Groom and Check Under Your Horse’s Tail


As tempting as it is to routinely skip grooming this area, cleaning and inspecting under the tail is just as important as the eyes and hooves. A lot can go on under your horse’s tail – some things are benign, and some are downright dangerous and may spread – like a melanoma.


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Train your horse to be touched everywhere


    • Daily handling and grooming of your horse’s tail area is also a requirement for safe horse handling. It’s unacceptable for a horse to tell you what you can or can’t look at or touch – although this does need time and patience to achieve. Cooperative horse care is important.


    • This is immediately evident when that untouchable area becomes injured and needs daily attention and medication. Train your horse NOW to avoid unraveling your relationship when you need to medicate or handle those untouchable areas LATER.


  • I like to include positive reinforcement principles when handling horses and teaching them to accept your touch. A kind word, a nice scratch in their itch spot, or other type of reward go a long way toward gaining your horse’s trust.


  • As you work on this, stay to the side of the horse and *mostly* out of the kick zone. Staying to the side also lets you see from more angles, and you don’t need to lift the tail as much. Pay attention to the movement of the horse and their body language as you groom.


gray horse tail tumor

Small growths like this can easily be handled before they grow and cause major problems.


Let’s bust a horse tail myth – Can you stop a horse from kicking by holding down their tail?


  • Holding down a horse’s tail does not prevent it from kicking. Kicking is a natural reflex for horses and can occur even if their tail is held down. I’m not sure where this rumor started, but it sure did!


You might find these things under your horse’s tail:


  • Dirt, crusty sweat, and flaky skin are all common. You can also find ticks, cuts, sores, rubbed skin between butt cheeks, and even growths. Other biting insects ay also like to chew on that soft skin, although you can find critters living everywhere in the entire tail.


  • You may also find some emergencies – like a prolapsed rectum or uterus. Prolapsed means that what should be inside is now outside. If you ever watch your horse pass manure, you will notice that you can see some pink or reddish tissue at the very end. If it stays out, it’s a life-threatening emergency. The same is true for your mare’s reproductive system under the tail hair.


  • You may also find that your horse’s manure has changed and left some streaks on your horse. This is a sign something is going on – pay attention! It could be as simple as a new hay delivery, but it’s always good to notice any changes.


  • Tangles are another discovery – and when they are close to the skin, it takes extra care to unravel that matted hair. The same is true for your horse’s mane.


  • After a ride, turnout, or very hot day, you may spot some foamy sweat in between the butt cheeks. This is when the laterin, a natural protein, in horse sweat mixes with friction to create foam. If you notice foamy butt cheeks, you know there is friction going on, and that can lead to sores.


  • Melanomas and sarcoids often grow in hairless patches, and melanomas especially love the tail area.


Itchy horse tails


There may be a day when you find that your horse has enjoyed rubbing their tail. There are many reasons for this, including:


  • Product residue, such as extra shampoo or conditioner that wasn’t rinsed all the way, can cause an allergic reaction to a new product, even with the most diligent rinsing.


  • Goopy udders or sheath, or an itchy vulva on a mare. This seems to be the most popular answer to the question, “Why is my horse itching his tail?”


  • Dry skin or extra oily skin. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel good and your horse needs to rub their tail or hindquarters.


  • Allergies to any number of things in circulation at the barn – from things your horse eats to products to seasonal allergens and insects.


  • Ticks and other external parasites love to create itchy situations.


  • Internal parasites, like pinworms, that come out of your horse’s anus at night. They live in that distal end of the digestive tract and love to lay their sticky eggs under your horse’s tail.


Clean under your horse’s tail 


Use your eyes and fingers to inspect the area under your horse’s tail. Be on the lookout for:

  • Scrapes
  • Ticks
  • Bumps and possible growths
  • Discharge that may indicate a genital or digestive issue
  • Anything new that wasn’t there the day before


  • If everything looks peachy and keen, don’t use shampoo, detergents, or soap. Water alone can clean any flakes, dirt, or dried sweat. Rinse with warm water, a soft sponge, or a fuzzy washcloth will do. There is no need for a brush or curry comb on the bare skin directly. It’s really that easy.


gray horse butt cheeks under the tail

Sweat and friction can often cause the butt cheeks to lose hair and create sores. OUCH.


When to call the vet


  • Call the vet when you notice major differences in the hair, skin, or tissue under your horse’s tail.


  • Mares often have discharge during their estrus cycles, so pay attention to the pattern. Baby wipes are great for this time to clean up any discharge. Unusual or foul-smelling discharge should be looked at by your vet. 


  • You may also find that much further down between the butt cheeks, sores and rubs can happen. Friction from sweat and dirt and exercise can rub away the skin, a little bit of ointment helps to heal these sores and provide some grease to prevent new ones. I like to use body glide, originally developed for runners and hikers, here.


  • Growths warrant a call to your vet too.


  • Free fecal water syndrome (FFW) can happen when the digestive system dribbles water before or after passing normal manure. Your vet can help you determine if it’s diarrhea or FFW. You will definitely find dirty hindquarters and an icky, stinky mess under your horse’s tail, that can even drip down past the hocks.


gray horse tail and butt

Know your horse’s normals


Any new growths, discharges, sores, or questions you find should be discussed with your veterinarian. It’s all about keeping your horse healthy—from top to bottom and front to back!




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