Gorgeous Horse Tails — Good Care or Good Health?

This past year I’ve been to a variety of horse shows, including breed shows, open shows, hunter/jumper shows, reinings, and cuttings. Breed shows are a huge novelty to me, especially the Appaloosa breed shows I mostly attended. As you may know, many Appaloosa’s have very short or skimpy tails simply because of their genetics. To remedy this problem for halter and pleasure-type classes, most owners resorted to putting fake tails on their horses, which resulted in long swishy tails that almost drag the ground. I did notice, however, that some Appaloosa horses had naturally long and pretty tails and this got me wondering about the reasons.

Then I started looking at the Quarter Horses at the cuttings and reinings, as well as the variety of horses at the open shows and hunter/jumper events. Some horses had great tails and others had skimpy tails. Many riders kept their horses’ tails wrapped in tail bags and it was clear they had a detailed grooming regimen. So then I got to wondering, do horses have great tails because their tails get great care or because they have good health?

Well, obviously, the first thing that we have to look at is genetics. Genetics seem to play a big part of determining how long and full a horse’s tail will naturally be. But I have seen horses that were born with so-so tails (and so-so manes) that can grow some really nice hair given the right treatment. My jumper gelding is a great example. When he was being shown all the time, I took extra special care of his mane and tail, both of which were on the skimpy side. Given proper care, his tail grew to within a few inches of the ground and got thicker. I’ve seen the same thing happen with those Appaloosa show horses. Many of them can grow long manes and tails given a lot of attention and care. So care and attention can often overcome breeding and genetics.

But what about the third factor that affects a horse’s tail? Good health. In the last few years I have owned over a dozen horses, most of which have come and gone. Most of the horses came with so-so tails and left with gorgeous tails. Most of them that have gone now have so-so tails again. Was I so careful with my tail grooming regimen that every horse managed to grow a great tail? Not hardly. In the summer I do wash their tails once a week and apply MTG once a week. In the winter, nothing. But I do feed some great nutrition. I give my horses XanGo’s mangosteen juice mixed with acidophilus, bifidus, enzymes, and blue-green algae. I don’t feed a lot of it either. I throw a handful of capsules into a quart jar of mangosteen juice and feed about 35 cc’s per horse per day. Within 6 months almost every horse on the place will grow at least 4 inches of tail, often times more. And then when they leave my place, guess what? The tail stops growing.

I got real curious about this so I did some research with some acupuncturists and other Doctors of Chinese Medicine. It turns out that in Chinese Medicine “head hair” is ruled by the kidneys. So if your head hair is thin, grey, or otherwise unhealthy, it could point to something going on in the kidneys. In animals, “head hair” translates into manes and tails. In older dogs that have kidney problems you will often find skimpy tails where previously they had full bushy tails. In horses, a skimpy tail often means that the kidneys are not working at full strength. If you feed your horses enough antioxidants and concentrated nutrition, though, it seems to help the kidneys and other internal organs function more efficiently and then you get better-looking tails. So gorgeous horse tails could be because of genetics and good care, but in my experience you can help your horse grow a good tail with good nutrition, which leads to good health. In other words, your horse’s tail can become a tell-tale of his inner health!

(contributing author)

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