Admit it, we’ve all had it hit us at least once – tail envy. There you are minding your own business, grooming your horse and “Swish, Swish, Swish” – the most beautiful, flowy tail goes swinging by. Stunned you exclaim, “What do you do to get his tail to grow like that?!” The lucky owner simply smiles and responds, ” He was born with it, I don’t do anything special!”
True, some horses are “born with it”, like the warmblood and baroque breeds, while the lighter breeds such as thoroughbreds and Arabians tend to have finer hair. Even a horse without the best tail genetics can still benefit from good grooming techniques and special attention. If you have ever wished your horse could grow a luxurious, beautiful tail and don’t know where to start or have tried and given up, give these five tips a try!
Tip #1: Do NOT Brush Your Horse’s Tail Every Day
Yes, you heard me right, do not brush your horse’s tail every day. It is very counter-intuitive, but trust me – if your horse’s tail is already sparse and brittle, overbrushing may not be the best thing for growth.
I know its tempting to want to brush out the tail every time you groom your horse. Yes, it’s probably one of the most therapeutic and relaxing parts about grooming—but for the love of the tail gods, please do not do it!!! It takes a great deal of time to carefully and correctly brush out a tail without breaking hairs.
Those precious hairs take several years to grow and cannot possibly keep up with daily pulling and yanking. So if you are one of those people who can’t help yourself, do whatever it takes to resist the urge to brush out the tail every day. Take your tail brush out of your grooming box, leave it at home, do what you have to but drop the brush and back away from the tail.
A good option is to use your fingers to carefully pick debris and shavings out of your horse’s tail. This technique will help minimize tangles and cut down on damage. Detangler is your friend, don’t be afraid to use it liberally! It makes your life a heck of a lot easier and keeps the tail hair soft and supple. For those tricky tangles, I like using Cowboy Magic and for a good all-around detangler, I like to use Show Sheen.
Tip #2: Take the Time to Brush the Tail Correctly
Brushing your horse’s tail correctly is probably the most important thing you can do to make sure you are not sabotaging your own beautiful tail dreams. First, make sure you’ve “picked” the tail with your fingers and removed any shavings or sticks. Trying to brush those out will only create tangles and damage the hair. If there are any knots or dreadlock type tangles going on, apply a detangler and use your fingers to separate the hairs carefully.
Now the tail is ready to be brushed out. ALWAYS brush a horse’s tail from the bottom to the top. This will help you keep the tail tangle free as you work your way up and avoid breaking or snapping hairs in half.
Work in small sections at a time and if you come across a tangle, again, use your fingers to carefully undo it. Grooming a horse’s tail correctly is a bit time consuming, so make sure you set aside enough time to do so! If you’re running late for a lesson, it’s perfectly acceptable to skip the tail!
Tip #3: A Clean Tail Tangles Less
It’s not necessary to give your horse a full-on soap bath every day, in fact it is best to only use shampoo when your really need it. A thorough rinse on a regular basis and some tail conditioner when needed is usually sufficient. However, when the tail gets sandy and dull, its time for some TLC.
In my opinion, shampoo is shampoo. No need to go spending a fortune when $0.97 White Rain will do. If you want to splurge, by all means, spend the $2.97 on Suave. Save your money for supplements, lessons, and tack!
To thoroughly wash a tail, it’s best to soak it in a bucket of warm water and diluted shampoo. Fill the bucket up with enough water to cover most of the horse tailbone. Then, carefully hold the bucket up to the horses’ tail, soaking the bottom of the tail and as much of the tailbone as possible.
Swish the tail around and make sure to get it nice and soapy. Next, use your hands to gently scrub the tail to loosen any trapped dirt. Gently ring out the dirty soap water from the tail, soak again if needed, and then rise out the tail.
When you use shampoo, it’s always a good idea to follow up with conditioner. Again, White Rain or Suave is your best bet because you’re going to go through a lot of conditioner on your journey to a knockout tail.
Concentrate on the bottom and middle of the tail and avoid the top of the tail. Conditioner can build up and cause itchiness around the tailbone for some horses. You don’t want your horse scratching his bum and damaging the hairs that you’re working so hard to grow!
Last but definitely not least – rinse, rinse, rinse. Make sure that the tail is completely, 110% rinsed and free from any shampoo and conditioner. Any residue left in the tail will only make the tail sticky and attract dirt.
Remember, never brush a wet tail, as that can also cause damage. After the tail is no longer dripping wet, put in some leave-in conditioner. If possible, allow the tail to dry completely before you put your horse away.
Tip #4: Trim the Tail for a Fuller Appearance
Dressage horses are known for that blunt, straight-edge cut. Not only does it make for a neat and tidy appearance, but it also gives the illusion of a thicker, fuller tail. To do this you’ll need a pair of sharp scissors, a wide tooth comb, and a friend.
First, carefully comb your horses tail using the techniques from Tip #2. Then, have your helper gently place their arm underneath the base of the horse’s tail. This will lift the tail to its natural carriage when the horse is in motion.
Step back and determine where you want your horse’s tail to fall. A good rule of thumb is somewhere between the middle of the cannon bone and the fetlock. Next, take your wide tooth comb and use it as a straight edge to make the cut. Remember, you can always cut more off but can’t put it back on so be conservative!
Tip #5: Nutrition is Essential
In order for your horse to grow a thick tail, it must be getting all the proper nutrients in their basic diet. In addition, your horse may need additional minerals and amino acid supplementation to aid in tail growth.
There are a variety of supplements on the market to choose from, and while there are specific supplements marketed towards mane and tail growth, a good hoof supplement will also provide what is needed for tail growth.
Some important ingredients for hair growth in horses include biotin, methionine, zinc, and lysine. Be sure to read the ingredient label and do your own research before purchasing.
As with all nutritional supplements, seeing the results you want can take a few months, so try to be patient as well as consistent in giving your horse the supplement of choice. It may take some trial and error, but if you get it right you could have one of the best tails in the barn!
X Halt, Salute
There you have it – five easy tips to help your horse grow a long, beautiful, dreamy tail! Remember, it’s always easier to care for a well-maintained tail, so take the time to care for it properly! If you have any questions or tips of your own, please leave a comment below!