What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Sores, Crusts, Scabs or Peeling of White-Haired, Pink-Skinned Areas


Skin conditions that only involve white-haired or pink-skinned areas can be more serious than a simple sunburn or windburn. Photosensitization is an abnormal response of pink skin to sun, creating severe damage. It can result from one of several mechanisms. it is always important to be on the lookout for this syndrome.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp>101F/38.3C), or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
    • If you feel the problem is severe or has come on suddenly.
    • If the problem seems severe, or involves a large area.
  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • If the problem is very mild and does not seem to be causing much harm to the horse.
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

You can treat the condition symptomatically under the assumption that this is a simple sunburn. However, you may run the risk of delaying treatment for photosensitizaiton, a complex disease process that requires different treatment. Likewise, if your horse has sustained a serious sunburn that results in blistering or open sores, or your horse appears to be in significant discomfort due to itching or peeling, or seems unwell otherwise, immediately talk to your vet about your findings and concerns.

Prevent additional exposure to the sun by moving your horse to a shaded area or covering the affected area of your horse's face with a face mask with a muzzle extension, if needed. For sunburn on the body, use a light fly-sheet (rated for ultraviolet light protection) over the affected area. Even sunburned horses still like to stand in the sun. Lure them to a shady spot by moving their feed, water, or salt block to a shady area.

What Not To Do

Do not apply oil based ointments without sunscreen unless instructed by your vet. They may make the problem worse.

your vet's role

Your vet will evaluate your horse's general health and seek to rule out more serious diagnoses before concluding that your horse has a simple sunburn. Laboratory blood tests may be helpful in this case to rule out liver dysfunction.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Which white areas on the body seem to be affected?
  • Is the problem limited to white haired/ pink skinned areas?
  • Are other horses in the group affected?
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Is the horse kept on pasture?
  • Has your horse lost weight?
  • How is your horse's attitude and appetite?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Is there crusting or scabbing of the blaze and other white areas on the horse?
  • What does the horse eat?

Diagnoses Your Vet May Consider

The cause of the problem. These are conditions or ailments that are the cause of the observations you make.

Very Common
Less Common
more diagnoses

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP