Altering a Horse's Tail and the Ethics behind It

Date Published: 10/31/2016

Those of you not familiar with different horse breeds may not know about the common practices of altering the tail in many breeds. Tails are altered for cosmetic reasons, for the show ring, or for competitive purposes, neither of which is done for the good of the horse and in fact, sometimes it is done to the horse’s detriment. Dr. Nat Messer is a professor of equine medicine at Missouri and he indicates in AAEP news that many of procedures to alter the tails, including blocking, cutting or docking, can have serious, life-threatening complications. Paralysis of the tail, severe clostridial infections at the base of the tail, and loss of the tail has been reported following these procedures.

It is unethical for an AAEP member veterinarian to perform any of these procedures on a horse, and both the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons have come out against any procedures of docking or blocking tails. In some states, altering a horse’s tail is also illegal. There is no medical reason for any such procedure, and because it can be dangerous for the horse, trainers and owners should not request the procedure and veterinarians should not be willing to perform them. In some cases, because veterinarians are refusing to perform these illegal procedures, some trainers will perform the procedures themselves even though they do not have surgical training.

Hopefully, tail alteration will become a technique of the past that will no longer be used.

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