Tail Turnout – How to Turn Out a Tail with the best of them!

As a horse show judge I notice a lot of things. If horses ‘chip’ in, leave out strides or knock rails down. I also notice tails. And a well turned out tail can complement any hunter round.

First things first. A healthy horse’s coat and tail stems from a well taken care of horse. A weedy malnourished horse will be unlikely to have a shiny coat and bushy tail. And likewise some breeds have noticeably thin hairs in their manes and tails. Just think back to some appaloosas you may have known and loved.

English: Burdock

English: Burdock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do Not Brush Daily

As a rule I do not routinely brush my horse’s tail. I have found daily brushing causes the hairs to break and you end up with a wispy limp tail. On occasion I ‘finger’ through my horse’s tail and undo knots and ringlets which have occurred.

Before every ride, however, it is mandatory to remove shavings, grass, branches and those pesky burs which creep up during the fall months.

Burdocks and Tails

This time of year it is Burdock season and the horses get their tails full of tail mangling knots. “The prickly heads of these plants (burrs) are noted for easily catching on to fur and clothing (being the inspiration for Velcro[3]), thus providing an excellent mechanism for seed dispersal.[2] Burrs cause local irritation and can possibly cause intestinal hairballs in pets. However, most animals avoid ingesting these plants.” [source:wikipedia]

My solution to removing burs is to quite literally soak the tail with hair conditioner. Usually cheap stuff I have purchased from the ‘dollar’ store. This softens the burs so they do not split open and let go of their millions of seeds, they slip easily off the horses tails and it leaves the horses’ tails soft and ‘conditioned’.

How to Brush Your Horse’s Tail

Brushing a horse's tail

Brushing a horse’s tail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washing the horse’s tail need not be done every day but it is included here for your information.

  1. Wash the tail with shampoo. Use a shampoo designed for horses. I used to use dish soap but found the detergents may get the dirt out, but strip valuable oils from the tail and leave it ‘clumpy’ and hard to manage.
  2. Rinse well. Leaving traces of shampoo in the tail can cause itching and dry skin. Just to be safe, rinse it again with ‘warm’ water.
  3. Spray on de-tangler. This is your preference. Show Sheen, Cowboy Magic (my favourite, which I use only sparingly and when I can afford it), Mane and Tail de-tangler.
    – OR –
    you can try this homemade recipe
    • 1/2 Cup hair conditioner
    • 1/2 Cup baby oil
    • 1/2 Cup water
    • 5 drops lavender essential oil (for scent only, optional)
      -put all in a spray bottle and shake well.

Brushing Your Horse’s Tail

Once ‘your’ tail is done separate the hairs one strand at a time, being careful not to stretch, pull or break any hairs. Stand to the side of the horse and separate a small section and with your fingers, start at the tail bone and divide the strand all the way from the tail bone to the end.

Include, as part of your tail brushing routine, brushing the dander and dirt from the horses tail bone. getting right to the skin on the tailbone helps prevent dirt build up which may cause itchiness.

How to Make Your Tail Look Fuller

Kristina Harrison-Naness (USA) riding Rociero ...

Beautiful tails – Kristina Harrison-Naness (USA) riding Rociero XV – PRE stallion\Grey\1995\ Rociero VIII x Jenson at 2007 FEI World Cup Finals (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proper care will help make the tail look fuller. Regular trimming across the bottom, called, banging the tail, gives it a fuller appearance. Give your horse a trim by clipping the bottom 1/2 inch or so off the bottom of his tail.

Don’t be fooled and just cut the bottom off. You would like to have it straight across when he is working. When horses are ridden they hold their tail away from their bodies and gently swish it from side to side.

When I was learning to ride (in the olden days) we were taught to place our forearm gently under the horse’s tail to mimic how the horse may carry its tail while being ridden. After you put your forearm under the tail we were instructed to “‘bang the tail’ 4

English: Friesian Horse Deutsch: Friesenpferd ...

Depending on Your Discipline It May Be Too Short Friesian Horse Deutsch: Friesenpferd Română: Cal frizon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

inches below the hock”. By today’s standards this would leave a very full looking but short tail. Depending on your discipline, it may be too short. I would recommend trimming just above the fetlocks rather than just below the hock!

If you just pull the tail down and trim it where you would like it to be, it will be about 6 inches shorter than you thought. This is because the horse, when being ridden, moves his tail up and out away from its body. If you are unsure, leave it longer than you though as you can always cut a bit more off! Like wise, you can rest assure that the tail will grow back!

The Scoop on Tail Bags

Some horse people prefer to keep their tails tidy in tail bags. These handy accessories keep the horse’s tail safe, clean and prevents tail hairs from breaking. Made popular in the western world all disciplines have moved to accept the brilliant idea of a tail bag.

Essentially the horse’s tail is enclosed in a nylon bag or stretchy fabric, like lycra. This bag is secured to the horse’s tail bone with velcro or fabric tabs. Be careful when securing the tabs as they may pull out or break tail hairs.


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Tender Tendons – How to Tend a Tender Tendon

We may of experienced it or at least know someone who has ‘blown a tendon’. But what would you do and what you should do?

Signs of a possible tendon injury

Bilateral inflamed flexor tendons in a horse.

Bilateral inflamed flexor tendons in a horse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first critical thing you may notice is the horse NOT putting weight on the leg.

– Or –

the weight bearing cycle of the leg is not happening. The normal weight bearing of the lower limb depends on a solid foundation from the flexor tendons.

A horse at rest can hurt his tendons by sharp objects or as the result of a kick from a pasture mate. A tendon injury which occurs from a kick, cut are a bit different then tendon injuries which occurs from ‘at speed’ work.

