Did you know that horses can get sunburned just like we do? All horses can get sunburned, but those with white or lighter skin are more susceptible. Sunburned skin will be red, hot and sensitive to the touch and if left untreated it can become cracked, flaky or blister and may become infected.
It's not uncommon for horses with white marking to get sunburned. Most horses get sunburns on their noses, ear tips and around their eyes, but they can also get sunburned over the back and on their legs. If they get burned over the back are you won't be able to ride them until the burn heals.
If you have a horse that burns easily you may have to keep them stalled during the heat of the day and turn them out after the sun goes down. If you keep your horse stalled during the day make sure the stall is cool and that it has good ventilation. If you can't keep your horse stalled then make sure they have access to some form of shade like trees or a shed.
Other options would be to put on a sun blocking sheet, mask or use a sunscreen product. There are several companies that offer sheets and masks to protect your horse from the sun, but keep in mind these can be hot for your horse.
If you choose to use a sunscreen or sunblock make sure you get one that is specifically for horses. Some of the chemical sunscreens will still allow enough light through to reach the skin and cause a burn. Always make sure you read the label and follow the directions for best results.
If your horse gets sunburned be sure to get the area treated as soon as possible to avoid infection. If your horse develops any of the following scabs, bumps, blisters, cracking or bleeding call your veterinarian as something else could be wrong. Make sure you keep the sunburned area clean and be gentle when cleaning the area.
There are other things that could cause your horse to be more sensitive to the sun such as things that are put on their skin or in their feed. Photosensitivity can be caused from plants like St. Johns Wort, clover, rye, and buckwheat. Some drugs can also cause photosensitivity. When in doubt consult with your veterinarian.
Watch for St. John's Wort in any product you apply topically. You have to be careful when using fly sprays and grooming products because they could make the situation worse.
Some horses that have photosensitivity could indicate liver disease or cancer. If you think your horse is suffering from photosensitivity call your veterinarian as they will want to get a full history on your horse along with blood work.
Have fun when riding during the summer, but keep in mind that your horse can get sunburned too so take the necessary precautions to prevent it.