Common Horse Ailments: Some Easy Natural Solutions

Many common occurring horse ailments will reduce when you keep horses as naturally as possible. They will end up having far fewer health problems..

By naturally we mean:-

  • turned out
  • barefoot-horse
  • correct feeding
  • use of homeopathic vaccines where ever possible.
  • use of herbal/homeopathic wormers.
  • No regular use of chemical drugs.
  • Being worked and trained using natural horsemanship techniques and equipment – so reducing possible emotional and physical stress.

However, even with the above there are day to day health problems can occur and which need to be treated. Below is a list of everyday health problems, with treatment suggestions which are:-

  • easy to do
  • and are very effective.

Bruised Soles or Hooves

Signs and Symptoms

If there is any bruising you can usually see it on the soles/hooves.It looks reddish/brownish in colour and can be seen in various areas of the hoof e.g. on the sole of the hoof, especially the toe callus, around the white line or even on the hoof wall and around the coronet band.

The horse maybe ‘footy’ and sore and not as foward going.

Bruised soles can occur in the early transition phase after the removal of horse shoes. As the hoof becomes stronger and the circulation improves, so any brusing that may have occurred reduces and goes.


Keep the horse turned out and moving. Depending how sore they are, will depend if you can ride them or not.

Walking and movement, whether ridden, or in hand, is good as this stimulates the circulation and encourages healing. Think of this type of movement as gentle physiotherapy for the horse.

Feel what he is able to offer, if he can walk, walk him, if he offers trot, trot him. If you feel resistance then back off and go slower until the soreness and brusing has subsided.

Monitor his hooves. Are they wearing evenly or is he putting more pressure on one part than another in order to protect an area that maybe sore? By observing their movement in walk and trot, you will be able to detect any soreness.

The more you look and observe their hooves the more your eye will pick up and notice small differences in their shape and where they maybe protecting parts of their hooves due to bruising.

In addition do some of the following:

  • Give Traumeel by mouth or Arnica.
  • Put on some Magnetic Bell Boots
  • Put Traumeel Gel or Arnica cream around the coronet band and heel bulbs as this will be absorbed better here than directly on the soles.
  • Or Apply Apple Cider Vinegar to the area
  • Or use Sore no More on the area

Any of the above will help speed up the healing time.

If your horses is continually getting sore, bruised feet you will need to re-assess the trimming, the diet and their living conditions.

You may need to boot the horse if he is getting sore, until his feet toughen up.

Horse Thrush and Abscesses

Both of these are common ailments. They occur in and around the horses hooves. For information on these conditions go to Thrush in a Horses Hoof for help and advice.

Mud Fever

Signs and Symptoms

This horse ailment is when you get blisters and scabs usually around the:-

  • heel bulbs and pasterns.

It can also affect their legs. It occurs mainly in the winter and early spring.

There are many opinions on how to treat this horse ailment. If your horse is barefoot as their barefoot circulation is so much better in their legs and hooves than a shod horse, the risk of getting this is greatly reduced.
If you do get it and your horse is barefoot, they usually respond very quickly to the treatments outlined below.


Turned out and not stabled, barefoot hooves, correct nutrition all greatly reduce this horse ailment.

Mud Fever Treatment

  • Clean it first, gently. You may only need warm water. Remove any scabs that you can, you may be able to remove all of them, but if too sore, do it in stages.

One of the easiest things to help you do this is to use a:-

  • Nit/Flea Comb. (You can buy one from a chemist or pet shop). Gently comb through the area using the comb to remove the scabs.

Then apply either:-

  • Eliminator (which is a mild anti-bacterial liquid)
  • or Apple Cider Vinegar

Both of the above will further clean the area.

If you use anything too strong you are likely to upset the natural ph balance of the skin and the surrounding tissues and so make the skin more susceptible to further mud fever attacks.

So be fussy with what you use.

After this you can then apply any of the following on the scabs or where the scabs were. All of these will help quickly heal the skin where the blisters have been.

  • Calendula cream,
  • Traumeel Gel
  • Essential oil of Lavender neat or if the area is large mix with some oil,e.g. almond oil

Barrier Heel To Hoof

In addition to the above, you can use a herbal cream/gel that is very effective, called Barrier Heel to Hoof.

You can put this on after the above or if the sores are not too bad you can just put this straight on the lesions. It treats the skin aswell as acting as a barrier to the underlying skin and so helps it heal.

