How can I deal with a tail chewer?
Tail chewing can be quite the pain in the butt to deal with. You have the tail chewing culprit, who makes mince meat of his buddies, and then you have the buddies who have “altered” tails…. You also have the increased risk of some tummy troubles, so it's best to nip the behavior in the bud.
For the most part, this is very common in foals. Sometimes it is seen in older horses, but it’s usually the young ones you need to worry about. If you are confused about which horse in the herd is the tail chewer, he’s the one with the unchewed tail.
Foals that tail chew might do so for a few reasons, including boredom, curiosity, new teeth coming in, or perhaps a diet or mineral imbalance. For the possible diet imbalance, it’s important to check with your Veterinarian or Equine Nutritionist to make sure your growing foal has all of his nutrition needs met.
Reduce boredom and you reduce the tail chewing!
For older, adult horses, you are also contemplating the same reasons for tail chewing - boredom, or diet or mineral imbalance. Also consider a general lack of forage as a possibility. Your horses diet may be perfectly balanced for his nutrition needs, but if he can’t chew enough, he may look for alternate things to chew. Long stem forage is the key here - not chaff, not cubes, not pellets. Is his pasture time adequate, if you are lucky enough to have pasture?
Foals and adult horses often benefit from a few weeks of separation from the herd if they begin to chew tails, assuming the boredom or diet issues are also addressed. You may also want to provide toys and increase the long stem forage amount that your horse can eat.
You also have the option to use a tail “potion” on the tasty tails that are being eaten. There are a zillion recipes out there, but here are some thoughts about them. Most of the recipes either involve some sort of hot pepper (read: contains capsaicin and may test positive at shows) or coating with a thick paste of conditioner.
Hot sauce is a deterent, to say the least!
So here are some thoughts on this. Any concoction with capsaicin will repel the offending tail eater, unless the tail eater likes spicy. You can mix hot sauce with vinegar and water for a spray, or add hot sauce or hot paste to a conditioner and add to the tail like a cream. The down side (besides it being capsaicin) is that if your spicy tail swats flies, the color and sting and possible skin irritation can bother his belly and sides and legs and paddock mate eyes. For gray tails, the mix will likely stain the tail….not so great...
You can also just try coating the entire tail with a conditioner, and leave it in. Downside here, it’s going to be a sticky mess and will attract all sorts of dirt. Major upside, a deep conditioning treatment will make the tail awesome!
How have you dealt with a tail chewer?