Mud Fever In Horses

Mud FeverMud Fever is common in wet weather and its proper name is Pastern Dermatitis and it thrives in muddy wet conditions. It is caused by an infectious agent called dermatophilus congolensis. The infection can lay dormant in the skin and becomes active after prolonged wetting and the result is an Acute Inflammatory Reaction.


The main causes for Mud Fever are a generally unhealthy skin caused by prolonged damp, mild conditions, standing in deep mud or soiled bedding, constantly washing limbs and not drying them properly, excessive sweating and skin trauma.


Recognizing the signs of Mud Fever are matted areas of hair with crusty scabs and moist lesions beneath the scabs. Thick creamy white yellow or greenish discharge under the scab. Deep fissures in the skin where the back of the leg may split open like in cracked heels. Hair loss with inflamed skin underneath. Heat swelling or pain and possible lameness. If severely affected it can cause lethargy depression or loss of appetite.


The treatment of Mud Fever is keeping the skin clean and dry and this may only be possible if the horse is kept stabled for some time. There are numerous creams, lotions and emollients that may help and bandaging the affected limb can be a good way of keeping it clean. You may need help and advise from your vet depending on the severity of the infection and the use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories may be necessary.


Ways to prevent Mud Fever are to ensure your bedding is clean, avoid overwashing and make sure limbs are clean and dry before putting on boots and bandages. Periodically disinfect all equipment as they can harbor dermatophilus spores. Consider using topical barrier creams and try using waterproof leg wraps for turnout. You can use nutritional supplements to promote healthy skin.

Best of all is to be vigilant and if you spot the first tell tale signs of Mud Fever the quicker you act you will hopefully prevent a lengthy and costly recovery.

Letting A Stable

StablesFirstly let me stress this article is my own personal view, it is not intended as advice. Its intent is to raise some issues for consideration by you with your own professional advisers.

We were recently in the position of letting a single stable so had to consider the question of Taxation carefully. I found it difficult to find any detailed guidance on the issue hence this article which I hope you will find useful and informative.

If you have a yard with stables that you let out to paying liveries then in all probability you will have an obligation to advise HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and have a liability to tax.

The first consideration is “are you carrying on the business with a view to making a profit”. If you are then tax may be payable and you will have an obligation to report the activity to HMRC. If on the other hand you are merely seeking a pro rata contribution towards the costs of operating the stables then it is probable that no tax liability will arise and there is no reporting obligation. Please be aware that the obligation to report is a legal obligation and failure to do so can result in penalties. If in doubt either seek professional advice or ask HMRC.

On the assumption you have concluded that tax is due you will have to consider what costs can be offset against the income received. The letting of stables is normally treated by HMRC as the carrying on of a trade as opposed to, say, leasing land. This is good news as more costs can be deducted from a trading activity. Obviously expenses like weeding and feeding the paddocks, repairing the fences and stables and similar expenses are allowable as are any amounts paid to stable girls/boys for work around the yard (I should mention here that paying staff may give rise to the question of PAYE but this is a subject in itself !). Broadly any expense incurred in order to earn the income apart from “capital expenses” are allowable for tax purposes. It is the area of tax relief for Capital Expenses where things get more interesting or difficult.

The next point to consider is what relief can be obtained on the “Capital Expenses”. Capital Allowances (or tax depreciation) can be claimed on machinery such as tractors, grass-cutters, weeders, feeders etc. But what about the stables/barns etc themselves. Any structure that is fixed and immovable does not qualify for relief. HMRC’s view is that only structures that are moveable and are moved for the purpose of the trade are allowable. Consider a stable that is built on skids, such stables are popular as normally you don’t need planning consent for them if they are moved at regular intervals. If you have such stables it is a moot point as to whether they would qualify for relief, certainly they have to be moved and the trade could not function if they were not so moved – as such it is considered that relief should be due – but beware HMRC could easily take an opposing view.

