Mud fever, thrush, watery stools - common horse problems in autumn

Autumn has arrived and when browsing facebook groups or forums, a lot of horse owners are asking for remedies for mud fever, thrush or watery stools. Why does my horse have these problems all of a sudden? This week's blog hopefully gives you some answers and you will also find some tips for your horsey autumn problems.

Autumn is a really stressful season for our horses. Days are shorter and shorter, temperatures vary from frosty nights to up to 20 degrees in the afternoon. The horses are in the middle of changing their coat and some of them already look like little teddy bears. It rains more often, the ground gets muddy and most horses do not got out on pasture anymore. Feeding is changed suddenly from fresh grass to hay or grass silage.

So what exactly happens during this time of change? Changing coat is an enormous feat for our horses and in addition, we change the feed and most horses stabled in stalls have much less movement than during pasture time in summer. All this has an effect on the metabolism and consequently mud fever on the pasterns or watery stools are on the rise.

Mud fever

Mud fever in autumn is often due to drastic changes of the horse's living conditions. If your horse is still out on pasture, the short grass often contains high amounts of plant sugar. If stabled already, your horse most likely receives higher amounts of grains and all in all, your horse ingests a lot more proteins and starch. Movement due to stabling is restricted. The metabolism slows down and your horse cannot metabolise all the additional carbohydrates. Hence the detoxification process is also impaired and as a consequence, your horse can develop skin irritations on the pasterns. Not treated, those irritations can be really painful.

Once the skin on the pasterns is damaged and irritated and your horse stands in a dirty stall or on a muddy paddock, bacteria and germs penetrate those areas easily and the skin gets infected. If you do not react quickly and change feed, add movement and treat the skin locally, fever and infections are the next step.


Toxins that your horse cannot metabolise are often also eliminated via the frog. In autumn, thrush can have similar causes as mud fever. But for the hooves, a clean stall and paddock as well as daily cleaning of the hooves are much more important.

Bacteria and germs love the humid environment on muddy paddocks or in dirty stalls. As it rains more often, the hooves soften due to the humidity and the result are small lesions in the frog where bacteria and germs enter and start eating away at the frog tissue. The frog decomposes very quickly and healthy tissue does not have a chance to regrow in time.

Once you notice the first signs of black stinky smear around the frog, you should react immediately. Make sure that the stall and paddock are cleaned regularly, ensure more movement for your horse on dry and clean ground and take care of the hooves to get rid of the nasty bacteria and germs.

Watery stools

There are a lot of causes for watery stools and a lot horses have chronic watery stools. Butmore horses seem to be suffering from this condition during autumn. If we look at the most common causes for watery stools, many of those are present during the change of season - sudden change of feed from pasture to hay or grass silage, stress and anxiety due to limited movement and less space i.e. in open plan stabling, more grain feed and therefore more starch and sugars.

You can find a lot of information on how to treat watery stools on the internet including different feed supplements and other remedies.

What to do

  • Leading towards autumn shorten pasture time so that your horse can get used to more hay feed

  • If possible, feed hay 24 hours a day, also in addition to pasture or feed in several portions. Make sure that your horse receives lots of hay in the evening (best in a hay net) so that it does not eat too much straw. Too much straw can lead to watery stools. If your horse has enough hay to feed on, it will not eat lots of straw.

  • Avoid grass silage as it contains bacteria that can damage the intestinal flora. Always prefer good horse hay.

  • Make sure that your horse stands in a clean stall or on a clean paddock. Clean and control hooves regularly.

  • Do not feed grains or reduce to a minimum and prefer horse feed free of molasses and cereals.

  • Check the troughs and make sure your horse drinks enough.

  • Try to increase movement as much as possible! Movement supports the horse's metabolism.

Maybe it is time to deworm or make an appointment with your horse dentist. Hay is harder to chew than fresh grass and teeth problems can lead to metabolic problems as i.e. watery stools.

Was our blog helpful to you? What problems do you have during autumn? Leave us a comment!


And a big thanks to Myriam Cibolini - our photographer!

#autumn #maneandtail #grooming #feeding #horsehealth #horseskin

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