Know Your Horse Tail Ribbons

by Matt

The horse world is steeped in tradition, but loves a good trend. Trends come and trends go, but some of the oldest and best-loved traditions aren’t wrapped up in fashion or training methods but in the simple interest of keeping horses and riders safe. Take tail ribbons, for example. Different colored ribbons in horses’ tails send different messages about that horse — messages you’ll want to be able to read. Do you know your horse tail ribbons?

The colored tail ribbons seem to be making a show-ring comeback after being relegated to the hunting field for many years. Here are the basics you’ll want to know, so that you can act accordingly around other horses — and have others act accordingly around your horse!

This is a simple one — a green horse. Spot one of these in the warm-up ring and you’ll know to go easy on this horse-and-rider combination as they’re negotiating the brave new world of horse showing.

The classic “stay away” ribbon, red is the universal color of the kicker. Keep your distance from these crimson-bedecked horses — they’re warning you away so you won’t get hurt.

This color traditionally means “caution” whether you’re on horseback or on the highway. In this case, take caution with that yellow-ribboned horse — that’s a stallion. Although the rider might be fully capable of controlling their stallion, there’s no need to antagonize a potentially territorial horse, so steer clear of yellow.

Seemingly less common these days, there’s plenty of evidence on the Internet to suggest that a white ribbon means a horse is for sale.

Of course, throughout the world all of these can be tweaked a little. Some breed associations in the UK require that competing stallions wear a red, white, and blue ribbon in their tails. Some other disciplines seem to have adopted the red, white, and blue color scheme for stallions as well.

Have a different take on tail ribbon? Know some more colors and their meanings? Share in the comments!

21 responses on “Know Your Horse Tail Ribbons

  1. Lynn says:

    At 4H winter shows, I’d put a red ribbon in my mare’s tail just to keep the kids from riding their horses up into her butt — it was distracting for both of us!

  2. Robina Plume says:

    A good indication of temperament and type of horse.
    Easy to see.
    Safety is important.

  3. Guest says:

    Ive seen a stallion with a red ribbon only at an endurance race only yesterday….it was strange….i remember that they used to use the red for kickers and yellow for stalions but you almost always saw them combined on a stalion….gues red is enough these days

  4. Marie says:

    My stallion is green, a kicker, a stallion, and for sale. Which do I put? Or should I just get a rainbow ribbon.

  5. Vickie says:

    My horse is blind in one eye, is there a ribbon for the horse has a disability?

    • Matt Johnson says:

      There aren’t any ribbons that universally identify that a horse has a disability. However, if you use a red ribbon, other riders will naturally give you some extra space, since they’ll think that your horse might kick. This might be the best option for your situation.

    • Jack says:

      Not that I know of but I would think blue would be most appropriate since people are already accustomed to this for any other disability related items.

  6. Pepper Splechter says:

    My horse bites what should I use?

  7. Diane Welter says:

    My family used to ride in parades and/or loan horses for the parade

    Red – dangerous (kicker, biter, bucker, bad temper)
    Orange – use caution (easy to spook, mild temper)
    Yellow – mild problem/disability (we had several albino that were nearly blind, and many others that were gimps, from age/wounds, definitely some of our most gentle horses, but the town and my family wanted them identified)

    We would also look up the disability ribbon/color, and use double colors with our yellow ribbons, we used silver for our albinos

  8. Ruby says:

    This helped me a lot so i can put a ribbon on my horse for no meaning

  9. Edith says:

    I always but red even though my horse doesnt kick cause if someone passes to close she her competitive and takes off

  10. Hadlie Clair says:

    I have a very very spooky gelding. Is there a specific color for that?

    • Matt Johnson says:

      There is no specific ribbon color for a horse that is spooky in nature. However, the green ribbon which is used to signal a ‘green’ or inexperienced horse can also be used for horses that are spooky in nature. Other riders will know to approach him with caution and give him some space when riding nearby.

  11. Heather says:

    Nearly had a heart attack down by the lake today (popular with horse and non-horse people) saw a red-ribbon horse tied in the shade and a bunch of kids playing almost under it. Very lucky nobody got kicked.

    Reminder to riders it’s not the non-horse public’s job to know what the ribbons mean. Don’t leave a horse unattended, even if you’re only a few feet away, if you know you’re in a popular area for kids to play. Especially if your horse comes with a warning to others.

  12. I couldn’t figure out how to change her mane style, but I took off that random saddle blanket. I left the red wrap on her tail, though. Given her behavioral issues, it seemed like a wise choice.

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