Itching and Bug Wash

Why is there more itching around now than there used to be? Does it ever occur to you to wonder why it isn't called "Sugar" Itch? It should be and here is why. When any mammal eats, a tiny proportion of what it eats is always excreted in its perspiration. It's the same with us when we eat garlic or similar smelly herbs, the smell, though usually almost unnoticeable, comes out in our perspiration.
A horse, with its series of digestive organs designed to break down and digest large quantities of cellulose, is basically a large fermentation vat on legs. It's built to process everything it eats into a form that its blood can absorb and can convey to its cells as food.
In the past, especially when horses were reliant mostly on grazing, there were rich times and lean times as the seasons fluctuated. During the rich times in Spring and Summer, horses would get fit and sleek, and during the lean times their digestive system had to work pretty hard just to keep them going and they'd be thinner. This continual challenge meant that the horse's digestive system became very efficient to the point where it can, given time, process the poorest of fodder into food sugars that keep it going. Nowadays horses have become mainly companion animals by and large doing less work than in the past and being far better fed.
All the year-round feed companies and expert nutritionists recommend and advise an often confusing range of different diets and food additives to horse owners trying to do their best for their charges. Inevitably then, many horses get overfed on over-rich foods all the year round. This inevitably means that their blood sugar content is usually quite high and the excess sugars which are not burned off with exercise or converted into fat are "dumped" via perspiration on to their skin. Sweet proteins on the skin form an acidic sheen which is very attractive to all manner of feeding insects (it also lets through a lot more UV light than is good for the horse's skin).
A high proportion of these insects are females who, having mated, need a blood meal to germinate their eggs, so they bite! When they bite they inject an anticoagulant into the horse so as to keep the blood flowing through the puncture whilst they feed. The anticoagulant is acidic and so, as we have seen, is the skin, so this combination effectively "stings" the horse who tries to dissipate this sensation by scratching. Excessive scratching opens the skin making it more vulnerable to the insects who carry bacteria, and the whole process of secondary infection and skin problems begins. How to stop it? Well, there are three obvious ways:
The first is to cut down on sweet products in the diet in order to reduce the amount of sugar sweated on to the skin.

The second and easier method is to change the skin (topically) so it becomes more alkaline.

The third is to exercise your horse a lot more to burn off the excess sugar.

Reducing the sweet component of the diet is quite difficult since to do so may reduce the performance of the horse or cause weight loss at a time when you want him or her "topped-up" for an event or competition.
Increasing the amount of exercise is a very good idea but time consuming for those with busy lives. So we are left with altering the pH of the skin (to make it more alkaline) as the easiest option. Acid is neutralised by alkali which is available in nature in the form of some of the vegetable oils produced in certain species of tree and bush. These trees appear to produce these compounds partly in order to prevent insects from feeding on them. They are so vigorously alkaline as to jam up the insect's biting mechanism, which as we have seen is acidic.
Unfortunately, these oils aren't water soluble (otherwise trees would melt in the rain!) but after much research and development, Taylors Hill have developed one into a water-soluble wash called, appropriately, Bug Wash. The best way to help protect your horse's skin from midge and mite attack and from the effects of too rich a diet is to dissolve a spoonful of Bug Wash in a bucket of water and use it to sponge down your horse. The alkali in Bug Wash will neutralise the acid compounds on your horse's skin thereby giving it a degree of protection from the too energetic end of the UV spectrum, and it will also help protect it from the attention of biting insects. It helps keep the coat healthy and makes your horse 'shine like a new penny'.
Source: Taylors Hill Ltd (manufacturers of Bug Wash)
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