SCRATCHES: the What, the Why, and the How

What are Scratches?

pastern with scratches

The name Scratches is easily replaced by “mud heel” “greasy heel”, or “mud fever”. Essentially, Scratches is the inflammation of the skin on the pastern due to being wet, dirty, and exposed to all those microbes that come from being wet and dirty. There are a lot of microbes and fungi that live on your horse’s feet and legs, and when they get in the bloodstream they cause big problems.

Scratches can start out pretty innocently as scabby skin, but can travel up the cannon bone and cause severe inflammation and lameness. And because there isn’t a singular cause of scratches it’s essential that the problem is treated right away so it doesn’t become chronic and cause bigger issues. If it doesn’t get treated right away, the infection becomes worse and the skin becomes thick, crusty, and scarred, you horse may spike a fever and could be very lame.

Why do horses get scratches?

hooves in mudThe “why” is pretty simple. Horses legs and feet get wet more often than the rest of their bodies and also take longer to dry, especially when their hair is longer. The legs and feet are also more prone to getting scraped or nicked as they play and work. Sand rings, grass fields, dirty stalls (and even clean stalls) cover legs with tons of different infectious agents, and pasterns are a perfect place for bacteria to grow and fester. So then, when a horse breaks the skin with a bug bite, scrape, or nick, that bacteria has a chance to then enter the bloodstream and skin.

How are scratches treated?

Depending on the severity of the infection, there are different treatment tracks.

If your horse has a fever and swollen legs, your vet will prescribe antibiotics and topical treatments / ointments like Wound Wonder or Fungisol. You will need to treat the Scratches constantly (as described below) and monitor your horse’s fever and soundness.

With smaller cases of Scratches (IE: you’ve noticed a few scabby bumps), take action right away. Shampoo the leg, gently remove the scabs (but do not cause bleeding), and dry the legs completely with towels or a hair dryer. You may want to apply topical treatments as well.

The most important thing to remember is that these infections are persistent, so you must be persistent as well. Keep the legs as clean and dry as you can. If that means washing and drying and treating the legs every day, than do it. Scratches will come back quickly, so we recommend several weeks of preventative treatment even once the symptoms are gone.

How are scratches prevented?

With scratches, prevention is key.

  1. If it is a damp season (winter/spring), or you’re bathing your horse a lot (summer), always keep an eye out and clean and dry your horse’s legs every time you touch them.
  2. Every time you pick your horse’s hooves, take some time to make sure the pasterns are clean and dry.
  3. In the damp seasons (winter/spring), pay extra attention to grooming and drying your horse’s legs.
  4. If your horse has a wound on his leg, treat it carefully, keep it clean and dry, and change the bandages as often as possible.
  5. After a bath or hose, take extra time to dry the legs completely. Do NOT just put your horse in his stall if he is wet, especially if he is prone to Scratches.
  6. Do NOT share brushes with others and disinfect/ wash your brushes and tools as much as needed to stop re-infecting your horse.

The more you do every day to prevent Scratches the less likely you’ll end up doing the hard and long work of treating Scratches. A little goes a long way!

Back Bay Farm Summer Camp

Back Bay Farm Summer Camp

Back Bay Farm Summer Camp: A yearly tradition

There hasn’t been a summer for almost 20 years without the Back Bay Farm summer camp. Our camp is an amazing opportunity for both the newest rider or the junior show rider. We are able to tailor the experience for each camper, with up to 3 instructors, and our great range of horses and ponies.

Camp Stats:

Camp Director: Jessen Edlund, show rider, college student, and former BBF camper! Jess has been camp director for 5 years. Even as she works toward vet school, directing the Back Bay Farm camp is one of her favorite times of the year.

Average group size: 7 campers

Number of riding lessons: 1-2 per day

Day/ Time: Tuesday- Friday, 10 AM-3 PM

Weeks: July 18-21, 2017 and August 1-4 2017

Ages: 7 and up (as long as the child has had some structured riding lessons. Call now to set up a lesson if needed!)

Price per session: $500

What is a day like at Back Bay Farm’s Summer Camp?

Campers arrive a bit before 10 AM and gather in and around our little cabin near the outdoor ring. We start the day with some of our “ground” lessons; for example, learning horse anatomy, safety around horses, horse colors, types of horses, or types of riding. We assign horses to campers for the day, and then we’re off to groom and tack and get ready to ride!

