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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About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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