Due to its gel like consistency it stays on for quite a while, even when the horse is turned and the conditions of the ground are wet and muddy.

Further Tips and Advice on Mud Fever

If the horse is stabled the night before an event and you had this horse ailment you could take the opportunity of doing the above but instead of applying Heel to Hoof which would get sticky with any bedding you might be using you could use:-

  • Arnica Dusting Powder – WCS Dusting Powder by Weleda.

This will help dry up the lesions.

Our Experience

If you do the above suggestions any mud fever that you may have, will clear up very quickly. We have tried loads of things in the past and before our horses were barefoot mud fever was much more likely to rear its ugly head.

Guaranteed Solution

Once we transitioned the horses to barefoot we had no mud fever…. (maybe just a very occasional scab and if we did the above it would be gone in a day or two.

Cracked Heels

This horse ailment is also called greasy heel. It is greatly reduced with an unshod horse due to the increased circulation to the hoof and the non-restricted movement that occurs once the metal shoes have been removed.


The treatment is the same for cracked heels as for Mud Fever. Use Apple Cider Vinegar to keep the area clean and then the same creams and remedies that are recommended for Mud Fever, i.e:-

  • Calendula cream,
  • Traumeel Gel
  • Essential oil of Lavender neat or if the area is large, mix with some oil,e.g. almond oil
  • Barrier Heel To Hoof – a herbal cream/gel that is very effective,

With a good barefoot trim the heel bulbs will begin to expand and open out and this condition will resolve.


This horse ailment is a disease of the laminae in the horses foot. It can be a very painful horse ailment and can result in the horse not being able to move. The front hooves are most commonly affected.

It requires dedication and careful horse management.

There is a tremendous amount of information on laminitis, here I will give you some simple, basic, guidelines aswell as recommned further reading.


  • You need to address the horses feed and care very quickly.
  • If your horse is shod the shoes need to be removed.
  • Find a good barefoot trimmer who can do some proper corrective trimming.
  • Grass and rich pasture is to be avoided at all times.
  • They need to be able to move around – so a dry lot area with only hay, water and natural mineral blocks.
  • All hard feeds to be avoided.
  • To help you really understand this condition Jaime Jackson’s book Founder is essential reading. Follow this book and stick with all he recommends and you will be well on your way to sorting out your horse/pony.


To monitor and prevent this horse ailment there is a simple test that you can do.

  • Feel the digital pulses in the front lower limbs of the horse and see if they are pulsating.
  • If you are unsure compare the pulse with another horse’s digital pulses. By doing this a few times you begin to get a feel as to whether they are stronger or not.
  • If it is, you can then act quickly, before any symptoms show. You can also feel for any heat in the hooves. Again compare one side with the other and also compare fronts to backs. The fronts being the most commonly affected. If still unsure compare the temperature of the hooves with another horses hooves if possible.
  • When comparing, if the horse is unshod their feet will always feel warmer than a shod horse hoooves. Also, if it is a warm summer’s day – check that you are not feeling the heat from the sun on their hooves. This sometimes can cause confusion.

Jaime Jackson’s book on Founder is certainly worth reading if you are needing to really understand and resolve a laminitis problem.

It is simple to read and covers all you will need to know. That along with what is recommended above and the horsecare suggestions outlined here on this site, should be enough to resolve most laminitc problems.

Of course there well may be some cases which are more difficult to sort but the the basics foundations to good health and laminitc free horses is all here in this sites material.

Cuts, Small Injuries and Over-reaches

Depending on the size of the injury. A small injury may only need cleaning with Apple Cider Vinegar or Eliminator.

You could then further apply Traumeel Gel or Weleda Arnica Dusting Powder WCS, both of which will speed up healing in the area.

More Serious Injuries and Cuts

An invaluable treatment for this horse ailment is using Manuka Honey. This is because it is:-

  • Antifungal
  • Antibacterial agent

You need to use a very good organic Manuka Honey. and the higher the “Unique Manuka Factor” the better.

Get the best you can, medium to thick is easier to apply than a runny one. If you buy a cheap honey don’t expect the excellent results that are outlined here.

How to Use Manuka Honey for Injuries:-

  • Clean the wound with warm water, eliminator or Apple Cider Vinegar.
  • Do not worry if you cannot get it perfectly clean, as you will be applying the Honey which will act as a natural disinfectant.
  • Get some clean cotton gamgee dressing and put several teaspoons of honey on this.

