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Tail Injuries 101

Once you see how many vertebrates and muscles make up a horse's tail you'll understand how tail injuries can happen so easily—and how dangerous they can be.

An injury to your horse's tail is often just as serious, if not more, than an injury to any other part of his body. When you think about it, their tailbone is made up of around 18 individual vertebrae (more or less, depending on the horse). The muscles that horses use to "swish" are anchored to both the hindquarters and tail vertebrae. Other muscles that control lifting and other small adjustments to the tail wrap around the vertebrae. There's a lot more going on in there than you thought, right? 

Along with those muscles, there are two arteries that serve the tail, however, circulation to the tail itself is limited compared to the rest of their body. Because of the low circulation, injuries to the area take longer to heal and infections can be a tough battle. 

[More on tail care: 3 Things You Must Do for a Healthy Tail]

A brown horse itches his tail and hind end on an old looking fence.

Lacerations often occur when a horse consistently rubs his hindquarters on stall doors, trees, fence posts, or other surfaces. 

Here are two kinds of tail injuries that you should know about, and how to care for them in case your horse ever ends up with this kind of injury. 

Lacerations

  • Lacerations often occur when a horse consistently rubs his hindquarters on stall doors, trees, fence posts, or other surfaces that could potentially have a sharp protruding object for them to cut their tail on. 
  • A cut from something in a non-sterile environment can easily lead to a stubborn infection. 
  • To clean the wound, use an antimicrobial solution like chlorhexidine. Monitor the wound daily to make sure it's healing and staying clean. 

More on wound care: Wound-Care Guide]

Fractures

  • A fracture to the tailbone is also a cause for concern. A horse uses his tail for balance, so his gaits can be affected when the appendage is injured. 
  • A broken tail can be hard to detect, but physical signs include hanging at an odd angle, appearing immobile, or vague lameness in the hindquarters. 
  • The best way to diagnose a tail fracture is with x-rays so if you suspect this might be your horse's problem call your vet to take a better look. 

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