HERDA - A Devastating Inherited Skin Defect

2 Jul 2012 7:10 PM -

HERDA is a painful but rare skin condition characterised in afflicted horses by skin lesions. It most often occurs along the back, particularly the saddle area and the neck but has also been known to show up on other parts of the body, including the legs.

Basically, a HERDA afflicted horse’s skin has ‘faulty’ or defective fibres which act to prevent the three layers of skin binding together properly. The weakened fibres cannot stand up to any external stress or strain. Consequently, when the skin is damaged, it fails to heal properly leaving it open to infection and can in the most extreme cases ‘de-glove’ the horse - effectively skinning it alive. Unfortunately, because of the nature of HERDA and the weakened state of the fibres, the skin cannot be stitched back together.
In most cases horses don’t show any visual signs of the disease until they are around 2 years of age and have begun their initial training. Occasionally, HERDA does become apparent earlier if an afflicted horse becomes injured in the paddock.

Tragically, there is no cure for HERDA as it is a genetic disorder. Most horses diagnosed as afflicted with the disease are euthanized because they can no longer be ridden due to the injuries they suffer whilst saddled. Anecdotally, most afflicted horses are unlikely to have an extended lifespan.
However, after extensive expert scientific research, what we DO know is that HERDA is a recessive genetic disease so both sire and dam must possess the recessive gene in order for offspring to possibly be afflicted with HERDA.

This information has been collected from the Australian Quarter Horse Association. More information about this diease can be found at;