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Saddle Sores & Girth Galls

saddle soreGirth galls and saddle sores usually result from the use of poorly fitting equipment or insufficient padding under the saddle and around the girth.

The wither, back and girth are all highly sensitive areas and when there is excessive movement of tack or inadequate cushioning the skin can quickly become traumatised, abraded and devitalised.  Damp skin resulting from rain or heavy sweating is more prone to developing sores and galls, as is skin that has not been conditioned by frequent riding under saddle.  Horses with painful open sores or haematomas (blood blisters) under the skin should not be ridden until the sores have healed. 

An ice pack should be applied for 10-15 minutes to any swelling that develops under the skin after a ride. This should be repeated 2 or 3 times daily to help prevent further fluid build-up and to reduce inflammation and relieve soreness. Do not massage or rub the area with liniments as this can worsen the blood and fluid leakage under the skin. Do not ride the horse again until the swelling has subsided.

When an open sore or gall is present, wash away discharges with warm saline solution (1 teaspoon of salt in 600mL of boiling water that has been allowed to cool to lukewarm). After patting dry apply a drying, antiseptic preparation such as CETRIGEN SPRAY twice daily until the wound has dried and any infection controlled. 

Once the skin has healed rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits can be used to harden the skin surface against future abrasion. Check that saddles and girths fit well and are regularly oiled and are soft and supple before returning the horse to work. Initially use a double saddle blanket with a hole cut in the one under the saddle, to take the pressure of the soft skin until it hardens.

Some young horses develop a weeping or crusty rash-like condition under the girth behind the elbow. The skin becomes inflamed, sore and scurfy and the hair may fall out leaving a bald area. This condition can be caused by either bacteria or fungal infections and can spread to other horses if girths, saddle blankets or grooming equipment are shared.

Wash the area with a medicated wash. Rinse thoroughly and dry with a clean towel. Then apply a drying agent such as CETRIGEN SPRAY to the area twice daily. Consult your vet if the condition fails to clear up within 4-7 days.

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