How to Groom a Horse Tail
Posted by Kelly Steele on 24th May 2023
I’ve never met a horse rider that doesn’t want to groom their horse's tail to be thick and healthy. If you have ever met my mare, Chanel, you know how seriously I take horse health, specifically tail care! (You may be asking yourself, what is a mare? A mare is an adult female horse.) You can help your horse achieve their best tail with these simple steps.
How to Clean A Horse’s Tail
Washing a Horse Tail
Washing the horse's tail is one of the best ways to keep it healthy and reduce breakage. It is essential that cleaning the tail includes a good scrub of the tailbone. The tailbone of the horse is just like your scalp! Scalp health plays a vital role in tail health. Itchy skin at the tailbone can lead to rubbing, the bane of a beautiful tail. (Sometimes dirty udders, allergies, or other factors can also lead to tail itching. When in doubt, consult your vet!) My favorite product for a good tail scrub is Lucky Braids All-In-One Shampoo & Conditioner, which solves and protects against common horse skin conditions. My farm does not have an indoor wash rack, so having a 2-in-1 product also makes winter tail cleaning more manageable when doing a “bucket bath.” Mares often need their tails cleaned more frequently, especially if they are thick, because they tend to get urine on them, which can damage the hair. In the warmer weather, I like to wash the tail, including the tailbone, once a week. Sometimes just the bottom of the tail needs a little love in between, especially in the mud season.
Horse Tail Conditioner
I always towel dry the tail as much as possible; wet hair is more susceptible to damage than dry hair. When it is as dry as possible, I use a leave-in conditioner. My favorites are Stubben Care or Knotty Horse leave-in conditioner, which are must-haves for your horse grooming kit! I work the conditioner through, finger combing until dry. I then take a clean hair brush (Like theEpona Queens Tail Brush or my Tail Tamer), starting at the base, and brush through the tail.
Maintain Horse Tail Grooming
I do not brush the tail every day. Hear me out. Brushing can create damage, so I only brush when I am going to take the proper time involved. Always start at the bottom of the tail working up. If the tail is thick, then brush in sections. I only add sprays or conditioners after I have worked my horse. Giving the spray time to dry before introducing dirt or dust allows the product to work the best. I respray as needed, usually every 2-3 days, with Effol Superstar Shine. It creates a dirt barrier when dry that lasts for a few days. Using spray on a visibly dirty tail does not produce good results. If the tail is visibly soiled, it is time to wash it or leave it unbrushed until you can wash it.
Top Ways to Style a Horse’s Tail
As a dressage rider, I appreciate a perfectly banged tail. In dressage, we bang the tail around the fetlock. After the tail is cleaned, dried, and conditioned is the best time to give it a little cut. Cutting a dirty tail will dull your scissors and result in a less even cut. Shake at the top of the tail after a brush and a little fluffing. To get the tail laying naturally, I put my hand around the whole tail near the base of the tailbone. I then slide my hand down while holding the hair until I am an inch or so above my cut point. Holding the tail firmly, I take my scissors (Effol are the best!), flip the end to easily see what I am cutting, and trim straight across. I repeat brush, fluff, run my hand down and take another trim to even up what I have cut. I do this a few times until the hair is very straight where I cut. One key thing to remember is that you can always cut it shorter, but it takes time to grow out. Try to be moderate with taking off length unless you want a horse tail without hair!
Braiding Horses’ Tails
Many of these tail care steps can also be used on your horse's mane when weather permits or if you have a heated barn and wash rack. I do not like braiding the tail unless absolutely necessary. My mare Chanel has her tail braided in the winter because of the weight of her tail and the amount of urine that would end up on it if it wasn’t! If your horse requires a braided tail, remember that the braid should be reasonably loose up top and can get tighter as it goes down the tail. Lastly, just like your own hair, it is good to occasionally change the products you use for your horse's hair to prevent build-up!
I would love to hear about your routine and favorite products for achieving lovely locks!