Article written by Dr Glynis Giddings –

Glynis Giddings SunburnPreventing sunburn in horses is just as important as preventing it in people. As warmer weather approaches, we will naturally be aware of the dangers of staying in the sun too long. We know that if we spend too much time in the sun we run the risk of turning a nice tan into an ugly sunburn. In addition to being unattractive and painful, we also know that sunburns can lead to skin cancer. We use all sorts of things from sunscreen to light weight covers and hats to prevent our skin from burning.

Because they are big and strong, we sometimes forget about the affect that the sun has on our horses. Horses, just like people, can sunburn. Sunburn is most frequently seen on horses with a light colored hair coat such as Appaloosa’s, Lipizzans, Paints, Pintos, Andalusians, cremellos and grays. Horse owners who own horses with white noses and a lot of pale skin around the eyes often find themselves treating their equine partners for sunburn.

A sudden change in hormones, like mares that are in foal, can cause a horse to develop an extra sensitivity to the sun. Horse owners should also be aware that some medications can also trigger sensitivity to the sun which can lead to sunburn in horses. Tetracycline is one medication that has been known to cause extra sensitivity to the sun in some horses.

Although dark horses aren’t typically victims of sunburn, the sun often bleaches the dark hair, which causes them to look scruffy and dull. It can make the mane and tail frizz and split, which is not attractive at all.

Equine sunburn looks just like human sunburn. The skin turns an angry shade of pink or even red. If the skin is left untreated long enough it starts to chap and crack. Horses that are suffering from severe sunburn will start to blister. Preventing sunburn in horses is a better option than treating it!

Glynis Giddings SunburnPreventing sunburn around the eyes is fairly simple. All an owner needs to do is purchase a fly mask for their horse. When using a fly mask it is extremely important to make sure that the fly mask is kept clean. Simply use a hose and a sprayer to rinse the dirt and eye gunk from the mask. After rinsing the fly mask hang it in the sun to dry.

Some fly masks have an extension that protects the end of the nose from getting sunburned – they are well worth having for preventing sunburn in horses, as are the face masks you can buy now. If you do not own a fly mask that covers your horse’s nose you need to rub your horse’s nose with sunscreen that you can purchase at your local drugstore. There are special sunscreens made for horses, but you don’t need to go to the expense of purchasing special sunscreen for horses when human sunscreen is the same thing.

Some horse owners, especially ones who are interested in showing, try to prevent the sun from damaging their horse’s coat by keeping them inside during the day time hours when the sun is the most damaging. Other owners prefer to keep their horses covered with a light weight turn out blanket or fly sheet to protect their horses coat. One of the reasons some owners prefer a blanketed horse to one kept inside is that they feel that keeping a horse stalled and completely free of sunlight can lead to depression. A compromise can be good for preventing sunburn in horses as well as sun bleach. The horse is in for the brightest time of day but is let out from late afternoon to early or mid morning, depending on the local climate.