Horses, like humans, can be hypersensitive to a wide variety of allergen triggers from pollens, hay dust, molds and insect bites to name but a few. Neue Schule enthusiast Lindsey Morrison tells us her story.
I have a serious soft spot for Traditional Gypsy Cobs and when I came across an advert in the spring of 2018 for an absolute dream red and white colt, I could not get him out of my head and before I knew it, I brought him home on 18th May that year.
Anyone that has owned or dealt with Traditional Gypsy Cobs will know how high maintenance they can be with feather mites and all that hair!
However, I was completely unaware what I had let myself in for. My pony is very aptly named “Cash” and little did I know at the time how much of it I was going to spend but let me say right now that I do not regret one penny of it!
So, from the beginning, Cash was pretty itchy but given his type, I put this down to mites and treated him with everything I possibly could to try and clear it up. It got to a point where I was bathing him every week with antibacterial shampoo and I had so many lotions and potions for mites, itchy horses, skin and so on that I could have opened my own tack store.
One weekend I brought him in from the field and I decided I was going to have to clip his feather off, what I found underneath had me in tears. He had terrible lumps and broken skin all over his legs. I was straight onto my vet, and she came out and took a skin scraping from him for testing to determine which antibiotics to give him. He was put on them along with steroids which helped for a short time until he went laminitic from the steroids. I had many lengthy discussions with my vet about the best course of action and what options I had as quite clearly, this was not just mites!
We tried countless things with allergy testing being one of them and a customised vaccine. I also looked into nutrition and supplements.
Unfortunately, every time we seemed to be taking one step forward, we would then take three steps back. I hated watching my beautiful boy suffer with this, these allergies were so severe, to the point that he was throwing himself against walls and anything else he could and scratching to the point of self-mutilation. Despite this, I did think at one point that we were beginning to turn a corner until one day I brought him in from the field, he had taken another flare up and I found myself in tears yet again!
What else could I do to help him?
What is there left to try, is that it?
Is there nothing else I can do??
Is the kindest thing to do here to end his suffering by having him put to sleep?
The problem with me is that I can be a bit stubborn, and I couldn’t have Cash put to sleep without knowing I had exhausted every possible avenue! We humans have to live with allergies, and we find ways of maintaining them, why should it be any different for animals? There had to be someone else that’s dealt with this level of itchiness and found something that worked!
I took to social media and searched as much as I could on “itchy horses”, I eventually came across a post about Salt Therapy, surely that’s worth a try, right? Well…, let me tell you…., I wish we had found it sooner!
In June 2020, Cash had his full body, mane, tail and feather all clipped off and off he went for an intense course of Salt Therapy for six weeks. He returned home a completely different, happy and content pony and he hasn’t scratched since.
There is still maintenance required and I don’t think it’s just one thing that he is allergic to, even with the allergy testing, we will never be able to pinpoint exactly what’s causing it. He seems to have them all year round but does heighten in the Spring and Summer months.
Cash is now rising seven this year and although we have already been through a massive journey together, we didn’t go through it alone. We had lots of support from friends, family, my vet, the breeders, even though I didn’t buy him from them and of course from everyone behind the Salt Therapy. This journey hasn’t come to a complete end, who knows how long this will carry on for, he could even grow out of his allergies, you never know but fingers and toes crossed on that! Even though it’s not yet over, the path is not as treacherous as before and is much easier to walk along now.
This gives us the opportunity to embark on our new, very hairy journey together but the good kind of hairy this time, now that he has it in abundance and we can get out into the show ring, which was the original journey I wanted us to set out on together. I’m just so grateful that we were getting to start on this path at all as there was a time when I never thought that day would come.
Allergies are a tricky thing to maintain and a lot of it is trial and error, what works for one horse, might not work for another, for Cash it’s a balance of top up Salt Therapy treatments, antihistamines and a diet that promotes a healthy gut and immune system. If you find something that’s working, run with it! It’s so worth it to see your horse or pony happy, healthy and enjoying life.