Campers have countless practical lessons as they groom their ponies and horses, learn about types of brushes and horse care, and take care of their tack. When everyone is ready, instructors take their campers and lead the in-saddle portion of the day. Riders end up making huge strides (pun intended) on their own skills from the beginning of the camp week to the end.

Once the lesson is over, it is time to take care of the horses and ponies again. During the summer that usually means baths! Campers learn the importance of bathing, drying, and grazing. They also learn how to clean and preserve tack. A favorite game at Back Bay Farm summer camp is called “put the bridle back together in 3 minutes or less!”

Campers then have lunch at the picnic table in the shade, and are able to rest and have some social time. There are usually riding lessons to watch in the outdoor ring, as well, which adds some lunch time entertainment and learning!

The afternoon brings more horsemanship lessons, such as how to clean a stall, what horses eat, why horses need to wear shoes (or not!), why horses spook (or not!). We also do horse-themed arts and craft projects. Another crowd-favorite game is to create courses in the ring and challenge friends to foot-jumping.

All of this adds up to completely exhausted campers at pick up time, as they carry home lunch boxes, binders, dirty boots, and memories that last a lifetime.


We Love Our Team!

We Love Our Team!

Working Together

The preparation, the nerves, the travel, the hoof polish and boot polish, the ribbons, the very early mornings—there is so much that goes into horse showing, but there is one element we really like to focus on: the team. At Back Bay Farm we have always put an emphasis on working together. We focus on strengthening bonds between people and horses and people and people, and on the relationship between teachers and students. We love that we have team members who have ridden at BBF for 20 or even 30 years!

Playing Together

A few weeks ago when the show team was at Westbrook, the Bertone family hosted such a lovely dinner at the beautiful home they rented for the week. We finished the day at the show grounds and came together for a delicious dinner (and dessert!). We can’t thank the Bertone’s enough for feeding our hungry, tired bodies, but also for feeding the BBF team spirit. Times like that evening, where the team laughs and bonds are truly what we at BBF love. Horses may be the reason we all come together but they are certainly not the only reason we all stay together. Thanks for being a part of our team, and here’s to many many, more fun evenings together!


Relaxing ladies.


The Bertones, cooking delicious food for the team!

How to prepare for the 2017 show season in 6 easy steps!

How to prepare for the 2017 show season in 6 easy steps!

Have you had THAT nightmare the night before a horse show? You arrive at the show grounds and realize you forgot something BIG: your breeches, your saddle, your boots, your horse?! Don’t worry, by taking these steps to prepare for the show season, that nightmare will definitely remain just a nightmare.

What can you do now to get (and stay) prepared for the show season?

  • Check/ Purchase Show Clothes:

Siri and Tutu, on board!
Siri and Tutu, on board!

Find and try on all your show clothes: breeches, blouses, hunt coats, boots, gloves, and helmet. Make sure they’re clean and ready for action by checking all the buttons and seams. Try them on and make sure they fit!

  • Check/ Purchase Horse Clothing and Grooming items:

Double check all your horse’s clothing and tack. Sheets, wools, polos, boots, tack, saddle pads, brushes, show sheen, shampoo, towels. Make sure everything is clean, dry, and ready to go in your box! If you need new show sheets or wools, please let Robin know as soon as possible.

  • Check the Packing List:

There are additional items needed if you’re going to attend away shows with BBF in 2017. There is a list on the wall near the bulletin board. Copy it down for yourself or copy it into your phone for reference!

If you need new clothes, gear, or tack, come to The Equestrian Shop on BBF night on April 20! Read more about that night, here.

  • Renew Memberships:

Make sure all your memberships are up to date. You can click here for a page with all the links you will need. This includes USEF, USHJA, MHC, NEHC, and NSHA. Once your memberships are created or renewed and you have your cards, photocopy them all on one page. Then add your name, phone number, and address, and give them to Robin and Megan.

  • Set Goals:

Schedule a meeting with Robin and Megan to sit down and discuss your personal goals for the 2017 show season. You could be working towards regional or national standings, you could be working towards qualifying for the Mass finals, or you could be attending your first shows with a new horse. Everyone has different and important goals; setting and achieving them feels awesome! And if you’re not sure what your goals should be, Robin and Megan can help you define them.

