Vets issue advice to help horse owners handle UK flooding

08 December 2015

In the aftermath of Storm Desmond, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) are offering advice to horse owners to help keep horses safe from the hazards of flooding and muddy fields.

Flooded and muddy fields are a hazard for horses, as standing in water and deep mud can cause infections and skin irritations on their legs and hooves. Vets are calling on owners to ensure horses have areas where they can stand out of the mud or damp, especially when poor drainage is an issue.

Sean Wensley, President of BVA, said:

“More rain is expected this winter, making fields boggy and flooded. This creates optimal conditions for certain bacteria to thrive and cause infections. It’s important that horses have access to an area of dry land to prevent illnesses and also access to hay if the field is flooded or churned up. If horse owners have concerns or queries about their horse’s health we’d urge them to contact their local vet.”

When planning for the care of horses over the winter, it is useful to consider the likely risks, be that from flood waters, the aftermath of flooding, snow or ice. Providing horses with a shelter in the field also offers respite from adverse weather. However, the two veterinary organisations would also recommend that horses are not stabled unnecessarily as it can contribute to other health problems like obesity.

Mark Bowen, President of BEVA said:

"Whilst access to shelter, food and water are important all year round the recent World Horse Welfare Conference highlighted the problem of obesity in British horses. Horses are more resilient than we give them credit for, yet as with all good health and welfare it’s a balance; the overuse of rugs, overfeeding, and prolonged stabling risks exacerbating obesity and its medical consequences. During flooding, horses will usually seek out higher ground. If this is no available, horses may need to be moved to different pastures.”

BVA and BEVA offer the following advice for keeping your horse hazard-free this winter:

  • Fence off poached ground and gateways with temporary fencing to reduce disease and further damage to pasture.
  • Where fields are prone to flooding then, where possible, it’s also advised that owners move horses to a drier paddock.
  • Check your field shelter regularly for any damage that may make the structure unstable or injure your horse.
  • Check water troughs twice a day as they can freeze when the temperature drops and make sure to crack and clear any surface ice that may prevent your horse from accessing water.
  • If you plan to rug your horse make sure you use the appropriate weighted rug for the temperature. The disease ‘rain scald’ is not caused by rain, but is a bacterial skin disease that occurs in warm moist environments. It will flourish under excessively warm rugs, especially in the currently unseasonably warm weather. 

BVA Media Office