Tips and Tricks of the Trade is a new article series being provided through a partnership between Athletux and the USEA. This month's article comes from Mia Bouslaugh, head groom for four-star rider Jen McFall of Dragonfire Farm.
Competitions are often won on mere fractions of a point. Sometimes it is the little things that can put you on the top of your class, and can easily be managed if you invest a small amount of time. We all know the feeling of being blown away when a magnificent horse enters the ring, and having a professional looking tail is part of that picture. A well turned out tail is not only a way to accentuate your horse’s hind end, it will also have the judges giving you that all important extra mark that can make the difference in the outcome of your weekend.
Every horse’s hind end and tail are different, but there are a few ways to get that clean cut look for the show ring. One of the easiest options is to simply clip it. When I clip a tail, I normally clip from the base of the dock to below the point of buttock, but this can vary depending on how the horse’s hindquarter is developed and the horse’s natural tail placement. Having a clipped tail is one of the easiest ways to get a sharp clean look.
A Clipped Tail. Photos Courtesy of DragonFire Farm.
For some horses who have a higher tail carriage, like Jennifer McFall’s High Times, the line of the clip is harsh and less pleasing to the eye, so in preparation for a show we pull his tail. Pulling the tail can often create a more natural look, but is also going to be more time consuming.
Regardless of clipping or pulling, for all horses I also “bang,” or trim the end of the tail. To do this, I have someone hold the top of the tail up similarly to how the horse holds it when in work. This helps simulate what the tail will look like during actual competition. Once I have someone hold the tail up, I cut it 3-4 inches below the hock. Banging the tail is a sportier look and makes the tail look thicker in a very appealing bell shape. Also, having a cut tail keeps it from getting caught on anything during work and turnout.
The final, and most possibly the most important part of having a four-star tail is a good arsenal of tail wraps. A simple Ace bandage with a small knot tied in the end does the job quite well, but I prefer the tail wraps that come with strings at the end to keep it secure. On the way to a show, I wrap the tops of all the tails to start the process of laying the hair down. By competition time, you want the hairs laid down and neat, to further accentuate your horse’s hind end. Then, an hour before a ride, I wrap the clean tail with a wet wrap. I tail wrap for every phase whether it be jogs, dressage, cross-country or anything in between. Having a well turned out tail is also very important for clinics and lessons, as it is a great way to take pride in all of your hard work!