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Managing a horse whose tail has been blocked

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  • Managing a horse whose tail has been blocked

    Does anyone here have experience with this? I'm looking at a horse whose tail was blocked/nerved years ago. According to his current owner it was long before she owned him. His career has been as a show horse until now, so he lived in a stall with a fly sheet on, carefully and meticulously covered with fly spray.

    I'm considering him for a trail horse, and ideally he'd be able to join my other horses in 24/7 turnout. I spray them once a day during the fly season, and they have masks, but I'm wondering if that's enough, or even fair, to a horse without the use of its tail.

    Any thoughts? I rode him out the other day and he was a dream, but I'm a little wary.

  • #2
    Most horses I have experience with who have had their tails done regain use of their tail after while. That's why is needs to be redone.
    Only two emotions belong in the saddle: One is a sense of humor. The other is patience.


    • Original Poster

      I've read up on it, and I know that's true, but apparently in his case he never regained use of his tail...it's been years, according to the owner. I don't know if he had a surgical as well as chemical treatment. Didn't they used to sometimes cut the tails to de-activate them?

      Makes me shudder. I like to think I could offer this horse a happy new life, but it might make him miserable to be out in the "real" world.


      • #4
        My understanding is that blocking can result in long term nerve damage and even paralysis of the nerves of the tail. Most horses it is short term, but it only takes once to screw them up forever. Poor Guy. Maybe a wisp would help him out?


        • #5

          I have a QH that had his tail blocked by his previous owner for the circut. It has caused long term (ie: permanent) damage. While he can swish his tail, the muscles on one side atrophied and the the tail itself is pulled off to one side, which is actually a good thing in a way as he can't lift it to pass manure. He can only control the lower half of his tail bone.

          He goes out at night (in Florida) and is major bug season right now. We just spray him with really good fly spray and he is fine. I wouldn't worry about this guy, as he is likely to regain atleast some control. You do need to make sure that it does not inhibit or interfere with passing manure though.
          If you really think about it, what can you blame on a horse?


          • #6
            Originally posted by saddleup View Post
            I've read up on it, and I know that's true, but apparently in his case he never regained use of his tail...it's been years, according to the owner. I don't know if he had a surgical as well as chemical treatment. Didn't they used to sometimes cut the tails to de-activate them?

            Makes me shudder. I like to think I could offer this horse a happy new life, but it might make him miserable to be out in the "real" world.
            This is tough. I would pass on the 24/7 turnout for a dead-tailed horse, but you may be offering a better home than this horse may get elsewhere. I think one way to decide is to go look at the horse now, in high bug season, and see if he shows any bites, especially under the belly. If he is a 'bug magnet' and has bites despite his current care situation, then he should not do the 24/7. But if he doesn't seem to get bites, then maybe a long lasting spot-on fly treatment and BugCheck or other garlic feed additive would be enough at your place.
            Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


            • #7
              Just a brief question that may receive "dumb question of the day" award, but why would someone have a horse's tail blocked?


              • #8
                Originally posted by RedTahoe View Post
                Just a brief question that may receive "dumb question of the day" award, but why would someone have a horse's tail blocked?

                Not a dumb question at all. It's done in western pleasure circles as a 'quick fix' to keep a barn sour/overschooled/unhappy horse from swishing its tail excessively. Me, when I had tail swishers, I just got them happy again- trail rides, variety, whatever it took. But apparently folks are in too big a hurry these days.

                To the OP- don't know if it's a viable option given the passage of time, but I can tell you that acupuncture successfully restored the use of my warmblood's tail, which had been paralyzed by broken vertebra above the tail (cast in stall). At the time, my main concern was curing the chronic neuritis and making the horse comfortable- I didn't have any particular qualms about the extra management that might be needed re: flies, but I didn't want a horse that was rubbing his tail raw from the pain of the neuritis. Happily, the acupuncture not only resolved the neuritis, but restored full use of tail too. We had quit the treatments in September, when he had some restored movement in the tail, but basically we were declaring victory thinking 'good enough.' Without further treatment the range of motion continued to improve such that by the time of spring shots the next year, if you didn't know, you couldn't really tell he'd had paralysis.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the answer, Beverly.


                  • #10
                    It can be managed. My junior hunter had his tail butchered by someone who decided that the quick fix was the way to go. He had had both nerves on either side of his tail cut, and it left huge scars that couldn't be covered. He could use his tail a bit, but never had full use of it. He did live outside for a lot of the summer (in Nebraska), and I kept him covered in fly spray and he always had a buddy with him that would swat him with his tail. It never really seemed to bother him, but he also had the most easy going temperment of any horse I have ever had.
                    He did break my big toe at a horse show because he would stomp with his hind legs. My foot was in the wrong place and he whomped down on it. Spent the rest of the horse show on codene - don't remember much after it that.
                    My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
                    ReRiders Clique


                    • #11
                      poor guy! Thanks Beverley, I also had no idea why someone would do that.

                      If you are considering a fly sheet - My horse is quite a spaz about bugs but he has a really good fly sheet that covers most of his belly and has the neck attachment. I think that your boy would probably be just as happy, if not happier, wearing a fly sheet and being outside 24/7 and getting to be a real horsey. Then all you'll have to spray is the parts of his belly that are showing and his legs.

                      If it's a really hot day and there are a ton of bugs, could he be brought in? If you have a run in or some shaded areas in your paddock, he would probably be fine with the fly sheet on during the day. Just check for fly sheets that are a light color and breathable.
                      Hunters should be galloping - George Morris


                      • #12
                        The horses we have had here have had fly out fits top to bottom and well supervised turn out. I HATE it that people have horses tails done - BARBARIC and i show those circuits.
                        "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there"


                        • #13
                          Since you leave a winter blanket on all the time there isn't any reason you couldn't leave a flysheet on as well. As long as someone checks on him once a day to make sure it's in order it should be fine. You can even buy flysheets that have fly repellent imprinted into the material.


                          • #14
                            This reminds me of a horse at our barn who had his tail blocked by a previous owner as well. The awesome thing was he had a "buddy" out in the pasture who stood parallel next to him and would swish his tail on him. It was the sweetest thing.


                            • #15
                              I thought tail nerving was banned from most breed shows?


                              • #16
                                It has been, but if you have an older horse, the effects are still there. My horse was butchered in 1980, I bought him in 1982, and at that time, there were no regulations against it.
                                Also, just because something is banned doesn't mean it doesn't still happen. They have just gotten slicker about it.
                                My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
                                ReRiders Clique


                                • #17
                                  Cashel used to make an alien looking fly sheet. It literally covered the horse from head to toe. It had a seperate belly piece, front legs and back legs. I can't for the life of me think of the name, but i'm sure some places still have them in stock.

                                  For riding, they still make the quiet ride stuff: