“Gingering” a horse’s tail is the unethical practice of placing chemical irritants on or around a horse’s anal or vaginal area (or inside the anus or vagina), which causes pain and discomfort and results in a slightly elevated tail position and a more “lively” disposition. An elevated tail is preferred in many Arabian, Saddlebred and Hackney show classes.
Historically, raw ginger root was used to achieve this effect, hence the name. Today, various irritants including ginger salve or ginger oil (gingerol), cayenne pepper, kerosene, mercuric iodine, and turpentine are used. Aside from the desired effects, signs of gingering may include reddened, inflamed skin that is sore to the touch.
If you suspect that a horse has been gingered, talk to your vet. At a show or sale, share your concerns with the event vet. Beyond visual inspection, random “ginger testing” at shows consists of swabbing the perianal and rectal area and sending the sample to a lab for testing for the substances. Another controversial (but not necessarily prohibited) means of achieving an elevated tail is tail nicking or cutting, in which the tail check ligament is cut and placed in a tail set to heal in a longer raised position.
Although prohibited at many shows, tail gingering continues to occur. Keep in mind that an allegation of gingering is serious, and you need to consider the best way to ensure that it is handled appropriately by everyone involved.
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