Icelandic Horse Connection

Sweet Itch Information

The following are notes and suggestions from the Icelandic Horse email list, and there are a couple of links for additional information below:

The best coal tar shampoos are the ones sold through the catalogs like Omaha Vaccine or Jeffers or one of the companies that supply dog grooming needs. Look for shampoos that talk about being anti-seborrheic(sp.). Some people believe that excess seborrhea (waxy substance secreted by the skin that blocks the pores) contributes to summer eczema type reactions. It seems to help horses that have various kinds of itchy reactions.

Whoever it was that posted this recipe said it was very close to the same ingredients of a product called "The Missing Link". It is as follows:

1 pound of Kelp (Granulated)
1.5 cups Nutritional Yeast
1.5 cups Shave Grass or Horsetail
2 cups Cattle Minerals
3/4 cup Ground Flax Seed

Also mix in for added flavor and nutrients, Raspberry Leaves - Milk Thistle - Burdock Root. I believe it was the Flax Seed that is most important in helping the body with eczema. I'll let you know how we do this summer. I've got two that suffer slightly aroung the face and belly mostly. We are also going to use the Boet Blanket this summer. So far we are just using the Hood and Belly Band while in pasture.

Flax Seed needs to be ground (some say and cooked, other say no need to cook).

Flax Seed oil is not as potent as the seed.

Linseed comes from flax plants (genus Linum), so linseed is flax seed. It's rich in phosphorous, and is a relatively good source of B group vitamins, the oil puts a nice gloss on a horse, and it's a useful feed for a lean animal.

VERY IMPORTANT: Linseeds contain the enzume linase, which when the seeds are soaked releases hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid) from a glycoside present in the seeds. Hydrocyanic acid is toxic, and although the linase should be inactivated by stomach acids, it's important to store the seeds properly so they aren't damp, and never feed it if it's been soaked but not cooked. It's also important to make sure that any linseed oil, and the left-overs (linseed meal) that you're feeding is food grade quality - low temperature oil extraction can leave linase functional.

I've always fed it cooked - it absorbs large amounts of water, and forms a thick jelly or soup that most horses seem to like (smells horrible to me). I've never used psyllium on my horses (in fact prior to being on this list I'd never heard of it's use in horses), but the jelly formed by cooking the linseed is because of the large amounts of mucilage it contains, which acts as an excellent internal lubricant. I also feed quite a bit more than a tablespoon, but not as much as some of my UK friends who feed up to a pound a day per horse. To cook it, I put about 4oz of seeds in a large heavy pot about half full of water, bring it to the boil, boil it hard for a few minutes, and then let it simmer for at least half an hour (preferably an hour or more for a nice thick gooey mix). It's a bugger for sticking and burning, so you'll need to stir it occasionally. You can mix the hot stuff with pelleted feeds or bran to form a mash that ill horses seem to enjoy.

When I first started using this recipe he had no hair on one side of his tail. The hair is starting to regrow gradually. It is also brilliant for soothing the areas where he is very sore from rubbing. The recipe is:

5 drops lavender- Boots the Chemist
5 drops Tea Tree- Boots the Chemist
2 drops Roman Camomile- Aromatherapist
2 drops Yarrow- Aromatherapist
2 drops Garlic (had to buy garlic capsules and take the oil out-) Holland and Barrett

Add these to 50ml of Aloe Vera gel (I have used a make called Banana Boat from Superdrug) and apply to the affected area twice a day for no more than 3 weeks. Emily

Possible Benefits of Flax Seed:

The supplementing of flax seed oil will help with many conditions including:

  • *clear up skin conditions
  • *relieve arthritic and inflammatory pain
  • *increase bone strength
  • *improved skin and coat condition (decreased dandruff and a beautiful shine on their coats! Even some dappling)
  • *When a pregnant mare was fed flax, her offspring were larger, and grew faster than when previous to being fed flax
  • *within 9 months cracked hooves were completely healed
  • *research indicates that horses fed flax and injected with the deadly organism Escherichia coli were better protected than those not fed flax, suggesting enhanced immunity in these animals
  • *Valuable source of energy (great to feed during the cold months or during times of stress to prevent weight loss)
  • *keeps less desirable saturated fats mobile in the blood stream
  • *increases oxygen uptake to the cell
  • *decreases recovery time from strenuous exercise
  • *Numerous studies conducted on animals and humans show that flax has powerful anti-tumor properties and may reduce tumor size by 50%.

Ellen's Spray for Sweet itch & Mosquitoes

2 oz. Permethrins
1/2 cup skin so soft (avon)
1/4 cup of Nolvasan (Fort Dodge)
2 Tbsp. Nolvasan Scrub (surgical scrub by Fort Dodge)
Water Mix all of this together in a gallon milk jug (clean one) and spray nightly of the horse. It helps fight bacteria and skin problems as well as working to defray the bugs. Since I have put this together my mare is doing great and looks great.

I spray this nightly on all the horse because I am afraid it might start in any of them, so I use this as a deterent. I have tried everything else on the market for sweet itch and nothing has worked as well as this concoction. If I miss using it for one night the mare shows signs that she is itching, so I don't miss a night. This is my own recipe so use at your own risk. But I have talked to vets and they said that everything I am using will not hurt the horse and if it works then use it. I also use the surgical scrub to wash the mare and the horses when bathing. Their coats are quite beautiful.

