When a horse's tail hangs with the bottom parallel to the ground, the hind end is framed and appears more engaged. If you were to just cut the tail straight across, when the horse lifts its tail to move, the back hairs pull up shorter than those close to the body. The bottom angle opens out behind the horse. So, it looks like he is dragging his hind end. The trick to banging tails is to simulate carriage before cutting.
First, organize all the hair to the root. Then, have someone put their arm under the dock or use a rolled towel to approximate tail carriage. Another option is to pull the tail forward, under the belly, and cut it straight across under the barrel. Be careful as many horses are ticklish at the flank.
To some extent, fashion follows utility. You often see European jumper tails banged to the hock. But, they don’t contend with flies. At the very least, I like tails to hang just above the ankle when the horse goes. That way, they won’t step on it to pull it out. Plus, you get a framing effect.
Shorter is better for dressage horses and long backs. Many grand prix horses go cut to the mid cannon (when the horse goes/tail is lifted). Mostly, tail length is a trainer preference. I understand the romance of long flowing tails.
Admittedly, countless people have not wanted tails cut, but when I did it, they gawked at how great the horses looked. Fun. Little things make all the difference.
Switch Tails look natural at the bottom. But, sometimes nature does well with some nurturing. I like to splay the tail and trim it so it looks thicker and does not get stepped on.
Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.
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