Another interesting question is whether a manege qualifies for relief as Capital Allowances. There is a very famous tax case concerning a swimming pool (Cooke v Beach Station Caravans Ltd) where it was held that the pool was apparatus (plant) used in carrying on the trade and as such qualified for Capital Allowances. It is submitted that a manege performs a similar role as the swimming pool, i.e. it is an area contained by the fencing etc within which a horse is exercised. Again beware HMRC could take an opposing view.

I hope you have found this short article helpful and informative. As mentioned above, it is intended to open up some issues for consideration by you or with your professional adviser, it is not advise and the views expressed are mine and have not been reviewed with HMRC direct.

Field Management

FieldA well managed grassland provides a healthy and economical way of feeding your horse. When driving around the countryside there are lots of horses in fields where the grass is very short, stale and yellow, obviously not having the same care and attention as the majority of the horses in the fields.

If the soil is heavy clay, this will become water logged in the winter and bake hard in the summer. It may be necessary in the winter to keep the horse stabled to prevent the field turning into mud or use an area of the field for winter and keep the remainder in good condition. Light sandy soil drains well but does not retain the water during dry periods and then the grass will not grow so it may be necessary to supplement the horses diet with hay, even in the summer. Heavy clay fields can have drainage pipes put in underground, this can be expensive but is long lasting. Alternatively, the field could be sub-soiled which is relatively inexpensive and will allow the water to move more freely off the ground but it has to be repeated every 2 to 4 years. Sub-soiling aerates the ground and breaks up the pan.

As I’m sure you know, horses can be picky eaters They don’t like long grass or grazing near their droppings so the grass in the field can become uneven with the sweet grass eaten and the long grass left. There are several things you can do for immediate improvement:

  1. Remove all the droppings from the field
  2. Mow the long grass, nettles and thistles, use a strimmer for areas that are too rutted for the mower
  3. Harrow the field to remove the dead grass and aerate the ground so the grass can breath. Harrowing is best done when the ground is fairly dry and this will allow any worm larvae to be exposed to the sun, killing them which will reduce the number in the field.
  4. Rolling the ground will level it out flattening footholes made by the horses over the winter. This is best done when the ground has a bit of give in it so wet but not too wet.
  5. You can reseed bear patches by forking or rotavating the ground and sprinkle with grass seed. Also hand seed over grass that is already there and some of it will grow and improve the quality of grass.

When fertilising it is best to section off part of the field as a general rule is do not put your horse onto a fertilised area until after a good down pour of rain has washed the fertiliser into the ground. Before fertilising you are best to do a soil test as your grass, just like your horses, need certain nutrients and to find out what may be missing from your soil it is best to test it. There are many different fertilisers you can purchase so always follow their instructions fully and with care. There are also many weed control products on sale that are safe to use but again apply with care and follow all the instructions and grazing restrictions for that product.

Unfortunately there are no quick fix solutions to improving a paddock. We have to work with nature and what is already there and nature takes her time.

Grooming Your Horse

Horse GroomingAs I’m sure you are all too aware, horses love to roll in dirt mud! Therefore, grooming should be a part of your daily care routine as it allows you to check the horse for cuts and any other injuries. You should always groom your horse before you ride, especially around the girth and saddle area. Dirt between the horses skin and the tack can cause girth rubs and saddle sores.


The basic grooming kit will include the following:-

  • hoof pick
  • dandy brush
  • body brush
  • mane and tail comb
  • curry comb

Many people also have:-

  • hoof oil
  • main and tail detangler
  • sweat scraper
  • grooming mit

Make sure that your horse is tied up safely and securely and in a safe and secure environment. Ensure your grooming kit is far off to the side, and that nothing else is on the ground around the horse’s feet.

For each step, start at the horse’s neck and move down the body. Begin on the left, and then brush the right side.

