Tag Archives: mane and tail

Grooming tales (of grooming tails)

I don’t deal well with problems when I absolutely cannot think of a possible plan of attack for them.

Normally this results in either a) obsessing about the problem, insane amounts of Googling and a poll of everyone who will stand still long enough to be bothered, or b) a complete avoidance of the problem. I’m afraid my method of dealing with Jitter’s very drafty tail has most resembled b).

Jitter is very fortunate, in my opinion, to have gotten the best elements of both her Thoroughbred dam and Anonymous Draft Variety sire, which includes thick black hair for her forelock, mane, and tail. The forelock actually has this punk rock streak of red in it, which I assumed she had a friend dye for her during some late-night rave (cause it just showed up one day and I sure as heck didn’t put it there). The downside to having a drafty tail is that a) the tail, as a unit, is thick. Too thick for any tail bag, anywhere b) it grows very fast c) it is wavy and d) the individual strands are very thick, so when they go unbrushed for…ahem…months? they twist around each other to form dreadlocks.

So, while it probably should look like this:

And it looks more like this:

And that doesn’t do proper justice to the dreds.

Naturally I ignored the fact that my horse was a Rastifarian for a few months, but this winter it just got too Bob Marley for me. I began researching the options for managing a particularly thick tail.

  • A startling number of people suggest pulling tails the way you would pull a mane. I can’t imagine that this is safe, because you’d have to be in the bullseye of striking distance to pull the hairs out properly, and I’m also not sure why anyone would want to thin a tail, which as near as I can tell is the only advantage to pulling anything over trimming it. It seems we treat horse hair like our own–if it’s thin we want it thicker, if it’s thick we want it thinner, primarily because the grass is always greener and braids more easily on the other side of the fence. I noticed none of the people suggesting inquiring forum posters stand behind their 1000 lb animals and yank parts of their tail out, volunteered that they had ever done this themselves.¬†Pass.
  • There was a lot of debate over banging tails–do you or don’t you. For Jitter this isn’t an option, because if I leave the thing alone more than four weeks it’s picking up the mud from her fetlocks. Mostly the issue people had with it was the typical split ends/unhealthy hair nonsense¬†objection that I hear about trimming manes, but I don’t know how dragging snowballs/mudballs around behind us is supposed to be healthy. Eh.
  • It seemed no two sites could agree on detangling–use silicone detanglers or avoid them like the plague, use oils vs leaving them out to avoid picking up dust, use a comb vs a human hair brush vs a horse hair brush vs fingers only to work out knots.¬†Aah!

I refuse to believe that detangling a tail is really this complicated and finally I found a compromise that I like: the best shampoo job I could manage in 50-degree weather, plus daily treatment with a three-way mix of mineral oil, Cowboy Magic, and Vetrolin spray conditioner (moisturizing, detangling and all-day conditioning) and brushing with this.This brush is a Godsend. And no, Smartpak/Oster did not pay me to tell you that.

The first three buckets of soapy tail water ran brown (and I do mean opaque, chocolate milkshake brown) but that took care of some of the dreds. Will post “after” pics after we’ve had a few more days on the spray n’ brush regimen but so far so good!

How do you deal with your horse’s tail challenges?


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