What Horse Owners Must Know To Maintain Tip-Top Tail Trims

With show season well underway, it is the time of year when the competitors among us want to keep our equine friends in their very best show condition. Together, with a well-maintained coat and hooves, a well-cared for mane and tail demonstrate that your horse has a bill of good health. Trimming your horse’s tail not only enhances his appearance but, without excess length or unkempt ends, there is less likelihood of the hair becoming matted with mud, droppings and bedding.

Washing the horse's tail
Cleaning the horse's tail

We have pooled together some tips on keeping your horse’s tail in show condition. A tail kept at the right length and in a strong, clean condition will complement the conformation of the horse and help get you in the ribbons at your next show!

  • Trimming the tail at the ends will improve the overall appearance of the tail and make the hair look thicker and fuller.
  • Regular trimming can encourage new growth. This is particularly important where other horses have chewed your horse’s tail, leaving damage, or staining has occurred during winter months from mud, droppings or urine that is difficult to remove and requires growing out.
  • Prior to trimming, always wash the tail thoroughly – any residual dirt and clumps of mud can matt the tail, causing differences in the length and difficultly in combing through. Clean, washed horse hair will cut far more easily and leave an appealing finish.
    • Invest in the right tools – a good brush and well-sharpened scissors will ensure a thorough job is carried out and prevent any damage to the hairs.
    • Choose the right location for the trim. If you end up having to move because someone else needs access to that area, you may find the tail becoming unsettled during transit, making it difficult for you to resume cutting in the correct place.
    • If you have a grey or light-colored horse try using a whitening shampoo or dishwashing liquid to remove stains from the tail. The tail is prone to staining from urine, droppings and grass and these can be hard to remove - you may need to apply shampoo a couple of times but with a good soap you should be able to remove the worst of the staining. See our recent discussion on bathing your horse for more information about bathing generally and selecting the right products.
    • The horse’s tail should sit about 10cm (4 inches) below the point of the hock. It is important to note how your horse carries his tail, you may need to make some slight adaptations for horses that carry the tail high to compensate for how the tail appears when the horse is moving.
    • When tail trimming ask a friend or helper to put their arm under the dock of the tail to give you an idea of how the tail will look when the horse carries the tail when moving. This can prove useful when identifying where to trim.
    • Use a single, straight scissor action. Multiple attempts can damage and fray the hair, leaving an uneven cut.
    • Ask a helper to check whether the cut is straight. If needed, use a block or ruler to hold the tail level against as a point of reference. This will help you to be certain that the cut is square and straight.
    • Remember to tidy any loose strands which may have been missed. Brush out the horse’s tail after trimming and step back - you will soon notice any uneven or missed areas!
    • While you have your trimming scissors out, ensure the rest of your horse’s hair is tidy. Many horses have hair over the withers which can be trimmed back to smarten appearance and enhance the look of the neck and withers (be careful not to take too much off though as this can shorten the look of the neck).
    • You may also wish to consider trimming a bridle path in your horse’s mane behind the ears – this is a small section of hair trimmed off where the bridle headpiece sits to prevent rubbing, tangling and improve the fit of the bridle. If you trim a bridle path ensure this is kept neat and trimmed and does not lead to further friction.
    • Consider using a conditioner or show shine spray after trimming – the last thing you want is for your horse to get bedding or droppings immediately caught up in his clean, trimmed tail, and using a finishing product will not only make the tail gleam but its glossy finish prevents items from sticking to the hairs.

With great grooming and lots of care and attention, your horse can remain in amazing show condition with a healthy and immaculate tai,l all year long. Caring for the tail is just one part of the overall grooming regimen, and you should take a look at our post on grooming tools and techniques for ideas on keeping your horse in the best condition.

We hope to see you here at Spalding again soon!

*Image courtesy of Dollar Photo Club