If Snowmaggedon rapidly followed by The Ultimate Blizzard of 2010 hadn't hit my corner of Maryland, I might have noticed the terrible yet hidden condition of the mare's tail earlier.
I feel awful about not noticing the problem sooner. The first indication of anything amiss was a small tangle at the base of Gigi's tail. It proved to be a piece of skin. This was not good news, although her tail looked fine - until closer inspection.
Underneath her long and bushy top bristles, the skin on the middle third of her tail bone was sloughing off in big scaly chunks, like a shedding snake. It was horrifying! I hadn't ever seen her rub her tail nor were there any broken hairs to indicate that she had. She let me touch the area without flinching. It didn't seem to bother her when I gently teased the dead skin off and handfuls of hair come out with it. I decided instead to clean the area off with betadine solution.
In the interests of honesty I rang the friend who had left her horse to my tender care and is very proud of her mare's tail. I was worried that the condition would spead and Gigi's entire tail would fall out. Luckily her owner was great about it and agreed that I should contact the vet.
Three feet of snow made the path down to my barn impassable by vehicle. The vet would not have been able to drive here to check Gigi: so she and I consulted over the phone. She determined that it was a fungus, and suggested I wash Gigi's tail in Selsun Blue.
Since the temperatures were in the teens and low 20s I didn't think Gigi would be keen to have me wash her tail, especially as I've had to shut off the hot water in the barn for now (long story). However, I went to the store to buy the shampoo.
I noticed there were two types: one had sulphur in it, the other had zinc. Just the day before I'd bought a product at my local feed merchant which contained both ingredients as well as mineral oil. It advertises itself as 'the single solution for' a host of horse fungal problems. I decided to try that first. All I had to do was wash off the betadine and apply the new solution daily.
Within two days the problem was already clearing up. The mineral oil was softening the dead skin and causing it to slide down the tail in smaller pieces instead of big chunks, without taking nearly so many hairs with it. What a relief!
Only six days into the treatment healthy pink skin is forming and new hairs are already growing. I'm hopeful that by the time my friend visits us on her annual trip from Florida to New Jersey, Gigi will have a full tail again.
I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It's called Shapley's Original M-T-G (Mane Tail Groom). Its other uses are mane and tail detangling and conditioning. It's not expensive - I paid $12.99 for a 32 fluid ounce bottle. I thoroughly checked my geldings for fungus and one of them had a tiny itchy patch on the top of his tail which cleared after one application.
If your horse gets fungus, rain rot, girth itch, scratches, sweet itch or dry skin M-T-G is the product for you! Check out www.shapleys.com if you're interested. And no, I have absolutely no connection with the company - I'm just grateful it exists.
You may also find my article on ringworm useful. Life is never dull around horses - I discovered the hard way that humans can get ringworm, too.