Sunday, November 27, 2011

They Mystery of the Disappearing Tail

Somebody has been eating Dee’s tail! 

She has never had a really thick tail, especially compared to her very thick mane, but it has always been long and full.  About a month ago, I found a big chunk of tail hair in the stable, and I picked it up, examining the color.  It was mostly white with a little black, which, unfortunately, meant it could have belonged to three of them: Hudson, Stormkite or Dee.  Upon comparison, though, it looked like it had come from Dee.

Dee's knot.
Not long after that, I noticed her tail getting scragglier and scragglier.  It wasn’t scraggly at the top, as if she were rubbing it on something; it was scraggly at the bottom, and getting shorter. Since she appears healthy in every way, I decided that some naughty herdmate has been chewing it.

I haven’t caught the culprit, but my suspicion is her little brother, Stormkite.  Not a scientific conclusion -- it just seems like something a playful little brother would do to bug his dominant, older sister.

Why some horses resort to tail chewing is not known.  Here’s a quote from The Horse on the matter: “For those who own a horse with an oral behavior problem (cribbing, chewing, etc.), he might only be doing what nature intended him to do.

'"Lack of fiber in the diet has been implicated in behavioral problems such as wood chewing and tail chewing in the horse," says McCall  [Cindy McCall, MS, PhD, professor at Auburn University and equine extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System]. "However, horses maintained on pasture still exhibit these behaviors."'

Lack of fiber is not an issue with my horses.  Pretty much all they eat is hay and grass, and quite a bit of it.  Whatever the reason, and whomever the culprit, Dee is now sporting a new look in tails.  I have tied it up in a sturdy mud knot, in an attempt to make it less appealing to the culprit.  I became quite good at hardcore, mud knots a couple years ago, when I was getting Dee ready for a show, and the ones I tie pretty much stay put until I untie them. 

Dee now looks like she is ready for a polo match, and, while I'll take it down, check it, and tie it back up occasionally, it's a look she will wear until spring.  I want it to be nice and full for next season -- but more likely, it will just become a more appealing target for the mystery chewer!

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