part FofS to 5 parts cream) to make a waterproof soothing cream that can be applied daily, until skin is healthy & scab free.

Flowers of sulphur a fine yellow powder

Flowers of sulphur a fine yellow powder

Another case study shows that Flowers of Sulphur mixed with glycerine has been used on American racehorses for over 100 years with great effect. Reading articles like that I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand for quite a while, why when it has been used successfully for 100s of years do so few people seem to know about it.

From other research online it appears not being excessive in washing mud off is also useful in preventing the onset of mud fever, as it is actually caused by a bacteria in the mud that needs sufficient moisture to thrive. By soaking the horses legs with a hosepipe, the mud & bacteria are driven between the hair & against the soaked skin, providing prime conditions for mud fever to take hold.

A great tip I found as an alternative to hosing was to use either a handful of straw or hay and rubbing only in the direction of the hair this would remove the mud & excess moisture without compromising the skins natural defences.

If you are unlucky enough to get mud fever teatree & Lavender essential oils can be useful in helping reduce infection & protecting the wounded area. Aswell as the application of the Flowers of Sulphur mixed with oil based cream mentioned above. The homeopathic remedies of Thuja and Sulphur can also be helpful. If in doubt please consult your veterinarian as your horses welfare is of upmost importance.

Hope you found this useful, I’m heading back to drag myself & Jasper through a bit of mud & rain, got to love the english winter’s!

Until next time

With Love

Fiona & Jasper

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