A horse's tail can be a great indicator of a his overall health: it should hang straight down and shift from side to side as he moves. A horse that holds his tail to one side could be indicating a loss of motion in the sacrum joint or in the tissues surrounding it. A chiropractor may be able to help by manipulating the horse's spine to return normal movement to the tail.
If a horse swishes his tail repeatedly while working under-saddle, it's worthwhile to investigate if he has back pain or another orthopedic issue. Improper saddle fit or gastric ulcers may also cause tail swishing, says Dr. Megan Graham, BVetMed.
The tail's appearance can also offer information on the health of the horse; if the tail hair is broken or there are bald patches near the upper third of the tail, the horse is most likely rubbing his tail. This can be caused by allergies, parasites (like pinworms), ticks or pain—all of which warrant additional investigation.
Sweet itch, a hypersensitivity to the saliva of a small, biting fly called a Culicoides fly, can also cause horses to rub their tails with gusto. Affected horses will also typically rub their abdomen and mane, occasionally to the point where their skin is raw. These open sores can get secondary bacterial infections. Horses with an insect hypersensitivity should wear specific blankets and insect repellents; fans have also been shown to help eliminate the flies.
A horse may sit on buckets in the stall to alleviate back pain; leaning on buckets or the wall offers them relief. Involving a veterinarian for horses who rest this way will help determine if the horse is painful.
Grey horses may develop melanoma, a type of skin cancer, what is commonly found around the tail.
Read more at Dressage Today.
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