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Applications of skin therapy

There are a number of different ways of delivering active therapeutic ingredients to the skin of the horse. The application system used generally depends on the disease or the site being treated, and as a consequence the active ingredient usually comes in a variety of different forms. Sometimes it will be necessary to clip the horse’s coat in the affected area, to allow maximal contact of the agent.


Medicated shampoos contain active ingredients. They are, however, not usually in contact with the skin for very long so they have limited applications.

They can be useful for treating large areas of skin. Medicated shampoos are commonly used for treating external parasites like lice and fleas.

Delivering medication using this method usually requires that the shampoo is left on for some time before it is rinsed off. This needs to be timed carefully, but usually 15 minutes is sufficient for the stratum corneum of the skin to receive some hydration from the product.

To gain the full benefit of a medicated shampoo it can be advised to de-grease the coat prior to its use. This can be done using normal equine shampoo, prior to the application of the medicated variant.

Horses that are washed frequently of that have dry skins, are in real danger of losing the natural oils from their coats when shampooed, which can serve to exacerbate any existing issues. In these cases a shampoo must be chosen that is mild, hypoallergenic and contains moisturiser or moisturising agents.


Conditioners are slightly acidic, which hardens the keratin from which the hair is made. They reduce static electricity in the hair, and provide body to the hair. They can also replenish some of the lost oils, and because they are rarely completely removed from the coat by rinsing, they can be used as another way of delivering medication to the skin.


Lotions are liquids which contain an active ingredient. The active ingredient is generally either dissolved or suspended in the liquid. They can have a base of either alcohol or water, which tends to make them more drying than creams with an oily base.


Rinses provide another way of treating large areas of skin. They are made by mixing an active ingredient, with water. They can then be poured, sponged or sprayed onto the horse.


These are used to treat large areas of the coat. Sprays are frequently used to apply repellents, astringents, anti-inflammatories or moisturisers to large areas of the horse.


Creams and ointments are used to hold medication in close contact with the skin for a prolonged period. They can be occlusive in nature thereby preventing water loss from the surface of the skin and tend to have smoothing and moisturising properties. They are commonly used on small areas as they are quite labour intensive to apply.


Gels mix easily with water and can be used to carry any active ingredient mixed into them, directly into the skin. They are not greasy and don’t leave a sticky layer on the surface of the skin.


Powders are very rarely used. They are made by grinding matter into fine particles. They can then be applied to the skin directly, dissolved in water to form a rinse, or added to other liquids to make lotions, creams or ointments. However, they can build up and can be inhaled, so they are generally not hugely popular. The most common powders used are those used as antiseptic wound powders and those used for the treatment of skin parasites.