  1. Use the curry comb to work dirt and loose hair to the top of the coat.
    • Press the curry comb gently in a circular motion.
    • Do not use the curry comb on the bony parts of the horse, such as the face or legs.
  2. Use the dandy brush to remove the dirt and excess hair.
    • Drag the brush in the direction of the hair.
    • With short, quick strokes, catch the dirt, and then at the end of the stoke, turn the brush so that the bristles flick the dirt into the air.
    • You can use this brush over most of the horse’s body, but some sensitive horses may not like this brush used on their legs or face.
  3. Use the body brush to remove any leftover dust from the horse’s coat.
    • You can use the soft brush on any part of the horse.
    • Use it the same as the body brush; follow the direction of the horse’s hair with short, quick strokes.
  4. Comb the horse’s main and tail.
    • Most rider’s don’t comb the horse’s main and tail every time they groom the horse, although it’s not a bad idea. If you put off combing the main and tail, it just takes longer the next time you do comb the main and tail!
    • Always start at the ends of the hair and work your way to the roots.
    • Never stand directly behind the horse to brush out his tail. Stand next to his rump and bring the tail over to the side to brush it.
    • Plastic combs cause less breakage of the hair, but they do not last as long as the metal combs.
  5. Pick the horse’s feet.
    • Picking the horse’s feet is one of the most important steps of grooming a horse. See below for how to pick a horse’s feet.

Picking a Horse's FeetHow to Pick the Horse’s Feet

Because the bottom of the hoof is concave, stones can become trapped and cause bruising on the horse’s sole. A stone bruise can cause lameness in the horse, and can sometimes cause abscesses and other problems in the foot.

  1. To pick the hoof (front legs), stand next to the horse’s leg, facing the horse’s hindquarters.
  2. With the hoof pick in one hand, firmly run your thumb and forefinger along each side of the tendons in the forearm.
  3. Give the horse a verbal command such as “up,” and as the horse relaxes his leg, wrap your hands around the front of the fetlock to support the leg.
  4. Use the hoof pick to remove any dirt or rocks from the hoof. The triangular shape in the center of the foot is called the frog, do not jab this with the hoof pick! Carefully work around the frog.
  5. Brush the rest of the dirt down to the sole of the hoof.
  6. Gently lower the hoof back down to the ground.

Repeat on the remaining hooves.

It may be difficult to convince your horse to pick up the hoof. Ask for assistance before getting frustrated, especially with a stubborn pony!

Building A Manege – Part 2

In my previous post I explained how I started the build of our manege. In this one I will attempt to explain probably the most important part of the manege – The Riding or Top Surface…

Transporting the Wood Chips
Transporting the Wood Chips

I read everything I could find about the best surface to use and was still confused. One of our problems was that whatever material I decided on had to be transported about 100 yards through our garden by Dump Truck as there was no Lorry access. Initially it was only to be used by one horse so I was reluctant to splash out too much and was swayed towards wood chip. My biggest mistake was to go really cheap and buy my wood chips from the local tree Surgeon. They looked good and rode well for a year or two then they turned to a mush and then a fine compost – dreadful!!!

Eventually I had to remove the whole surface, 12 plus inches of wood chip had reduced to about 4 – 6 inches deep. This had to be removed by hand a long and laborious job which did not do the membrane a lot of good so that had to be recovered before we put the new surface in. Finally I settled on a 6 inch layer of sand covered by a 2 inch layer of rubber chippings. The sand went in first and was rolled and rolled with wetting in between until it was fairly hard. Then the rubber chippings went in all this has been down now for a year and has settled well and rides great!

The Rubber Topping
The Woods Chips Replaced by Sand and Rubber

Caveat. I am not sure about the decision to go with wood post and rail, etc. Ours are still standing after about six years but friends who put sand in from the beginning have renewed theirs twice in ten years due to rotting. I would have looked at metal or other posts had I known that sand can rot the posts faster than the wood chip.

The Costs. A professionally installed manege will cost tens of thousands of pounds, even a small one like ours. All in all if I had done it right first time with the surface the total cost would have been in the region of £8,000, the fact I did it wrong first time resulted in additional costs of about £3,000.

If you have any thoughts, experiences or views on maneges, especially with regards to building or installing one, please let us know as we would love to hear them.

Building A Manege – Part 1

The Finished Article In Use

Question… can you build a manege on the cheap? Here is my experience for what it is worth.

How Big? We have about two acres of land but it is fairly narrow, only about 25 meters wide so the size of the manege was somewhat restricted and we decided on 30 meters by 15 meters being the biggest we could accommodate. It is a reasonable size for only two pony’s to share.