Ready to ride at MHC Finals
Ready to ride at MHC Finals
  • Groom! Groom! Groom More!

Putting in the work now will really pay off later. All the horses and ponies have their spring/summer coats coming in—which means a lot of winter coats shedding out. Use shedding blades for those stubborn spots.

Spring is muddy, which means taking care of those hooves, too! Clean off mud, sand, and dirt, check for cracks, and use hoof oil.

Carefully brush tails and apply showsheen so the next time you brush you’re not pulling out hairs with the shavings and mud.

All the horses and ponies were recently clipped and had their manes pulled and prepped for spring. But if you notice your horse needs a nose or ear trim, let Megan or Robin know!


Each horse show is an opportunity to grow, learn, and most importantly, have FUN. Preparing these things now will allow for more time to focus on that fun—and most importantly–your riding!


Join BBF at The Equestrian Shop, April 20th, 2017

Join BBF at The Equestrian Shop, April 20th, 2017

Back Bay Farm and The Equestrian Shop in Ipswich have created a special night exclusively for BBF riders and families! Come take advantage of this time to shop with Robin, Megan, and your barn friends, and receive special discounts at the Equestrian Shop on attire for the upcoming show season or new gear and tack for your 4-legged best friend.

This special event is from 5pm to 8pm on Thursday, April 20, 2017, and is an incredible opportunity for the new and old show riders to get advice from Megan and Robin on what you need for the season! Refreshments will be provided–everyone knows you can’t shop with low blood sugar!

The puppies can’t believe the discounts!

The Equestrian Shop will graciously be providing the following discounts to BBF riders during the event:

  • HUNT COATS – 10% OFF
  •  BREECHES – 10% OFF
  • HALF CHAPS – 10% OFF
  • BRIDLES – 10% OFF

We can’t wait to share this fun evening with you all. See you there!


The Equestrian Shop

40 Essex Rd. Ipswich, MA 01938


That’s a Wrap! Back Bay Farm’s 2016 Show Season Results

That’s a Wrap! Back Bay Farm’s 2016 Show Season Results

At Back Bay Farm we celebrate every achievement in the show ring, from a rider’s first round with a new horse to a Championship ribbon. Our 2016 show season brought a lot to celebrate! Here are just some of the end-of year awards and significant achievements.

New England Horsemen’s Council (NEHC):

NEHC awards points and year-end awards for hunters and equitation. BBF had great year-end awards! Congratulations to Ali, Sophia, Libby, and Megan who all placed really well—sometimes in in more than one division!

USHJA Zone 1 Horse of the Year Finals (Zone HOTY):

The Zone HOTY points are earned at premier (AA), national (A), regional I (B) and regional II (C) rated shows in Zone 1. BBF had some wonderful results in the 2016 show season. Way to go Sophia, Ali, and Lily! BBF’s amazing instructor Megan Piermarini rode Sirius B to first place in the Performance Working Hunter 3’3” division, and brought home a beautiful HOTY championship ribbon. Hooray, Meg!

USHJA Stirrup Cup:

The stirrup cup program is based points earned at regional I (B) and II (C) rated horse shows in Zone 1. Once again, our riders did great! Ali, Libby, and Sophia all placed in the top 4 of their divisions!

North Shore Horsemen’s Association (NSHA):

BBF had great attendance at the NSHA series of one-day shows in 2016, and we’re proud to be a sponsor of this great organization. Some of our BBF riders won year-end accolades with NSHA—congratulations to: Ali Kelly, Joe McMullin, Ellie Crate, Lauren Dillow, Torei Gudaitis, Sophia Carter, Lily Bertone, Ariana Licciardi, and Teddy Van Faasen!

Other awesome 2016 show season results: 

  • Libby LeStage and Radish qualified for the USEF US Junior Hunter Championship at HITS-on-the-Hudson, Saugerties, NY.
  • Libby and Radish were also Reserve Champions in the Hunter Prix Finals against 82 junior and adult riders!

Huge congratulations to all of our show riders. We all work hard throughout the year to improve our riding, and it’s great to see that hard work pay off in the show ring. We can’t wait to see what the 2017 show season has in store! The show schedule is printed out and there are copies near the daily schedule. Please take one—and contact Robin or Megan with any questions.