What is Girth Gall?
Girth galls are very painful to a horse. Horses with galls should not be ridden; continued riding will cause the sores to open. Open sores on a horse are susceptible to scarring, bacteria, and to parasitic infections. If you find skin sores on your horse, he will need to be seen by a veterinarian.
Girth gall in horses are skin sores that have been caused by the chronic friction of the saddle straps against the equine’s skin. Galls are also known as girth blisters.
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Symptoms of Girth Gall in Horses
Symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Abrasions on the skin
- Skin is inflamed and may be hot to the touch
- Pus in the lesions
- Sticky serum around the open sore
- Open wound
- Loss of hair
- Small lumps on the skin
- Resistance to be saddled
Causes of Girth Gall in Horses
- Ill-fitting equipment
- Lack of padding under the saddle
- The girth (straps) are too stiff
- Dirty horse is saddled
- Sensitive skin
- A young horse’s skin not used to the saddle
- Saddling a horse with damp skin
- Build-up of grease on the saddle
- Recent new tack
- Horses with wide torsos
Diagnosis of Girth Gall in Horses
The veterinarian will go over the medical history of the horse and discuss any previous injuries or health ailments. He may ask to see vaccination, dental, and deworming records. The veterinarian will need to know how long the condition has been present. The veterinarian will then perform a full physical exam.
- Listening to his heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract with a stethoscope
- Blood pressure
- Hoof testing
- Skin exam
- Rectal exam
- Check the color of the gums
- Palpation of the limbs and muscles
- Palpation of lymph nodes
- Overall body condition of the horse
Diagnostic tests may include:
- Complete blood count - Checks the count of platelets, red and white blood cells to determine if there is a bacterial infection or if the horse is anemic
- Fecal Exam - Can help diagnose parasites and if there is any blood in the feces
- Urinalysis - Checks for kidney function, crystals, blood or bacteria in the urine
- Skin scrape - Can check for parasites or fungal infections
- Fungal cultures - Can help determine ringworm parasites
- A veterinarian will be able to diagnose the girth galls with the physical examination and assessment. Diagnostic test are recommended to make sure there are no other secondary symptoms
Treatment of Girth Gall in Horses
Treatment may include ice packs to reduce inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed. It is important to keep the sores dry and clean. The veterinarian may suggest cleaning the area with a saline solution or with hydrogen peroxide and then pat drying the sores.
Antibiotics will be prescribed if there is a bacterial or fungal infection. Horses with parasitic infections will need to be dewormed. Topical antibiotic ointments may also be recommended.
The veterinarian will probably suggest having your horse refitted for correct equipment by a reputable saddler. Wool or synthetic fleece-lined girths may also helpful to prevent future injury.
Some natural remedies to help the skin heal are a paste of aloe vera gel and lavender oil. Calendula ointment may also be soothing to the horse’s skin.
Recovery of Girth Gall in Horses
Recovery of girth galls in horses is very good. Follow-up visits will be necessary to check on the horse’s progress. If bacterial or fungal infections were present, it will be recommended to do additional bloodwork and cultures.
Horse should not be saddled when their skin is damp or if the hair or skin has mud, debris or dirt on it. These conditions can be irritating to the skin, rubbing against the girth. Daily grooming of the horse is essential for his maintenance and to first-hand check on his skin and hair condition.
Professional tack fitting will help your horse not to undergo girth galls again. Leather girths need to be cleaned and oiled, so they are soft and not hard against the skin. It is important to understand that ill-fitting equipment does not only cause girth galls but can cause breathing difficulties, and muscle and rib pain to the horse. Girths should not be too tight, this will cause pinching of the skin. A good way to evaluate if the girth is too tight, is to be able to slip your hand between the horse and the girth without difficulty. Young horses that are incorrectly fitted for saddling equipment may develop behavioral problems due to the pain he is experiencing.