Monday, May 06, 2013

Horses and Sunburn.

If you've ever owned a horse that has very much white on either it's face or body; then you are very aware of the fact that during the summer they get a sunburn just like people do.  With the exception that they will never tan, instead they just keep burning.  Now, if the white is not covering the area where the saddle sits, yyou can easily continue riding your horse throughout the summer with little or no thought to this subject.  If the white is on the horse's nose, it may not take to being bridled because of your hand being near it's now extremely sensitive nose.

So, how do you handle a horse that has been sunburned?  My suggestion would be to prevent the sunburn in the first place.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure, after all.  But, I ask how to handle a horse that has been sunburned, didn't I?  If the horse only has burns on a small area, such as it's nase, the best thing that I have found to treat it, is a cheap Vitamin E cream that is in the lotion aisle at Wal-Mart.  It is like, less than $2.00 for 4 ounces, and you use it sparingly, so it lasts a while.  If the horse has large areas, you will have to resort to one of the methods of prevention that I'm about to describe, and wait for the burns to heal.

Methods of Sunburn Prevention:


  1. Stall kept - If you have access to stalls, you can put the horse up during the majority of the daylight hours.  Like us, horses get Vitamin D from sunlight, so they do need to be turned out some during the day to soak it up.  The downfall to this method, is that some horses become hot when being kept in a stall for long hours.
  2. Sunscreens - Yes, they actually make sunscreen specifically for horses.  As you can imagine, it is expensive, like the majority of products marketed for horses.  You apply it to the white areas of the horse, with a sponge that greatly resembles the one that some women use to apply make-up.  The stuff appears to be mostly Zinc Oxide, you can tell where it has been applied.  It will sweat off, so it will have to be applied every morning.  I would just as soon, go buy a sunscreen that is sweat resistant with a SPF of >50, and use that.
  3. Bug sheets and Fly masks - Some of the bug sheets marketed provide some UVA/UVB protection, but not all of them, and the majority of the fly masks do.  Depending on where you live, your horses may bet a little warm usung this option.
  4. Feed - The only feed that I know of that will prevent sunburn, is Purina's Omolene 200.  My paint mare is probably 80% white, and lives in a 16 acre pasture 24/7.  She has not had a sunburn in years, except for when I changed her feed to Purina's Strategy.  Within two weeks she was burnt to where she didn't want to be touched.  I switched her back to the Omolene 200, and in about a week, she was good to go.  I even asked my vet if he had any other customers that had noticed this particular side effect of the 200.  He said that no one else had, but that it was likely due to some vitamin or mineral in the feed that reduced the sensitivity to the sun.  After I figured it out, anytime someone talks about their horses getting a sunburn, I tell them to switch their feed to Omolene 200.
Above are several options for preventing sunburn in your beloved white horses.  Take whatever measures you want to, to safe guard them from the sun.  They deserve to be comfortable, and I'm sure we all know how uncomfortable a sunburn can be, especially when you're outside with one.  Take care of them, and they will take care of you.

Good luck, happy trails, stay safe, and God bless you and yours.

Until next time, 
Lisa