This year the SE has been much less a problem for my horse (his third summer with it). I think the ground flax has helped a great deal and I've reduced the amount of flax I was feeding to 1/3 cup 2X day. Also have him on a mineral supplement made especially for our geographic area and also give a homemade version of Missing Link daily. Swat applied liberally on the underside of the body (a big trouble area for him) is very helpful and liberal spraying with Clac 86. So far no mane or tail rubbing and just a few areas of the body that have a fungus-like appearance. I have been applying a zinc based preparation to these areas that I bought at Equitana this year. I guess it's a matter of alot of experimentation until you come up with something that works for your horse.

We have had a very hot, humid summer. My horse was clipped in April and grew his usual summer coat back, which is longer and thicker than I would like it to be for his comfort in the heat. His SE flared up in June and I got a fly sheet with a large belly band while at Equitana (the area where he happens to get alot of sores). It's not a Boett. As he was very hot under the mesh fly sheet, I decided to body clip him again so he would be more comfortable while wearing the sheet.

Within 5 days of being body clipped and wearing the fly sheet he was free of any new outbreak of SE and the old sores were healing fast. Now everything is completely healed and there is not a sign of any more SE. He had had a small amount on his face, spots on both sides of his barrel, alot on the chest area and belly. The mane and tail for some reason had not been too badly rubbed this year. New hair is now growing in the bald spots. The really neat thing is that the sheet has been off for over a week now and STILL no sign of SE. I fully expected it to come roaring back when I removed the sheet. We will now wait and watch to see what happens. Perhaps body clipping the summer coat off and reducing sweating is a help for him -- has anyone else had this experience? We are still in the worst part of the season for SE, but I am encouraged.

From: Konstanze Ehlebrecht

"Stroppel, Jasmin" schrieb:

I read an interesting notice in a German horse magazine today. A German breeder and importer of Icelandic horses claims, he has a way to test out in Iceland, if a horse gets sweet itch or not. He let them give an injection of a drug (can't remember the name, but can find out) which lets the horses sweat very much within a few minutes. He says, those horses which don't sweat very much after this injection are disposed for sweet itch and that he has a hit rate of 90% (There was unfortunately no declaration what is meant: only 10 % of the tested for "good" horses get sweet itch which won't be a hit rate of 90 % if usually you have a rate of 20-25%, or if 90% of the tested for "bad" horses get it)

He explains this fact with a much bigger disposal for sweet itch of horses with less sweat glands. A fact which is helpful in Iceland not to get a cold > or even pneumonia is a disadvantage in warmer an more humid climate. Of course he does not deny that the midges are the trigger of the allergic reaction, but the disposition is given by the lesser sweat glands.

I only have one horse with mild symptoms and I can not say that Sörli is sweating less than others. So for me it is hard to try to prove this theory on the living objects. How about you others have you made any observations which may support this theory?

Of course it would be very helpful to identify such horses in Iceland and not to export them, which save a lot of sorrow and pain to owner and horse.


Liebe Jasmin, ich bin froh, daß Du Dich dazu geäußert hast! Ich habe diesen Artikel auch gelesen (er war, glaube ich, im "Islandpferd") habe aber die Zeitschrift noch nicht wieder gefunden. (Meine Zeit ist leider in den letzten Monaten in hauchdünne Scheiben geschnitten :((( Ich finde diese Info sehr interessant, hatte aber die selben Schwierigkeiten mit der Interpretation von "90%" wie Du. Hatte mir auch vorgenommen, den Autor mal dazu zu befragen. In unserer kleinen Herde in Island haben wir eine Stute, von der ich glaube, daß sie S.E bekommen würde, falls exportiert. Möglicherweise könnte ich das an dieser Stute mal ausprobieren, obwohl ich etwas zögerlich bin, nur so "zum Spaß" mein Pferd mit einer Substanz zu traktieren, nur um meine Neugier zu befriedigen!

Auf jeden Fall gehört zu einer Allergie neben dem auslösenden Faktor aber auch noch die Disposition und warum sollte dieser Umstand nicht ebenfalls begünstigend wirken. Auch "Disposition" ist ja kein absoluter Faktor sonder kann sich auch aus mehren Teilfaktoren zusammensetzen. (Halt mich bitte nicht für spinnert, aber da beim Menschen ja auch das psychische Strickmuster eine Rolle spielt, hatte ich auch schon mal überlegt, Besitzer von Ekzemern zu fragen, welche Position in der Hierarchie der Herde ihre Tiere einnehmen.)

Liebe Grüße in die Schweiz,

Konstanze in Köln

I make a rinse, pour over areas that are really making him itch. Making sure it gets down to his skin. Do not rinse out. Take an inch of fresh rosemary, inch of fresh mint, put it in 4 cups of boiling water, let it steep until lukewarm, take herbs out, add 1/4 cup good white vinegar. Do this about once a week.

In my experience, once a horse experiences sweetitch, it comes back every year and tends to get worse.

For further information:
Search the Icelandic Horse Email List archive:
Input the words "summer eczema" or "sweet itch"
Vet Corner

Sweet Itch

If you have any additional information
or links about Sweet Itch (Summer Eczema),
please let us know.