Location. The next decision was where to locate it, as drainage is one of the most important issues we found a reasonably level area which unfortunately was where we had a small orchard – the trees had to go.

The Ground Work. Firstly we marked out the area with temporary stakes and cut the trees leaving part of the trunks protruding. Next I hired a Turf Cutter and stripped the turf (I am not convinced this was absolutely necessary). We had a ditch I had piped and needed filling in so I was fortunate in having somewhere to get rid of the turf. Next I cut the trees to ground level. I did not want to disturb the ground too much so I did not attempt to remove the roots.

The fencing and kicker boards came next. I hired a fantastic post hole borer which made light work of the many holes I had to dig, each one six feet or so apart spaced to take the kicker boards and rails. A bit of cement and in go the posts followed by the kicker boards – leaving space for the lorry or truck delivering the top surface.

Now this is the important bit about getting the drainage right – I hired a Trencher it dug a trench about 4 inches wide and 6 inches deep with which I dug trenches in a herringbone pattern leading to the area I intended putting in a soak-away. I then laid a membrane over the whole site tucking it down into the small trenches. Then I laid the land drains (these were 4 inch drainage pipes laid in the trenches) finally for drainage I covered the whole site with a 4 inch layer of 40mm gravel (I am sure there is a cheaper material than what I used). Another layer of membrane and the site was ready to receive the top or riding surface.

Membrane Down and Top Surface Starting to Go On

The Riding or Top surface is a science in itself and one on which there are many differing opinions. Some of these, and our experience, is covered in our next post.

Back on Track for Dogs

Introducing a range of Back on Track® Dog products for your dog’s well-being. Back on Track® products will not only make your dog feel better, but also help maintain supple muscles and reduce the risk of injury.

Dog Mesh Rugs
Dog Mesh Rug
Back on Track Dog Mesh Rug

Lightweight and flexible with an outer mesh to effectively transport moisture away from the body. It can be used as a liner under other rugs or on its own. You can adjust the main opening and withers area in order to achieve an optimum fit. It also features elasticated, adjustable, hind leg ties, an opening at the neck for a lead to be attached, a zipper opening for the tail and reflective strips on each side.

Dog Leg Wraps and Braces
Dog Brace
Back on Track Dog Leg Wraps and Hock Braces

Intended for dogs with weak wrists or ankles following an operation or due to arthritis or injuries to the ligaments or tendons. Back on Track’s joint and muscles wraps have the same function as the Back on Track® blankets, due to their heating properties, that may even speed up the healing process.

Dog Blanket
Dog Blanket
Back on Track Dog Blanket

The Dog Blanket can be used in many ways: as a sleeping pad in your dog’s favourite chair, in the car, in a dog basket… anywhere you want your dog to be comfortable. Even your pets master or mistress can make good use of the Dog Blanket. In fact, the only limit to the Dog Blanket’s number of uses is your imagination!

We have other products available and similar items for Humans and Horses so be sure to visit our website to see our full range of Back on Track® products.

A Beginners Guide to Horse Shows

It’s that time of year again when the local horse shows start and you may be thinking “am I brave enough to go along and have a go?” Most local shows will have shows for show jumping, dressage, cross country and showing. If you’re thinking of doing your first show this season, here are some helpful tips:-

Show Jumping

Show JumpingMost show jumping shows will have a clear round class. This is not actually a competition but it gives you a chance to go round a course of jumps without the pressure of being in a competition. Most small local shows will allow you to go round the clear round without having to be in show gear (obviously you need riding gear on!). If you want to enter a class, you will have to be properly dressed. For show jumping, you will need:-

  • Boots. Long, short or short with plain gaiters
  • Beige, white or cream jodhpurs
  • Shirt and tie or stock and show shirt
  • Show jacket (usually black or navy)
  • Gloves (usually black, cream or white)
  • Riding Hat (you can wear skull caps but the silks must be black or navy)
  • Crop – normally a short crop is carried

