Do you struggle with trying to grow long tails, thick manes, and or even body hair on your horse? Horse hair loss can show up on horses in multiple ways such as short or thin tails, bald patches on mane or body, and rubbed out sections of mane. The way in which your horse’s hair loss appears, and where it appears, can help you understand the cause. This article briefly covers the subject of horse hair loss and what you can do to prevent, treat, and reverse it.

Types of horse hair loss include:

  • a thin or scraggly horse tail due to root damage on the tailbone.
  • bald patches caused by friction, such as patches that appear underneath your saddle, breast collar, bridle, halter, etc.
  • Bald patches that appear on other places on the horse’s coat.
  • Horses that develop scabs which create small scars where hair can’t grow.

On Missing Mane Hair – Treating bald patches

This is one of the most common types of horse friction-based hair loss. It tends to affect horses that graze in pastures with short or no grass, where the horses spend time reaching between horizontal fence boards to reach green grass on the other side of the fence.

If your horse’s hair loss is among the crest of the neck, it’s a good chance it happened against a fence. In addition to horses reaching for green grass and losing mane by accident, mane hair loss can be caused by a fungal or parasitic infestation in the root of the hair causing horses to seek surfaces to scratch their neck against, which can result in hair loss as brittle hair rubs against and gets caught in the fibers of tree trunks, fencing, or stall walls. To prevent mane loss caused by horses reaching through the fence you have several options: install wire mesh along the inside of your fence to prevent accessible gaps, run a wire of electric fence along the interior of your fence, and/or regularly mow grass that is just outside of your fence.

Reaching through fences commonly causes mane hair loss, although a combination of round rails and electric fence, as seen here, typically minimizes damage.

Missing tail hair

Missing tail hair can potentially be caused by some of the same causes that cause mane hair loss: itchiness.

Often when horses lose hair from their tails, it’s due to the horse backing up against a tree or fence post to satisfy an itch- in the process getting hairs caught and pulled out. Read more about treating this particular issue via our article on growing long and luxurious horse tails, where we discuss various options for dealing with horses with itchy tails.

Genetics have a huge impact on mane and tail growth- some horses, like this mare, may easily lose tail hairs at the slightest irritation.

Bald spots under Tack

Patches of hair missing directly underneath the girth, saddle, bridle, or horse-blanket may indicate that these items are not fit well for your horse. Like humans, one size doesn’t always fit all, and even when the correct size is purchased, sometimes the build of an individual horse means that an item won’t work for them. Like wearing a blazer that’s too tight in the shoulders but otherwise fits, when I owned a tack store it wasn’t uncommon for horse owners to find that a horse with very broad shoulders needed a horse blanket cut with extra shoulder allowance in order to avoid uncomfortable blanket rubs. Poor fit of most tack items can result in bald spots, and these spots are very important to pay attention to because they are a precursor to saddle sores. Saddle sores can appear anywhere – not just under the saddle, as a result of friction that first removes the hair and then removes layers of skin until an open sore remains. Pay attention to bald spots and make adjustments as necessary before the blemish turns into a wound.

An example of a bald patch caused by friction from tack

Larger bald spots on Horse’s hide

It’s pretty normal for some horses to unevenly shed their winter coat in the spring, these horses may appear to have bald spots while remaining shaggy and other areas. Typically this is not an area of concern, but if it occurs outside of shedding season, you’ll want to pay attention. Loss of hair in a certain area could be a sign of trauma – such as having been cast in their stall or trailered in a too-small trailer stall. Smaller patches of hair loss not caused by tack may be a result of roughhousing in a pasture with other horses. Kicks and bits that don’t break the skin can still scrape hair off- but thankfully these patches grow back quickly.

 

Anytime a patch of sin or missing hair appears to be crusty, oozing, or damp, it’s time to call in your veterinarian. This may be a sign of serious bacterial infection, parasite, or fungal infection.

One common fungus that causes hair loss in horses is rain rot. Rain rot is a fungus that infects horses and causes small scabs that, when brushed away, leave bald patches on the horse’s coat. Rain rot is common in some climates and, if not serious, the first line of defense can be treated with MTG- our favorite hair loss treatment for our horses.

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