Everyone seems to know a horse or dog that is tortured by itching. Veterinarians typically declare it the result of pinworms or allergies to bugs. Parasites may cause tail rubbing. However, all the horses I know are on a stringent worming program. Rubbing persists. Bugs may start the cycle, though “allergies” can be a blanket term for “we don't know.” I have never known treatments based on those strategies to offer lasting relief.
While braiding the manes and tails of 12,000+ horses, I had plenty of time to think about this. My livelihood depended on maintaining healthy tails. I realized typical daily practices leave skin vulnerable. A healthy comprehensive approach includes minimizing irritants as well as promoting the horse's natural defenses. By doing so, tail rubbing, as well as dogs' hot spots, can be solved once and for all. This is proven.
Conventional and home remedies may take away the sting temporarily. However, they ultimately feed the cycle by drying out the skin or attracting sun or dirt that parch skin. Think about it. Imagine you have been in the sun all day. Then, a mosquito bites your arm. You itch it. Next, you want to rip your arm off! Dry skin is intolerant and slow to heal. Scratching it exacerbates the problem, creating swelling. That secondary condition can be worse than the initial one. Without addressing it, the problem is perpetuated.
Cleaning genitals can be pivotal. If a horse is crusty and uncomfortable, its only option is to sit on its tail. Some mares need their teats and under the tail wiped every day. A clean damp cloth or paper towel is all you need. Anything that leaves a residue will attract dirt. Many wipes are alcohol-based. Both dirt and alcohol are drying. If really crusty, soften the guck first. Otherwise, pulling it off can hurt, AND THEREFORE TEACH THE HORSE TO KICK. I'd use olive oil or Handy Salve. Wash it with a moisturizing shampoo. Then, simply wipe clean with a damp cloth as a daily routine. Geldings and stallions need their sheaths cleaned, preferably every month. Some don't get as dirty and can get away with having it done twice a year, but monthly is much better. Again, if needed, soften the smegma first. Sheath cleaners work well. The sheath pulls up into two chambers, so be sure you get both clean. Rinse very well. Otherwise, infection can ensue, leaving the sheath swollen for the rest of the horse's life. If your horse resists or you are uncomfortable, sheath cleaning is a good place to spend your money. Generally, the process is easy, especially if it is routine.
Even still, with the best and most attentive care, many horses rub like mad. In my experience, dry skin and open pores prime tails for irritation. Then, fly spray, detangler, and the sun can burn. Itch that, and the problem is quickly out of control. To ensure instant and lasting relief for every tail rubber and dog with hot spots, you need to come at the problem from every direction. The idea is to minimize irritants as well as: cool, soothe, moisturize and nourish to fortify the skin.
Here are some rules to live by:
If your horse is already irritated, treatment should reduce swelling to break the cycle as well as promote healing by boosting defenses. Brushing a tail rubbed raw can be counter-productive. Instead, wash it with the quality All-In-One Shampoo that is: sodium chloride-free, rich in aloe vera, and uses only medical-grade tea tree oil. Nature's best antiseptic and anti-fungal, tea tree oil, is a compound. So, the quality can vary greatly. Use only tea tree oil specified as the highest, medical-grade. It will kill irritants without depleting the skin. With the right shampoo, no chemicals and clean genitals, most horses stop rubbing.
The worst cases may need Handy Salve to break the cycle by reducing swelling as well. Keep in mind that the Salve can have a little hydrocortisone in it, if that needs to be declared or avoided for competition. Generally, just the all-in-one shampoo remedies the problem.
Tail rubbing can become a habit. So, if you follow these recommendations, you should see the skin improve quickly. Handy salve has cooled down the worst cases within minutes. However, without thinking, your horse may still sit on its tail for a few days. Continue treatment. Within a few days, the horse will forget to rub.
Keeping these principles in mind, you can stop tail rubbing and hot spots, too. Opt for healthy practices and products. If need be, a handy salve can break the itching cycle, and an all-in-one shampoo enriches to keep you out of the loop by enriching skin and hair. Both products kill irritants while soothing, cooling, moisturizing and fortifying skin, roots and hair for rapid healing and re-growth. With these sensibilities and routines, your beloved animals can always be comfortable in their skin.
Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.
As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.
The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.
Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.
It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.
*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Whitener Spray Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.