Tendon injuries resulting from work related stress usually result from the fraying and over stretching of the tendons. If a horse is galloping and the tendon, like an elastic band, for example, becomes over stretched or tired, the tendon could rupture. This leaves no tell tail surface mark as in a kick or broken skin but there is considerable pain, lameness and swelling.

What to look for:

  • horse not ‘striding’ as usual. Asymetry during wieght bearing stance of the stride.
  • horse not standing normal. Resting foot with heel of the ground, or fetlock slumping.
  • heat pain and swelling on the inside (usually front) of the cannon bone

Emergency Tendon Treatment

If you suspect a tendon injury the first few minutes are important for the horse’s long term recovery. Do not under estimate the necessity of early treatment to avoid future problems.

  • Reduce inflammation and swelling immediately. This may mean cold water hosing, ice packs, or other cooling products. Apply generously and continuously immediately for
  • If there is a cut or laceration, clean the wound with antibiotic scrub such as providine or chlorahexidane shampoo to prevent any infection and if required contact your vet should the wound require sutures or injectable antibiotics.
  • Apply clean and supportive stable bandages with non stick quilts (if there is an open wound) and monitor.

If you have anti-inflammatory pain-killing medication (like ‘bute’), some may be in order.

Call the vet and ask for a thorough review of the tendon. If there is a wound suturing may be required, but a severed tendon may also require suturing and once the horse is comfortable this can be done.

Have you had an emergency tendon treatment? How did you treat your tendon injury? What tips can you share?

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Do Have Your Own Equipment?

Purchasing Your Own Riding Equipment

If you plan on becoming a rider or taking your riding seriously requires some financial commitment. The minimum is purchasing your own hat (approved), gloves, boots and riding crop.

Some riding establishments have rental helmets available but you don’t know if they are new, how many times they have been dropped (which, by the way, reduces their effectiveness). Safety is the primary factor and if you plan on riding then purchase your own gear.

What to learn more about helmet safety?

Look in the base of your helmet and it should have the information.

It should be:


Inside of an ASTM/SEI approved safety Helmet f...

Inside of an ASTM/SEI approved safety Helmet for riding horses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ASTM, American Society for Testing Materials is responsible for testing and designing tests for materials, and products. If your helmet has no ASTM sticker on it then it has not been tested and may not offer the required protection.

Is a Bike Helmet OK?

A bicycle helmet for example may be ASTM approved, but, may not be approved for riding a horse.

Protective helmets including sport helmets for hockey, football and bike riding as well as equestrian, must pass a standard ‘flat anvil test‘(dropping the helmet from 6 feet onto a flat surface) and other tests as determined specifically by the sport.  The equestrian helmet must also pass a “curb anvil test“.  Take a look at the testing procedures done on this helmet. You can see the construction and safety put into the helmet and the standards which helmets must meet.

This video explains the ASTM/SEI testing.

Fitting a Riding Helmet

This is the most comprehensive helmet fitting I have seen. Helmet fitting.

Never purchase a riding helmet second hand. It may have taken a fall, even fallen off a shelf onto the floor and may have lost its shock absorption ability.


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Tips for Mastering the Rising Trot – Feel the horse

No More Bouncing – Follow These Easy Tips to Master the Rising Trot

If you are a new rider one of the land marks of success is learning to master the rising trot. Wobbly legs, slapping seat is replaced with synchronicity. If you have already mastered it, you can move onto step 2 – rising trot without stirrups. Something all riders should do on a regular basis.

Tips For a Perfect Rising Trot

Most riders when starting out put too much effort into the rising. They press onto their stirrups, and stand up as far as they can. This can sustain them for only a short time as their legs get tired and new riders do not ‘go with the flow’.
You must admit you have to FEEL the horse to do a posting trot correctly. By feel I mean:

  1. understand how horses move their legs while trotting
  2. how your body should move while trotting
  3. and how these movements fit together.

How Horses Move Their Legs While Trotting

Take a look at this simple, yet expressive video on how a horse moves its legs at the trot.

You will notice the horse moves his near fore and off hind (left front and right back) together followed by the off fore and near hind (right front and left hind). You can see there is a period of suspension where there are no legs touching the ground. This gives the trot the rythmic 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 we often think of when trotting.

When the horse is in its “period of suspension” the horse pushes you  up and forward. Horses with more suspension have a larger ‘push’ up and forward. And you seem to be in the air for longer.

Some ponies, for example, have little suspension, and some bigger, warmblood types have huge suspension. This suspension, this push is what allows us to rise and do a posting trot.

How Riders Should Move at a Posting/Rising Trot

Most riders put too much effort into their riding. Think of letting the horse PUSH you out of the saddle. Standing up in the stirrups does not allow you to feel what the horse is doing underneath you. You do not want to bring your behind to far forward or too far out of the saddle. Think of “brushing the crotch of your pants against the seat of the saddle”. This is how one person explained it to me.

Instead of thinking up – down – up – down, think of bringing your bum slightly forward and have the crotch of your riding pants lightly brush the saddle.

HOw These Movements Fit Together

Please review this lovely video on How these two movements should fit together.

Do you have tricks to help you post? We’d love to hear from you.

Exercises to Help Feel the Rising Trot

My favorite exercises to assist with feeling the rising trot is what I call the UP-UP-Down exercise.

  1. Start in 2-point or jumping position. Establish a trot in your 2-point or jumping position.
  2. Once you have established your trot count, up – up – down – up – up – down – up – up – down. This means Stand in your stirrups in 2 point for 2 beats (up – up) then back to 3-point for 1 beat (down).
    So rather than going up- down – up – down for your normal rising trot, go up – up – down – up – up – down.
  3. This forces you to feel the horse’s rhythm, rather than mechanically going up and down. You will find your balance becomes more secure and you become more stable over your leg.

Try it! Let me know how you made out and send some pictures (or even a video!).

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