Tail Rubbing-A Lifelong Battle

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before but ever since day 1, Fizz has been a “tail rubber”. It is literally the WORST. He will rub his behind on just about anything he can find if left alone and naked with something to rub against. He’s 15 this year and I’m pretty sure after 10 years of doing this (probably longer), he isn’t going to stop now.

He’s been in just about every living situation one could think of since we got him in 2013: Full turnout, part turnout, full time stalled, in full professional training, part time training, etc. He’s been fed a variety of different feeds, been evaluated by several different veterinarians, all the things have been cleaned, he’s had just about every potion known to man slathered all over his tail. It’s been put up, it’s been let down, it’s been conditioned to kingdom come and back again. NOTHING stops the rubbing. I feel like it’s just a habit of his that started for one reason or another and now he just likes the way it feels to scratch his behind.

People suggest:

  • De-Worming (pinworms are common cause of tail rubbing)
  • Sheath/udder cleaning
  • Check for sweet itch
  • Check/Tests for Allergies
  • Condition Dry Skin
  • Consider a “no grain/anti-inflammatory” feed
  • Feed ground flax as a supplement
  • Apply Listerine/Baby Oil 50/50 mix
  • Use MTG (Sorry, I can’t get past the smell-I tried, really, I did)
  • Use coconut oil

While the above (or something else I haven’t heard of yet) may have worked for some, it did not work for us. It’s always been bad, but by November of this year I had enough. There wasn’t even enough left at the top for me to start a braid so that was just not going to work. I also suspect Duke was munching on his tail too, making it even worse. They have a wall with open bars in between their stalls, and I watched Fizz put his butt up to the bars and Duke bite at his tail one day! That was the last straw.

My solution: Just keep it covered, and keep it clean and conditioned as best I can. He lives in a turnout sheet or blanket with a tail flap (depending on the outside temp) since it’s winter and colder here right now so when he does rub, it just goes on the smooth lining and doesn’t mess with the actual tail since the surface is slick. He will live in a fly sheet/scrim sheet in his stall in the summer if he keeps up the rubbing!

Here is the process I follow, aside from keeping his sheet/blanket on him.

  1. Wash 1x per month with an antibacterial/antifungal shampoo (you know, just incase-even if there isn’t the kind of funk you’d usually attack with this type of shampoo). I use EQyss Medicated shampoo that I got at Tractor Supply, our local farm store but you can find it on the internet also.
  2. Condition ( I like Biomane’s conditioner-it smells so good! Or Cowboy Magic’s Rosewater conditioner)
  3. THOROUGHLY dry. You do not want your tail to rot. It will rot if you put it up the least bit damp, then all your work and effort will have been for nothing. I use a blow dryer, but he careful to desensitize your horse to this and make sure they aren’t going to run off, kick you, break everything in the general vicinity, etc.
  4. Do NOT rake through it with a brush. Hand pick out all the knots, use a wide tooth comb but be careful not to rip on the tail or you’ll be losing valuable tail hairs. Every little one matters especially when the tail is as sad as Fizz’s tail.
  5. Braid/put up into a tail wrap or tail bag. I use a Sleazy Sleepwear 3 tube tail bag. He doesn’t have a long tail, so it’s sort of tricky but it still works well, even if it works better on Duke’s nice long thick tail. Lots of people use vet wrap and/or a sock but I don’t prefer this method. If you’re interested in that though, HERE is a great resource with some more tips on “show horse” tails.
  6. Keep dock/tail bone conditioned/oiled. I use a variation of THIS concoction by the Savvy Horsewoman (who has a TON of really handy DIY recipes and ideas) and apply it 3-4 times a week. I just keep an eye on his tail bone and put more on if/when it starts looking crusty again. So far, it’s working pretty well and it smells great if you add the essential oils!
  7. Repeat once monthly. Fair warning, this is not fun in the winter. You’ll have to use a bucket heater, if you don’t have hot water in your barn. You’ll have to try and wait for a “nice” winter day where temps are not freezing. If you go over or under on the month mark, don’t fret. Just take the tail down and inspect it, and re-wrap/re-braid regularly to make sure everything is still good.

This photo was taken somewhere around Summer 2022. Sorry for the crap quality, but you get the point. You can see all the super short hair up by the dock, and the rest of the disheveled hairs all down the top of the tail bone.

This one is from January 2023 (a few days ago) after using the above method. You can see the tail braid bag, down in the lower left corner of this photo. This is still not the “ideal” tail, but it’s MUCH better than it was.

I will have to keep revisiting this page when I have more updates to his tail “progress”. I don’t think we will ever have that long beautiful dream tail, but at least we can keep it from looking like a brillo pad.


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