As horse owners, we all have so many fun stories to tell about our horses. Maybe it’s the time your childhood horse jumped out of the jumping ring, or a great trail ride, or some quality time practicing ground work in the barn. Many of these stories are fun and lighthearted, reminiscing about past memories. Some may be about a challenging or potentially frustrating situation. Others may be a total puzzling situation that we just can’t completely figure out. In the case of my horse Nemo, one of his tales is the tale of his tail.
Nemo is a 12-year-old 16hh Morgan gelding who fell into my life accidentally a little over five years ago. I laugh when I tell my friends that he’s literally what happens when you google “horses for sale” (even when you don’t necessarily need a second horse, but fall in love anyways and bring him home). His spirit animal would definitely be a playful black lab puppy with a side of honestly energetic fire-breathing dragon on a windy day, and I love him to pieces. We’ve had many great adventures, and he’s always up for something new. He also always keeps me on my toes.
One aspect of Nemo that has always been challenging, through no fault of his own, is his tail. He has a very long, double mane and an even longer, thick tail. However, he has this tendency to itch the top of his tail. (As I’m sure many horse owners will agree; it makes me cringe just thinking about it!) Luckily, after years of chatting with my veterinarian, helping to support him from the inside with his supplement program, and also a bit of trial and error with topical products, I’ve found a comprehensive program that works well for him, and keeps his tail healthy and full; while keeping me from stressing that he’s uncomfortable in any way, or ruining the top of his beautiful Morgan tail.
When I initially realized that he struggled with what I’ve decided to call “mysterious itchy pony syndrome” I chatted with my vet. We decided that adding omega 3 fatty acids into his diet could be a great way to offer him support, so I added SmartOmega 3 Ultra into his supplement program. I chose this formula because it has high levels of omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil, flax seed, and chia seed, which promote overall health and support a normal response to inflammation. It also has Vitamin A and E for antioxidant support. I’ve seen such great results from this supplement, and plan to keep him on this for years to come!
During the summer months, I also add in SmartBug-Off Ultra Pellets. I’ve found that he tends to itch more in the hot summer weather when it’s buggy out. This supplement contains garlic, brewer’s yeast, and apple cider vinegar to help deter biting flies as well as MSM to provide a little more antioxidant support.
Once I planned out his supplement program and added these supplements into his SmartPak, I moved onto checking out a topical approach as well. I’ve tried several over the years, and have found that Nemo does best with the Zephyr’s Garden Leave It Be Spray. This has some really awesome herbal ingredients, such as aloe vera, chamomile, elderberry, and tea tree essential oil to help calm and sooth the itchy skin on the top of Nemo’s tail. I will completely admit that I’m a little too dedicated to being the best horse mom to Nemo as I can, and I spray this on the top and underside of his tail bone daily. I’ve found that it really helps to moisturize and soothe his tail. (It smells great too!)
I also always like to have a backup plan, just in case Nemo still has an “itchy pony” outbreak. (Did I mention I may be too dedicated?) When he gets particularly itchy, and it’s warm enough to bathe him, I’ll thoroughly wash his tail with a betadine-based shampoo, followed by a basic Head and Shoulders dry skin shampoo, and then condition his tail. This tends to clear up any unexpected itchiness and keep Nemo comfortable. (I also do use a prescription for him as well, as needed and suggested by his amazing veterinarian during the summer).
I think part of what makes being a horse owner so much fun, is taking the time to truly know our horses; their quirks, the positive sides, and maybe even slightly tricky sides of their personalities and health. Nemo’s tail issue can be tricky and challenging at times. However, it’s also been a rewarding and interesting learning experience. I love knowing that I’ve been able to come up with a comprehensive program that keeps my best friend comfortable and happy, so that we can spend our time on fun adventures together. I’m sure we all have tips and tricks for ponies with itchy skin; what has worked well for you?