How to Grow a Long, Lavish Horse Tail
For as long as I can remember, I have loved flowing manes and tails on horses.
Watching our horses strut their stuff in the show ring is thrilling. So much expense, training, time and effort goes into show horse preparation that fussing over the tail is just another special task. A lovely tail is the horse’s extra crowning glory, and to me the effect is well worth the effort.
Old timers use a bag of tricks to achieve lustrous full tails but The Old Gray Mare prefers to keep it simple. True, cultivating a horse’s tail takes time and attention to detail. It is also important that the horse enjoys this additional fussing.
Before starting the process of developing a flowing tail on your horse, make an upfront commitment to stick with it. Devote adequate biweekly time to work with the tail. Remove it from the tail bag, air it out, braid and finish up with a clean tail bag. You will need an excellent leave-in conditioner and/or spray bottle of water, three strands of ripped cloth a foot or two longer than the length of tail (or you can use bailing jute, knitting yarn, narrow ribbons) plus several tail rubber bands and a clean tail bag.
Set aside an hour or two every two weeks. Plan on having enough time to take down your horse’s tail, pull the strands, fluff out the tail, wash if necessary, rebraid it and put it back into a tail bag. Do not start unless you can devote adequate time for the process. Put your horse on crossties and plan on spending quality bonding time with your horse.
Use conditioner on the tail and work it into the tail bone. Lightly moisten the tail hairs with water spray.
Hold your horse’s tail in one hand and carefully pick strand by strand of hair from tailbone to end of hair length, or until the strands fall free from the other hairs. Work through all the hairs of his tail, strand by strand, until you have half of the tail separated and picked out. Loosely knot the hair that is done or lightly rubber band it. Talk to your horse and occasionally pat him. Work quickly so he doesn’t get bored.
Continue working through the hairs pulling the strands until you have completed your horse’s entire tail. Hold the tail below the tailbone and gently shake the hair out. The tail should appear fully “combed out and fussed over.” Keep the separated hairs from touching the ground or stall bedding to keep it clean and tangle free.
Separate the fully-picked out tail into 3 equal sections starting just below the tail bone. Be sure each section of hair hangs freely.
Knot the three ribbon strands (or bailing twine or linen strands) together leaving 4-6” of ribbon/twine or linen above the knot. Use one ribbon strand with each section of tail when you start the braiding process.
Braid the three sections, each consisting of ribbon strand and tail hairs, starting directly below the tail bone. Make the braid firm but not overly tout. Keep the braid neat, firm, and straight all the way down the tail until you have gone below the tail hairs and are braiding only ribbon. Be sure you have about 9” to 12” of ribbon left. Secure by tieing one piece of ribbon to one other ribbon OR use a small rubber band to secure lightly – I prefer the tie method. You now have a squeaky clean, braided tail with mostly every hair protected.
Grab the bottom of the ribbon and tail and find a loop near the top of the braid and pull through. Take it down on the braid and find another spot to pull the end of the tail through again. Snug just enough to lay the braids smoothly one on the other – the bottom of the braid now gets pulled through again at a different spot near the top of the braid and so on until you have used up the braid, interlooping it several times so there is no single stress point supporting the weight of the tail.
Separate the leftover ribbon strands to one strand and two strands, tie a single knot, loop around the tail once or twice and then knot once and tie a small bow. Make sure the bow is solidly tied and will not come undone. BE CERTAIN YOU DO NOT TIE ON OR NEAR THE TAIL BONE WHICH CAN INHIBIT BLOOD FLOW!. If you have tied the tail correctly, it will be doubled up, no longer than the hocks and neatly tied.
Slip the tail bag over the braided and doubled/tripled over tail to just below the tail bone. Thread the tie straps through a different part of the braided top and distribute weight of the tail evenly between the tie straps. Fasten securely but don’t overtighten
When you initially work the tail, it should be squeaky clean from a thorough shampoo, conditioning and rinse. Once the tail is picked out and bagged, it really is unnecessary to shampoo it – keep it bagged and clean – separate bone hairs and monitor flaking and dirt. Only shampoo if necessary and rinse all soap out thoroughly. Then follow from Step 2:
I should emphasize that to keep the tail lush and long, from now on you should refrain from using a brush or comb on the tail. All work on tail hairs will be accomplished by picking single or several strands of hair. Detangle and fluff tail hairs, avoid breakage and prohibit unnecessary loss of individual hairs. Remember, if you don’t succeed in growing out a lush tail, then there is no harm in cutting or trimming it. Right from the start, decide to work with your horse and put in the effort because the end result is your fantasy horse tail.
Final Notes: The Old Gray Mare apologizes that the photos are not better. Pictures taken for tail pull at end of December and it was overcast and cold in Connecticut. We'll get new pictures soon and see how the tail has grown. Additionally, we'll show you Cooper's tail and take video. Meanwhile, enjoy working with your horse. Ours positively love the time we spend working on them and grooming them.
Here's a follow up to The Old Gray Mare's article. It is now several months later and the pictures of Patrick's tail were taken in May. Honestly, I did lose a little more volume of hair than I would have liked - mostly because Patrick had lots of freedom and playtime and he loves to roll - and I did not keep the strict routine of rebraiding.
I have also just added Cooper's pictures. He stands just 33 inches at his tallest. We have also been working with his tail but keep a far less strict routine. Still, Cooper's tail has grown tremendously during the last five months. The proof is in the pictures below. Have a look at his results.
This month (July) we are starting on Sebastian's tail as well. As of this writing, his tail does not reach the ground. We'll see how we progress with him - I should note that Sebastian's tail bone is only 7 inches long - he is missing about two inches of bone on the end of his tail.
Our three horses have no plans to head to the shows; they just love the attention and we like to give it to them. Spending time with them, grooming them and fussing over their manes and tails seems to please them to no end . . . (to be continued)
Patrick has added considerable length to his tail. We lost some volume but remaining hair is solid.
Here you can see it from a side view. He has fine hair, very flowing. There is no coarseness to his hair.