Winter Mud Defences with NAF

Kate Hore. RNutr(Animal), R.Anim.Technol (Cert). Head Nutritionist at NAF

As horse owners we all know that winter, with the cold wet and muddy weather, can be a challenging time when it comes to keeping our horses in tip top condition. Kate, Head Nutritionist at NAF, tells us about one of the most common winter ailments - Mud Fever - and how we can help to prevent and treat this painful condition.

Mud Defences with NAF

What is Mud Fever?

Mud Fever is a bacterial infection of the skin around the lower leg and fetlock caused principally by the bacterium, Dermatophillus congolensis. On un-rugged animals it may also be seen across the back where it is referred to as Rain Scald. Ordinarily the bacteria live happily on skin without any issue. However any break in the skin allows the bacteria to enter then dermatitis sets in. Mud fever is seen as painful scabs and matted hair, leading to lameness. Prolonged wetting from muddy conditions in the field can weaken skin allowing entry; but so too can abrasive bedding, and any minor nicks and cuts. Check legs daily and quickly treat any minor abrasion with wound cream and an effective barrier cream.

How to Treat Mud Fever

While Mud Fever can be seen in any animal, those with thin skin and white legs do seem to be particularly prone. Feathers may help protect from mud but, once infection sets in, can encourage it by keeping the area warm and wet – ideal conditions for bacterial proliferation. Feathering also makes it harder to effectively treat the area, so for affected animals it is advised to closely clip the heels, allowing easy access and air to circulate. Clip, if required, then remove the scabs – but carefully. Never pick off dry, hard scabs as this leaves an open wound allowing bacteria in, and is likely to be painful for the horse and, therefore, potentially dangerous for you! Wash the area with a natural anti-bacterial shampoo, such as one based on teatree oil, massage in well and leave for ten minutes before rinsing with clean water. For persistent scabs apply a cleansing solution and poultice overnight, which should soften the scabs making them easier to remove.

Once the scabs are removed and the area cleaned, ensure the legs are carefully dried using paper towelling or clean, dry towels. Avoid re-using the same towel, or sharing between horses, as this could potentially spread infection.

Preventing Mud Fever

To prevent further attack ensure you liberally apply an effective mud barrier cream to clean, dry legs before turnout or exercise. Opinions are divided as to whether to wash legs when they come back in or not. It is thought that both wetting and chilling are key triggers, so if you do wash legs regularly ensure they’re thoroughly dried too. Alternatively you may wish to apply wraps or bandages over the muddy legs, which keeps them warm; simply brush dry mud off in the morning and reapply your barrier cream before turnout.

Nutritional Support for Horses with Mud Fever

While tackling what’s happening on the surface, supporting the body from the inside out will help maintain the body’s own defences. Choose a natural supplement based on antioxidants, to flush out toxins from the area, which are associated with the response seen. Ideally ensure that supplement also includes nutrients to maintain skin strength, such as bio-available sulphur (MSM), zinc and amino acids.

NAF Mud Fever Products

These handy NAF products are ideal for keeping around your yard over the winter months and throught the wet spring and autumn.

NAF Winter Mud Defences - Wound Cream


The NAF Naturalint-x Wound Cream Tube is a natural first aid cream designed for the treatment of minor cuts and wounds by supporting the skin's natural healing process.
NAF Winter Mud Defences - Barrier Cream


The NAF LTSHI Mud Gard Barrier Cream is a rich, nourishing cream designed help to protect your horse’s skin from the wet and the mud.
NAF Winter Mud Defences - Mud Gard Supplement


Mud Gard contains a unique complex of scientifically verified, naturally sourced antioxidants to flush excess free radicals away from the areas affected by the ravages of the mud. It also contains key herbs and other nutrients, including MSM, to support strong healthy skin from within.