Grooming 101: Keeping Your Horse’s Tail Beautiful

by Matt

Is your horse’s tail less than perfect? Most of us dream of a perfect unicorn with flowing forelock, mane, and tail, but life is usually less than perfect. Our fantasy unicorns never roll in mud and always disdain cockleburrs, but our real-life horses generally prefer dirt and mess to anything else.

There’s no magic potion to make your horse’s tail unicorn-quality overnight, but careful management in everything from grooming to feeding can help your horse develop a tail you’ll be happy to daydream about.

Daily Grooming: Daily maintenance is key to a beautiful tail, and should be tailored to your horse’s habits. Your primary goal is to prevent hairs from breaking, and you can do this by removing tangles and snags before they have a chance to catch on a fence board and rip the hair right out. A tidy horse can get by with a finger-picking; a mudball will need careful detangling with a dedicated tail brush and a detangling spray or cream.

Keeping your horse’s tail well-conditioned will also help prevent tangles before they even start. Stick to petroleum-free conditioners that won’t clog up skin pores at the tail’s base, as this can inhibit healthy hair growth further.

Show-ring Grooming: Need an impressive tail for the show-ring? You can employ a few optical illusions to get that less-than-perfect tail ready for its close-up. Banging the tail is a simple way to get a more full look. Cutting off the end of the tail in a straight line, creating a “bang” the way you might over your own forehead, fluffs out the lower sections of the tail for a very convincing full, thick look. If you’re showing in many English disciplines, you might find that banging as far up as mid-cannon bone is a traditional look that does your horse’s thin tail plenty of good.

Pulling the top of the tail can do double-duty for your horse, making a thin tail look fuller through the middle and bottom sections as well as accenting your horse’s hindquarter muscles (creating those muscles would be an entirely different blog post). Pulling a tail means removing the long hairs from either side of the dock to about midway down the tail bone. You can use scissors, or, if you have the time, pluck out a few long hairs every day during your grooming session. Just make sure your horse isn’t going to kick you while you’re busy with the beautifying.

Feeding For Beauty: Beauty comes from within, and that’s certainly true of your horse. Once you’re certain that your horse’s diet is complete, including excellent minerals, vitamins, protein, fat, roughage, etc., you can consider adding nutrients that are especially helpful for coat and tail health — omega fatty acids, methionine, biotin, and lysine, to name a few. If your horse’s coat and tail are especially lackluster, it might be time for a vet visit, where you can rule out metabolic factors.

We all want gorgeous tails for our horses, while horses just want something long enough to swish away flies. For an enviable tail, be prepared to put in the extra work. It’ll be worth it in the long run, when you have that fantasy unicorn tail… until he rolls in the mud again.

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