Now the nights are darker and the horses’ coat is longer, certain types of horses and ponies such as cobs, draughts and heavy horses can be prone to feather mites.


Also commonly known as ‘heel mange’, it is caused by the mite Chorioptes equi. It can be spread directly between horses or via bedding, wooden stable walls etc.

Affected horses will show signs of extreme itchiness, stamping their feet, rubbing or biting their legs. Self-trauma and excoriation are common and bald patches and bleeding scabs are often seen following periods of intense itching.

Mites are not visible to the naked eye, but can definitively be diagnosed by microscopic examination of skin scrapes. They live in the superficial layers of the skin and hair shaft and cause irritation by their movement. As most horses invariably present in such a typical fashion, skin scrapes are not generally necessary and treatment is started following clinical examination.

Feather mites have an extended life cycle of around 3 weeks from eggs hatching to adult. They can also survive for 60-70 days in the environment; which means treatment is often prolonged and repetitive in order to break the cycle.

There are currently no products licenced for equids available against Chorioptes equi. Your vet may decide to use an injection (off license & under the VMD Cascade) to reduce the number of mites in the skin, however mites living on the hair shaft or in the environment will be inaccessible to the injection. Therefore it is advisable to also clip the feathers off and wash the legs in mite solution or lime sulphur shampoo.

A typical example of a treatment plan;

▪ Start treatment by injection from your vet

▪ 2 injections 10 – 14 days apart followed by regular injections every 3 - 6 months

▪ Clip feathers off

▪ Wash legs in Swanspool mite solution and/or lime sulphur shampoo

▪ Avoid sharing stables, pasture, tack, grooming brushes, or rugs

▪ Clean and disinfect stable

It is possible that the condition may reoccur but with correct management and committed treatment, should be able to be controlled so that you and your 

Veterinary advice in this magazine is provided as a general guide and you should always seek professional advice.