Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beneath the Feathers: The Ugly Truth

Little did Sarah know when she hugged Kanani that this horse needs a hug! Read on to find out why.

Some breeds of horses sport "feathers" on their lower legs. Friesians are known and prized for their luxurious feathers or hairy lower legs. But all that hair can cause problems--one of which is known as "scratches", a skin problem that can escalate into bleeding sores, lameness, swelling, pain, scarring and other nasty consequences. Wet weather and mud can cause the condition--but so can moist heat, as when a horse sweats under his feathers in a hot climate and the hair doesn't quite dry out.

I've been battling scratches since Kanani arrived and I first noticed that he had a lot of scarring beneath the feathers on his back legs. Seemed likely he was prone to the condition, as many Friesians are. When some of the scar tissue on Kanani's legs suddenly looked a bit puffier than usual, I thought I better have the vet check him out and see what he might suggest.

He suggested clipping all the hair off his lower legs so we could see what we're dealing with! (They NEVER clip feathers off Friesians in the Netherlands--and Friesians are disqualified in horse shows if they are clipped. Dumb rules, I know, but rules just the same.)

Well, we clipped. And the extent of the scarring was fully revealed. The vet says Kanani has "chronic scratches" and never will get over them entirely. You can only control the condition, not eliminate it, once a horse has had a really bad case.

So now I am researching how best to do that. For the moment, the medicated shampoo I've been using will work fine. He no longer has hair to hold in moisture after shampooing and rinsing. For long term and next rainy season after the hair grows back in? That remains to be discovered. Other than keeping him clipped, even the vet isn't sure of the best approach!

Kanani's hind legs after clipping. Deep grooves and nodules tell the tale of past bouts with scratches. Poor guy--he's had it rough at some time in his life before me!


  1. Oh, no! Poor guy!

  2. That makes me so sad for him:( I know you will take care of him wonderfully

  3. Pam, Was scouting out remedies for Kanani, if you go to, they have have people writing about all sorts of cures for scratches on their Friesian horses..... everything from Dawn dish soap to Listerine and diaper rash ointment !! I guess anything anti-bacterial !! Hope he feels better soon !!! Barb

  4. Thanks, Barb! That's a good site. Have already tried a couple of those remedies but they didn't quite do the job. Once it's really bad, I guess you need more aggressive treatment.

  5. Oh, the vet also put him on a course of antibiotics!