We have all had tail envy, whether you're in the warm up ring at a show and a big, beautiful Warmblood floats past with an equally big, beautiful tail, or you're out hacking with friends and your horse appears to have the scrawniest tail of the bunch.
It is true, that some breeds of horse will have naturally fuller tails than others. When I compare my Stationbred's thick wavy tail to my Thoroughbred's thin wispy tail, I often wonder why the later breed is cursed with disappointing tails. However- with the right feed and management- any horse can grow a strong healthy tail.
Healthy tails are fed not grown. No quantity of shampoos, moisturizers and detanglers will yield the same result as a horse that has been fed good quality feed and supplements. Firstly your horse should be fed the right amount of food for the exercise and activities that they are performing. On top of their feeding regime, certain supplements can be fed to promote tail growth.
Biotin, which is in most hoof supplements help stimulate strong healthy tails, as well as hooves. Grand Meadows, Grand Hoof and Grand Hoof pellets both contain biotin which helps strengthen and grow the tail. Dura Hoof is another alternative off supplement containing Biotin.
Oils are also helpful for maintaining healthy tails; rice bran oil, linseed oil and flax seed oil, all help promote a shiny coat and tail. These oils can easily be added to your horses feed. Depending on the horse, 1/3 cup to a whole cup can be added. Oils are also beneficial are keeping your horse's weight so are highly recommended for the winter months.
Having a clean tail is vital, a dirty tail may make your horse itch which will lead to rubbing and thus tail loss. On the other hand, over washing a tail can result in an dry tail, prone to breakage. So what is the right balance? Well, like everything it depends on your horse and what you do with them. Personally I wash my tails once every 2-3 weeks, especially if they are white.
It is important to focus the majority of your time washing around the tail bone and dock as this can be the dirtiest section of your horse's tail. Spending time massaging a lather on the tail bone will also stimulate blood flow and then hair growth. MAKE SURE, you rinse all the suds off your horse's tail, shampoo residue can be itchy for your horse as well as drying for the tail. When looking for the right shampoo, consider how gentle they are and their properties; for example if you have a white tail you should look at a stain removing shampoo. Our most popular shampoos at Summit are; Glo White, Cowboy Magic Rosewater and Yellow Out Shampoos and Gallop Stain Removing Shampoo.
After you have washed your tail it is imperative that you follow up by conditioning. Conditioners do not have to be rinsed as thoroughly as shampoos and should be concentrated in the ends and the body of tail. A wide tooth comb can be used to spread the conditioner through the tail and it should be left for a few minutes to coat the hair shafts. Most conditioners will offer similar results but some of are favourites include; Cowboy Magic Conditioner and Champion Tails Conditioner.
The final step is applying a detangler, most of which can be applied to a wet or dry tail. I would advise using one straight after you wash your horse's tail to help prevent knots as well as on show days to help aid brushing. (I know people have differing opinions on whether to brush or comb a tail, so I wont get into it on this post). Again at Summit we have some of the best Detanglers on the market, my personal favourite is the CDM Canter Mane & Tail, which has recently undergone new branding and bottle, this is closely followed by The Cowboy Magic Detangler and the Equiscentials product.
Once you now have your beautiful clean tail, the way you keep it is up to you. Tail bags are perfect if you're after a spotless, clean tail. Braiding the tail also helps keep clean and manageable, while some people may want to leave it natural and free in the paddock.
My biggest piece of advice for those who have read this far, is under NO circumstances let your horse be in the same paddock as a tail eater.