DressageYou will tend to find most local dressage shows will be the quietest type of show. One reason for this is that at most dressage shows, you are given a specific time for your test which means most people just turn up for their test times rather than having to wait around. This is always a good show to introduce a novice horse to a show environment. For a dressage test, you will need to wear:-

  • Boots. Long, short or short with plain gaiters
  • Beige, white or cream jodhpurs
  • Shirt and tie or stock and show shirt
  • Show jacket (usually black or navy) or hacking jackets
  • Gloves (usually black, cream or white)
  • Riding Hat (you can wear skull caps but the silks must be black or navy)
  • Schooling crop

For novice shows, your horse will normally have to be in a snaffle bridle and a plain noseband (a cavesson, drop or flash) with no martingale or any other training aids. Your saddle doesn’t need to be a dressage one but a GP saddle is better than a jumping one! Your numnah should be white, black or brown.

At a novice show, for some classes you will be allowed to have your test called by a caller. This is a good idea if you think you will be nervous and forget your test.

Cross Country

Cross CountryUnlike show jumping and dressage which you can practice with little equipment at home, not all of us have access to cross country fences. If you don’t have any cross country fences that you can practice over, quite often local cross country courses will hire their course out for a small fee so you can practice. This is very worthwhile especially if the show you are going to do is at the same course. As cross country is very dangerous, you need to have some practice on your horse before entering a competition. There are also different fences in cross country, for example, water jumps, ditches, banks, steps, etc, which require different riding skills. For a cross country competition you will need to wear:-

  • Boots. Long, short or short with plain gaiters
  • Beige, white or cream jodhpurs
  • Cross country shirt
  • Skull cap (or a riding hat with no fixed peak) with any colour silk
  • Back protector
  • Crop – normally a short crop is carried

In HandShowing is another type of show which can be used as a good introduction to the show scene for a novice horse. In hand showing means that you can give your horse confidence from the ground. Local shows are normally not as strict about what to wear as the professional classes and different showing classes have different dress codes but in general you will need:-

  • Boots. Long or short with plain gaiters
  • Beige or cream jodhpurs
  • Shirt and tie
  • Hacking jacket or show jacket (black or navy)
  • Gloves (usually black, cream or white)
  • Riding Hat
  • Show cane

For in hand classes, you can wear your riding attire or you can wear a tweed jacket, waistcoat with a shirt and tie and a skirt/trousers that complement.

For any competition that you are thinking of entering, it is probably advisable to watch a show there first to get some tips and see how the show is run before entering as this will help any nerves. Remember to always check the shows rules to be certain that you comply with their specific rules of the competition you are entering.

Anything to add? If you have any thoughts or tips (especially to help beginners) please let us know.

Have fun and Good Luck!

Storing Your Winter Rugs

Horse RugAs we move from winter into spring it’s time to perform the annual, arduous, task of cleaning and storing your winter rugs.

It’s a great idea to make sure your winter rugs are clean, dry and in good shape before you store them away to ensure they are ready for when you need them again in the autumn.

When storing rugs, make sure the rug is completely dry and then place it in a sealed bag and keep in a cool, dry place. It is very important to ensure the rug is dry before being stored as you do not want mold or anything like that growing on the rug when it is stored away. A number of rugs are sold in plastic zip-up bags. If your rug came in this type of bag be sure to keep it as these are great for storing your rug over the months when they are not required. If you do not have these zip-up bags then black dustbin bags will do just fine. Should you have limited storage space, a good idea is to store your rugs in vacuum pack bags as this not only keeps them dry and clean but also compresses the rugs into a smaller package.

While it is often recommended to take your rugs to a professional cleaning service to avoid them being damaged they can easily be cleaned yourself by hand. Start by scrubbing any dirt off the rug, then, either hose it down or wash in a large bucket of water (if you have one), and leave to dry. If the rug will fit in your washing machine you can often wash at cool temperatures with non-biological products but make sure you check the labels on your rug first. Do not machine wash at high temperatures as this can harm the rug by reducing its waterproof capabilities, and never use a tumble dryer, just allow the rug to dry naturally.

Whole Horse is a family run business based in Essex which offers a great range of clothing and equipment for both horse and rider.