Neu Perspectives

Telling Tails

A well maintained horse's tail that is trimmed shorter.

Here’s a spark to ignite a debate amongst horse people: How do you prefer your tails?

Our equine world is full of controversy. From the feed barn to the vet clinic, from the basic care of our animals to the genetics in the breeding shed, we all have personal experiences that shape our opinions and methods with our own horses. But one thing I think we horse people can all agree on is that it is dynamite to have a horse with a great tail.

For years, I thought long was the loveliest. It didn’t get much more admirable to me if a horse sported length, with the thickness of the tail being a secondary thought. I watched performance horses that would slide great lengths, long thin tails dragging behind them in the dirt and think, “Wow, that is magical.”

But, if I kept watching, once in a while I would see a horse back up right over her own lovely tail. And (cue the cringe) often, step on it and pull chunks of her own hair right out of the follicle. Their beautiful hair would be on the arena floor, and the remaining long tail would be that much more meager. Oh, my goodness. Does it get any worse than that?

So, after I have owned many horses, ponies and hybrids of the two, and after dedicating far too many hours deemed reasonable to studying the wellness, health and insider tips regarding equines’ personal appearances, I’ve come to a very definite conclusion that shorter and thicker tails are superior to longer, thinner ones.

I know this stirs up some controversy. We ride 2-year-olds, mostly, and we trim tails with scissors. If they have some length, we usually loosely braid them or tie them up in a knot when we ride, though I prefer a length where they don’t even have to be messed with at all. When I buy a horse, or someone sends one to get started, if their tail has too much length, trimming some of it off is the first thing I do. By the time they are ready to go home, get sold or age into show-horse mode, I feel it has better preserved the volume and health of the tail by having it trimmed somewhere below the hock but above the fetlock.

I do have certain people we ride horses for that disagree, and more power to them. I don’t trim those tails, though I care for them as though the horses were my own. However, when they back out of a trailer, or draw back on a cow or whirl around and their hind feet pull some of that beautiful hair out, I can’t help but think those years of growth could have been saved with some cautious scissor time.

To push my polarization even further — I am a believer in low maintenance. I like clean, soft tails without a lot of product, and I don’t do tailbags. I understand why others do, but for me, it’s just better to put a little time in once in a while and keep them conditioned. I don’t like to mess with them much. It seems that the more we fuss, brush, braid and band, the more hair falls out and thins the very thing we are trying to care for. I wash and condition often, brush through and leave it alone.

If you don’t agree, that’s fine. It’s purely aesthetics and personal preference anyway. I love that we can all have our own viewpoints and debates and still carry on with our own property as we wish.

But if you send us a colt to start, and you are anti-scissors (tactfully used, of course), you had better speak up quickly! 

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