Tail Rubbing

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The most common cause of rubbing the tail in horses is an itch inside the anus. 

When I performed reproduction work with horses, the breeding season started in January. The band of broodmares collected in the small paddock with their scruffy winter hair coat and the hairs of the tail head raised and broken. Late winter was when I performed the first rectal exams, and these mares were professional. I lubricated my gloved hand abundantly and introduced one finger into the anus to start the stretching process, eventually dilating it wide for my arm. While sounding gross, you will love the next part.

As I dilated the anus, mares would become motionless, flexing their backbone downward, often eliciting a long clicking sound of vertebrae cracking like knuckles bending backward. The mares would grunt softly, sighs of pleasure like someone scratching the elusive itch. Before I proceeded, I would pluck out lots of dried fiber material stuck just inside the edge of the anus, inside the horse. With each removal, the mare would sigh and relax more. After 30 days of rectal exams, the tail hairs were back to normal, and the horses no longer rubbed their tails.

From this experience, I have recommended the following two methods for horses itching the tail. IMPORTANT! Have someone hold the horse with a halter and lead rope standing on the same side as you. You must always stand to the side of the horse to avoid any kicks the horse may deliver. In my experience, every horse immediately knows what you are doing and will cooperate, but this never allows you to abandon safety.

  1. The easy way – insert the tip of a tube of water-based hydrocortisone cream and squirt a fair amount of it into the rectum.
  2. The less easy way – using a gloved finger and a washcloth and lots of soap, insert the wet and soapy cloth into the rectum and twist it about to clean the inside of the anus. Insert the tip of a tube of water-based hydrocortisone cream into the anus and squirt a fair amount into the rectum. Insert your finger into the anus and spread the ointment, feeling for any dried hay particles and remove them.

Think of you having an itch inside your anus and you have no fingers and you have a tail covering the opening. Frustrating, right? 

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