Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Allison Price
Question: My mare is a beautiful Paint/Thoroughbred cross mare. She’s full of life and healthy. There is one problem: her dirty udder. Savannah’s teats develop an oily, dark crust over time. After a ride, we usually try to soften the crust with Dawn soap. She doesn’t seem to mind, and we can rub the mess off. We do have questions, which I hope you can answer. Because in a barn that is dominated by geldings, nobody seems to know the exact cause of this accumulation. What is the normal amount of buildup? Is it better to leave it alone or wash it off on a regular schedule?
Jack KernWinter Park in Florida
Answer toMamas have unique hygiene problems. The mare’s skin produces a sebaceous oil similar to that seen in geldings. This protects the delicate skin of the teats against the rigors associated with nursing foals and prevents chafing when the two sides of a mare’s udder rub together as she walks. As you know, this area can become clogged with waxy or sticky material.
It is difficult to describe healthy skin in this area, but it will feel slightly waxy. Normal skin is not dry, flaky or reddening. It is possible for mares to have thick, smelly, greasy bits in this area. However, it can take months or even years to build up.
Savannah sounds like she is an overachiever. It is not common for this buildup of such rapidity to occur. It may not be unusual for everyone. It is possible that you are washing too often and causing an increase in the production of exudates. This protective coating is essential for the skin. If there isn’t enough, the body will increase production.
However, it is important to not leave any exudate behind between mare’s teats. The material can harbour bacteria and trap dirt. This can cause more severe skin irritations.
If the udder has become too heavy, gentle washing and drying are recommended. For most people, Dawn dish soap is fine. Use a small amount on a sponge to avoid the skin becoming too dry. You can also use a commercial sheath-cleaning product that costs geldings. Use whatever product you choose, rinse thoroughly and dry with a towel or paper towel. Mares only need this type of care two to four times a year. Only a small percentage of mares require this type of care, while others may need it more frequently.
Savannah or any mare should have her udder cleaned at least once per month. If her skin is healthy and in good condition, then no special visit is necessary. Just ask your veterinarian the next time you see them. If there are any redness, swelling, or pain, make an appointment for this purpose. Your veterinarian might recommend a medicated shampoo or suggest that you change the frequency of washings. Or, they may give you a topical medicine to use after washings.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!