Jenny Pearce

Greasy heel, mud fever and rain scald in horses

Greasy heel can be a very painful condition but is easily fixed

Greasy heel can be a very painful condition but is easily fixed

The side effects of Cyclone Debbie

The recent cyclone in Queensland and the floods that are following will no doubt have some horses painfully suffering with greasy heel, mud fever and rain scald.  I am sharing here a couple of very effective, inexpensive remedies for these conditions.

Greasy Heel in horses

Greasy heel in horses is a sticky, lumpy, often thick, scabby condition to be found in and around the hollow part at the back of the horse’s hoof.  See the photo to the left here.  Do you like the use of all those technical words?

Simple words and thankfully a simple remedy for what can be a very nasty and very painful condition if untreated.

Your local chemist will have some sort of brand of nappy rash cream that is a plain mixture of zinc cream and castor oil. In Australia the Amcal chemist chain has a home brand version of it with a higher concentration of zinc in it that costs around four or five dollars and is the most effective.

Slather the cream on – that’s an Australian expression for get a good big amount of cream on your fingers and smear lots of that cream VERY GENTLY on the affected parts of the leg and repeat daily until it’s gone.  Don’t try and rub it in – it’s way too painful for that.  Just coat the rash with a thick layer of the cream and let the cream do the work.

Don’t even worry about washing the area unless it’s incredibly muddy.  And if you do feel that you have to wash it, make sure you dry it well and walk your horse around until it’s really dry before you put the cream on, because you’re keeping the wet OUT not keeping it in. 🙂

You will probably start to see some improvement within a day or so.  As I said – simple and effective…

Mud fever and rain scald in horses

The little clumps of hair with skin attached that pull free as you loosen the rain scald

The little clumps of hair with skin attached that pull free as you loosen the rain scald

If the rain scald or mud fever is on their back – use fine human grade Diatomaceous Earth (you can get that from Fossilpower in Queensland and they can express post it to you), gently rubbed into the affected areas.  No need for washing, no need for vets, no need for antibiotics – just sprinkle the powder and rub in gently according to the horse’s tolerance for touch on it.

When the little bits of slightly infected skin lift off, they look like those in the picture on the left.  The condition can go from just a few spots of hair, to losing major amount of hair like this poor horse down below. As the skin lifted off, the flesh underneath would have been wet with a little pus like the photo to the right here and the horse would start to lose condition.Rain scald nasty

Whether the horse is rugged or not, each day, gently rub off what loose skin and fur there is and sprinkle the affected area with a new amount of the Diatomaceous Earth.  You’ll see some new fur growing again within a few days.

Rain scald baldDisinfect your brushes and rugs, because they will be carrying the bacteria that causes the problem.  I clean the brushes and rugs and use the Diatomaceous earth for the disinfection too!

Rain scald mild

A milder case of mud fever / rain scald / rain rot



  1. Cheryl 04/11/2017, 1:00 pm Reply

    Try yes it sounds funny but mouth wash then put zinc with sulphur and a little baby oil in it put wash on its antibacterial and anti inflammatory then the sulphur mix works well I have an old mare I put this on for mud fever and it does work

    • jennyp 04/11/2017, 1:42 pm Reply

      Thanks for another option Cheryl for those who can’t get hold of the simple zinc nappy cream… 🙂

  2. Kathy Reid 04/04/2017, 11:27 pm Reply

    I have a Clyde and I deal with this every year towards the end of summer (not our rainy season – I live in Canada). I’ve tried everything. Someone mentioned sulphur (like they use for cows I guess). Any comments on that? I’ve heard Clyde Scratches is quite a bit different and from my experience everything that works on other horses does not work on my mare. H E L P!

    • jennyp 04/05/2017, 7:28 am Reply

      It sounds like it’s worth trying Kathy – it’s very cheap to give it a go anyway. 🙂 I guess on Clydesdales that all that extra hair gets in the way so you’d have to use a lot of cream to get the same result, or part the hair to get in at the roots and onto the skin. But as I said, it’s cheap cream, so worth a go. There’s a bit of a conversation happening on facebook about the consistency of the cream needs to be, to be really effective. The AMCAL brand here has more zinc in it than the same cream from other chemists. So if the cream feels really soft, then add some extra zinc cream to it and mix it in thoroughly. The zinc part creates the barrier to keep the wet OUT and has it sticking to the horse leg long enough to start melting those scabs off.

  3. Kim W 04/04/2017, 9:57 pm Reply

    FINALLY!!! Someone else who does NOT recommend pulling scabs off! I don’t think people know that horses can feel the pain associated with pulling scabs off.
    Thank you!! 👍😃

    • jennyp 04/05/2017, 7:30 am Reply

      Appreciation for all of those generous horses who don’t kick when they get hurt hey Kim? I do give the scabs a bit of a firm wipe as they start coming off easy because the cream has them ready to come off – but pulling them off before they were ready ughhh yes that would REALLY hurt!

  4. Sue Mawhirt 04/04/2017, 6:35 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny, with regards to greasy heal, do you recommend picking off the scabs before putting on the cream?

    • jennyp 04/04/2017, 8:36 pm Reply

      Definitely not. The whole thing is so painful and the cream kind of lifts the scabs off without any picking – the scabs just wipe off when they’ve softened properly. That’s part of what makes this such an effective treatment. 🙂

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