Attend any stock horse all-around class, and you’ll notice just about all of the horses sport full, luxurious tails. If you’re wondering how you’ll ever get your own horse’s tail to achieve this look, we have the answers. Our experts share their tips to care for your horse’s natural tail, and also how to use and care for a fake tail.
Keeping it Real
“I tell my clients to focus on getting the tailbone really clean,” Holt says. “A lot of people just want to wash the long hair, but you need to make sure you scrub down to the roots of the tail.” Be sure to rinse shampoo out completely after a good scrub.
Then follow up with conditioner and a final, thorough rinse. For the finishing touch, Holt uses a grooming spray-conditioner containing silicone for maximum detangling power.
Holt likes to use the spray-on polish/detanglers between baths, too. “I just spray the top of the tail and the horse’s body. It keeps the hair conditioned. It’s also good for the knots—just spray the knot and comb it out.”
Braid and Bag
There are many schools of thought when it comes to caring for your horse’s tail. Some pros prefer leaving the hair free. Others braid the tail. Holt covers braided tails with a bag, or wraps several large knots in the tail with vet wrap in the summer.
“I usually keep my horses’ tails braided and bagged in the winter to protect them,” says Holt. “In the summer, because the horses need to swish their tails at flies, I loop the tail into several sections, knot each section and cover the knots with vet wrap.”
Holt says you can put your horse’s tail in a braid or knot it while it is wet or dry.
Remember that a tail bag should always attach below the tailbone. Never tie or wrap anything around your horse’s tailbone, where it could compromise circulation.
While far from mandatory, tail extensions are commonly used in all-around competition. Kathy Williams of Kathy L. Williams Tail Extensions creates custom tails for her clients. She says a fake tail can help boost your presentation in the pen.
“Just like a lady enhances her hair with extensions to make it longer, fuller and prettier, you can do the same thing with your horse,” says Williams.
Fake tails are widely used in many breed and discipline associations. Every organization has its own rules about tails, so read the rulebook carefully. Some associations do not allow weighted tails, while others have specific ways they can be attached to the tail. Weighted tails are fake tails fitted with a bit of extra weight to encourage the horse’s tail to lie flat.
The easiest way to choose a tail extension is to go to a tail maker at a horse show so you can match the tail hair to your horse. Or, you can take photos of your horse’s tail and send them to a tail maker. Williams advises against purchasing a tail with synthetic hair.
Three Ways to Attach a Tail Extension
Click the preview images below to download printable versions of each of the three series of step-by-step instructions for attaching a tail extension.
Holt prefers her horses’ fake and real tails to hit at fetlock length. This prevents the horse from stepping on his tail. Fake tails can get pulled out when a horse steps on them, and this embarrassing gaffe will not only leave a negative impression in the show pen, but it could also spook your horse.
With careful maintenance, you can protect your investment in a tail extension. The same time and effort put into caring for your horse’s natural tail will also pay off over time, making your horse’s tail the best that it can be.
Abigail Boatwright is a freelance writer and photographer based in Texas.
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!