Many people are surprised to learn that horses, like people, can sunburn. Despite the fact that many horse breeds evolved in hot, sunny regions it is still possible for horses to sunburn as they graze in sunny pastures during the summer. Sunburn is also possible- potentially even more likely, for horses when they are turned out in snowy pastures. Light reflecting off snow can reflect UV rays onto more sensitive skin that direct sunlight often reaches.

Some horses, by color or skin type, are more sensitive to the sun than others and can sunburn easily. Paint and pinto horses, which can have large areas of white fur and pink skin are most susceptible, but any horse with pink skin can potentially recieve a sunburn to the area.

Below I’ve listed a few of the methods we use to deal with and treat sunburns on horses- but keep in mind that just like people, cumulative sunburns can be harmful to the skin long term. To prevent burning the same sensitive skin over and over, apply sunscreen before day turnout or just begin placing your horse in a stall or shady corral during the hottest and sunniest portions of bright summer days.

Early morning turnout might be best for horses with skin very susceptible to sunburn like this leopard appaloosa colored foal
Early morning turnout might be best for horses with skin very susceptible to sunburn like our leopard appaloosa colored foal

Horse Sunburn Treatment

The treatment for a sunburned horse is pretty similar to that of the sunburn treatment for humans: while the horse’s sunburn is healing, frequent applications of pure aloe vera gel can soothe the sunburned horse’s skin immensely.

If the burn is around an eye, it’s best to not apply the sunburn treatment and allow nature to run its course rather than risk introducing infection through a non-sterile treatment.

After your horse’s sunburn has healed you’ll want to consider ways to prevent sunburn in the future. First, make sure your horse has access to shade.

Sunburns are painful! Never ride a horse with a still-healing sunburn in a location that might be touched by your tack- a noseband would irritate this pony's healing burn.
Sunburns are painful! Never ride a horse with a still-healing sunburn in a location that might be touched by your tack- a noseband would irritate this pony’s healing sunburn.

Several products are on the market to prevent sunburn in horses. Flymasks and fly sheets provide UV protection to prevent sunburning, and zinc or other gentle forms of sunscreen applied to the pink skin around the muzzle and face will prevent future sunburn. Some flymasks may be available with extensions that cover sensitive portions of the nose and muzzle.

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