Yesterday I drove down to help some horses that had been burnt in the fires around Yarloop and Waroona. Just the thought of horses being burnt makes me feel sick and horrified.

These horses were the lucky ones with superficial burns that were being treated by the wonderful local vets at Murray veterinary centre.


Burns need to be taken seriously and will need veterinary attention. Burns are usually categorized as first, second, third and fourth degree burns. First degree burns are categorized by the fact that only the top layer of the skin is affected. Second degree burns affect the deeper layers of the skin. They can be extremely painful as often the nerves as still intact.

Horse with burns to its head.
This horse was burnt in recent bush fires. It is one of the lucky ones who survived and will be fine.

Third and fourth degree burns are severe and the nerves are usually damaged.

Second degree burns usually form blisters and although it is tempting to burst the blisters it is recommended that they are left as they protect the area from infection and are usually less painful that the raw skin underneath if it is exposed. After 24 or 48 hours they can be removed and soothing anti-microbial substance can be applied.

Third and fourth degree burns are quite dangerous as they damage tissue beneath the skin. It is suggested that the burn be washed carefully with water and ice. Any dead tissue can be removed by a veterinarian. As the new skin starts to grow under the old tissue bacteria can get in.

Fluid loss is one of the major problems and usually there is protein loss through the burn sites. A veterinarian will usually give the horse fluid and often plasma to help with any protein loss.  If a lot of the body is affected by deep burns then the prognosis isn’t good.

Often a horse may appear to be doing well, but sometimes it is difficult to assess the damage and it may take three or four days for a horse to really react and show how sick they are. They may end up with renal failure or septicaemia or other complications.

Horses with burns require a lot of attention and care. They require monitoring several times a day.

Burns on a horse's hind end.
This horse has burns to the rump and hind legs.

There are natural therapies that can be used to support a horse with burns.

Arnica: Homeopathic arnica 200 c can be given immediately after the injury and every hour or so for the first day. Then once or twice a day as the horse recovers.  

When washing the area colloidal silver can be used as an antibacterial. A few drops of lavender essential oil will be helpful with its anti-bacterial properties. Lavender essential oil is also known for its ability to help with burns. The old dead skin will need to be gentle removed over a period of time as the wounds are treated.  

Aloe vera gel can be applied to the burns. It is known to relieve pain and decrease inflammation, whilst preventing bacteria and fungal activity. You can mix a few drops of lavender oil thoroughly through the gel. Often an immediate application of the gel from the leaf on a superficial burn will help greatly. If you have the fresh aloe plant, then you can use the gel from that.

Aloe vera is a wonderful remedy to use throughout the healing process as it will help to keep the skin soft and prevent that painful cracking associated with burns. If they burn is extremely painful, perhaps too painful to apply a gel, then spray a liquid aloe onto it 3 – 5 times a day to help with the healing. As the area becomes less painful to touch you can apply the gel.

You can buy commercial aloe products. Look for a pure product without a lot of chemicals. These will just irritate the burns and might prevent or slow down the healing.

Raw, natural honey can be used on the deeper burns. This is ant-bacterial and encourages healing. Be aware that bees, flies and ants may be attracted to the honey.

It is best to keep most burns open to the air unless they are very deep. Your veterinarian will advise you on this.

As the burns heal you can use rosehip oil to prevent scaring to areas of new flesh without any wounds.  

The other problem may also be smoke inhalation.  The lungs can be affected and you will need to watch for any discharge and listen for any coughing or sounds of the lungs having been affected.

If you wish you use preventative herbs to support the horses’ then herbs such a mullein and marshmallow can be added to the feed. Colloidal silver may be added and raw natural honey may also be added for its soothing and healing properties. If the horse is easy to syringe, then honey in warm water can be syringed to soothe the airways.

Feed: If the horse’s muzzle has been burnt you might need to soak its hay and make sure the feed is wet to make it easier for him to eat. The horse is often away from their usual environment and may feel stressed because of this. Rescue remedy may be used to help ease any stress. The bottle has the directions. You can buy a spray or a bottle with a dropper. This becomes the stock bottle and you put four drops from the stock bottle into another bottle with pure water. This can then be syringed or even placed on a person’s hand and gentle rubbed over the forehead or elsewhere if the horse is affected by burns on the forehead.  

Make sure the horse has a good natural mineral supplement. In some places you may be able to source a sea mineral supplement which will help support the healing of the skin. Colloidal minerals also enhance skin healing.

Consider adding silica in a colloidal form if you horse will eat it. If not then adding herbs high in silica such as horsetail (equisetum) and French white millet to the feed will help. Rosehips will support the healing of the collagen.  

I find that the love of a horses’ owner can be very therapeutic in healing so many things.

May all horses be healthy and happy!!