Sunburn in Horses
Sun Safe Horses by Dr. John Kohnke BVSc RDA (Kohnke’s Own)
The recent hot and sunny weather can mean sunburn for horses and riders alike. Taking a few preventative measures to stop the sun from burning your horse’s skin, just as we do for ourselves, saves your horse from unnecessary pain and discomfort. Sunburn, like in people, can cause red raw skin which is hot and sensitive to touch, and in more chronic cases, can blister, become infected and scab. Much in the same way as humans, the lighter a horse’s coat colour and skin, the easier it burns. Horses with non-pigmented skin areas on their nose, around the eyes and lower limbs, are particularly sensitive to solar radiation and sunburn. Unlike humans, horses do not suffer from sun-induced melanomas as these lesions are caused by a genetic disposition.
We advise that you follow the Australian sun-safe program of ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ for you and your horse. Slip on a lightweight combo summer rug to provide full body protection from the sun’s rays. Slop on some Factor 30+ sunscreen, just as you would yourself and slap on a fly mask or a nose band flap to cover up your horse’s susceptible forehead, nose and eyes.
Many fly masks available to horse owners can come with ear covers and nose flaps for full face protection from the sun’s rays. Some people stable their horses during the hottest part of the day, but if this is not possible, ensure your horses have a shaded shelter to escape the heat.
If your horse is already suffering from sunburn, cooling and healing ointments can be applied. Aloe Vera gel is a natural product used to assist in sunburn cooling and healing, as well as re-moisturising. Other antiseptic ointments will also help in reducing the irritation and aid skin recovery. During the healing process, be sure to cover the damaged skin areas to prevent further sunburn damage.
For more information please visit Kohnke’s Own webpage