You can in addition add any or all of the following to the honey:-

  • Essential Oil of Lavender
  • Calendula cream or Traumeel Gel

Mix all this up and put the honey mixture on the cotton gamgee dressing and then put this directly onto the wound.

After this put on the bandage/vet wrap. Securing the cotton gamgee with the honey to the wound.

The balance with the bandaging is not to get it too loose or too tight. If you are concerned either way, check it a few hours later and you will be able to see:-

  • If it is coming off – too loose.
  • Or if it is impeding the circulation – too tight.

Depending on the amount of honey you will need, will depend on how big the cut is.

The aim regardless of the size of cut is for the dressing to:-

  • Cover the wound completely
  • For the wound to remain moist with the honey on the dressing.

This is very important, so that the underlying tissues as they begin to repair and knit together do not get stuck to the gamgee, when you change the dressing, (usually two days later) to add more honey.

The best type of cotton dressing to use is one that has a clear plastic covering. You can buy from chemists. It is normally described as dressings for burns. This with adequate honey will not stick to the new skin that is being laid down, when the dressing has to be changed. (e.g.gamgee)


The honey has a long shelf life so we try to always have two jars in hand. Many times I have been caught out and not had any, very boring and it can take a few days to come in the post.

Severe Injury – A Case History

One of the horses here had a very serious wound. He was sound but the skin on his leg had been severly torn. It was flapping and loose.

With this horse ailment we did the above treatment. We left the dressing on for several days so the thin layers of tissue that were regenerating were not being disturbed. The Manuka Honey had been thickly put on so there was no worry of the dressing drying up and the underlying tissues being disturbed.

When we changed the dressing the wound was completely clean, however, interestingly, where the dead skin was lying there were a number of maggots eating it away.

Once I had got over the initial shock of finding this, I was able to appreciate how they had eaten up the dead skin. They were outside, just on the edges where the dressing lay, as a result it was all clean along the edges, where normally you would have had old dry skin. Nature had done its job.

The wound healed up perfectly with minimal scaring, as the area had not been stitched.

Common Cold

This horse ailment appears as a discharge of white or yellow mucus from the nose. By living outside you will find that their respiratory tracks will be much stronger and more resilient than if they wer stabled.

If there is any sign of colds give them garlic once or twice a day, you can put pieces into bits of apple to make it easier, or you can buy garlic prepared for horses.

There are also many herbal immune mixtures on the market, for example echinacea powder. Use these first before giving any antibiotics for this horse ailment, as with anti-biotics, you are reducing the horses own inate immune system long term.

If you are concerned you can give garlic throughout the winter as a preventative. Turned out and moving they clear their airways very quickly.

You will notice a difference with horses whcih are normally turned out who are then stabled even for a night, their respiratory tracks can become quite congested.

Going to competitions where there are lots of horses you may take some preventative measures beforehand by using garlic and or echinacea and so building up their immune system so they are less susceptible to general infections.


Coughs associated with the common cold can be treated as the above. Check that you are not feeding them any highly molassed or processed sugar feeds as these can weaken their immune systems.

Allergic Coughs

Allergies to dust and bedding hay etc. With this horse ailment go back to basics and look and see how best you can support the horse’s immune system.

Once their immune system is stronger they should be less allergic.


Turn them out as much as possible. Give them some or all of the following:-

A good mineral block, e.g. Himalayan Salt Block, garlic daily, Echinacea, seaweed powder, no regular intake of drugs, natural feeds – not high in processed sugars.

If you are still struggling consider homeopathic remedies.

Homeopathic companies that manufacture single and combined remedies for horses e.g. Crossgates – they do single and combined remedies for horses e.g. Bryonia, Dulcamara, Ferr, Ant Tart.


This horse ailment is an inflammation of the skin as a result of an allergic reaction. It is caused by a biting midge and the itching is caused by an allergic reaction to the saliva of the female midge.

The horse in most cases becomes itchy along the back, especially around the mane and tail and neck area. It is a difficult ailment to deal with.

I suggest you work with an alternative practitioner who has got experience with it. There are rugs which can relieve symptoms and work extremely well. Creams and lotions are palliative i.e. they do not get to the root of the problem with this horse ailment.

High doses of garlic can be effective.

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