This is a common question for many of our customers this time of year. The first question you should ask yourself is if your horse is current on his/her deworming schedule? If the answer is yes then you need to confirm that the last wormer you gave included one of the drugs that guards against pinworms. If your answer is no then the simple task of deworming with the proper drug could alleviate your horse’s tail rubbing habit.
Pinworms are tiny worms (approximately 1-5 cm long) that can be found in the intestinal tract of horses. Problems with pinworms are associated with the adult form of the parasite. It takes about five months from the time a horse is infected with the larvae for pinworms to grow to adults. Although pinworms live in the intestinal tract, this is not where they cause problems. The issue arises when the female pinworms crawl out of the horse’s rectum and deposit a very sticky substance on the skin around the anus. This sticky substance contains the pinworm eggs. Affected horses typically rub their tails against objects because of the itching and irritation of the anus caused by the sticky substance. This can lead to hair loss over the tail head and a “rat-tailed” appearance. Check out the main ingredient in your last wormer and confirm that it does guard against this type of worm or call your vet and set up an appointment to get a fecal count done on your horse to know exactly what species, if any, worms you are dealing with.
Once you have culled out the possibility of worms you can ask yourself when the last time you gave your trusty stead a good long bath. Horses sweat in this hot humid weather and live in a dirt filled world and sometimes your mare may have grim stuck up in between her udder, or if you have a gelding/stallion he may need a professional sheath cleaning done. Tail rubbing can often be a sign that its time for a good bath. At the store we offer a product called Excalibur which is formulated especially for the sensitive areas of your horse like the sheath and udder. It Contains Tea Tree Oil to gently dissolve smegma, the grim that builds up in these areas.
If your horse is current on his/her pinworm dewormer and has been kept squeaky clean then it may be time to give your veterinarian a call. Some horses, just like humans, get allergies and with all the dust and pollen blowing around your horse may just need an antihistamine to relieve that itching habit.
There are several more possible answers to the root cause of why a horse could be rubbing his/her tail. If you have any other good ideas and/or input please share!