Tips for maintaining the perfect tail

My horse’s tail is…Thoroughbred-y. It’s longish, but oh-so-wispy. How do you help a tail grow/fill out more – and how do you keep it from getting destroyed?” – Sara F. from Weymouth, MA

My grandad would always say, “it’s the tail that makes the horse”. He was always wanting his hunters to have thick full tails. If they weren’t pulled properly then either he or I would braid them for hunting and they had to be banged at the correct length!

To keep tails well maintained I follow a few basic rules, these apply no matter what type of tail your horse has.

  • Never comb / brush out a wet tail.
    Wet hair stretches therefore damage can be caused when trying to comb thru a tail when it isn’t dry. Always place any detangle product in a clean wet tail and then allow to dry before attempting to brush through the tail.
  • If tails are not washed on a daily basis then I only finger groom them. Teasing out any knots and removing straw, hay or shavings with my fingers rather then using a comb that will pull out more hairs and break the ends.
  • My personal choice is to keep tails banged. I run my hand down the length of the tail to approximately one inch below the chestnut and then cut straight across the tail. For some people this may be considered too short. Tail length is a personal choice. I feel at this length banged tails give an overall impression of being ‘more full’ as well as being easier to take care of.
  • bangingTail

  • Condition your tail on a regular basis. This to me is more important in the summer due to their tails being used so much for removing flies. Remember, the more pliable the hair – the less likelihood of it breaking off through the summer. I find a good human conditioner does the trick. Obviously you need to use more than you would for yourself! After washing the tail with your shampoo apply the conditioner liberally. Leave it in for at least 5 minutes and then rinse thoroughly, you can then apply a spray detangler. Once dry you should have a clean, soft and very flexible tail! For those tails which are extra dry or knotted I will apply plastic wrap to the tail and then bandage it up for about an hour. This helps the hair to take up more of the conditioner and therefore become more flexible.

Tips for those thin, wispy tails

It can take time to improve the look of a horses tail however with a bit of TLC it can be done. The Shapelys product, MTG is great for improving hair growth.

Shapley's Original M-T-G

 $16.95
(110 reviews)

Apply thru the length of the tail and then braid it over night to prevent tangles. You can repeat this process every night however to prevent tail getting really ‘greasy’ doing this process every third day is just as effective. Done over a long period you should see improvement in the length of tail as well as hair thickness.

At the end of the eventing season I will bang tails extra short. For very thin tails I will go above the hock. This is not aesthetically pleasing to begin with however this does develop a fuller tail by the time eventing season starts up again.

Although I have not used this method myself daily bagging of a tail is a common method used to prevent breakage and tails becoming thin. Some cotton sheets and fly sheets are now available that come with attachable tail bags. You can also buy a tail bag and then sew it onto your sheet if you are handy with a needle and thread!

I hope some of these tips work for your tail.

Emma Ford
About

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

Posted in Ask The Groom

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2 comments on “Tips for maintaining the perfect tail
  1. Cindy says:

    I also bang my horses’ tails just below the chestnut-

  2. Sue Callahan says:

    Loved the videos of If horses were people. Video 7 was especially humorous – the gal biting on the counter. Now that was funny. Thanks for the laugh and the visit to the pasture!!!

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