Tall Tails – Lucky Braids

Tall Tails

Tall Tails

By Ruthann Smith
© 2010, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Equine Journal

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Everyone loves big tails, but conventional wisdom regarding achieving them is based on myth. Prevailing methods for preserving tails actually thin them and inhibit growth. Having devoted my life to mane and tail crafts, this article will share what I learned while professionally braiding the tails of 12,000+ horses as well as developing award-winning coat care products. Nothing trumps experience. Chemical degrees and big marketing budgets can not compare with being consumed with improving tails while having hands in horses' hair, usually 18 hours a day, for decades on end.


Horse Tail

Virtually any horse can have a gorgeous tail with the methods outlined in this article.

The information that follows may surprise you, especially if you have sincerely intended to do best by your horse. Read on and you'll realize why these are true:

1. Tail bags weaken hair.

2. The don't touch tails rule actually increases breakage.

3. Detanglers thin tails and lock in stains.

4. Picking only is not the most important element to proper care.

5. Whitening agents generally make tails dirtier.


Healthy hair makes for stunning tails. This requires bringing the natural protective and fortifying oils to the surface, exfoliating to release them and using the tails motion to draw them down strands.


3. Twist & Hold

To protect the length and roots, first twist the tail. Then hold the bottom. Gently comb below your grip, always from the bottom as you work your way up the tail. Organize hair to the root.

In certain circles tail bags are the norm. However, in Wellington, Florida, where top hunter, jumper, dressage and polo horses in the world winter, you'd be hard-pressed to find a tail bag. Yet, there are plenty of enormous tails. The idea of a tail bag is to protect the hair, but ironically, horses that wear them often have thin tails. So, what's going on? Did you ever notice frizzy or nappy hair can be very dry? How about that a mane thins out over a season when you often leave braids in overnight, even if the horses does not rub? These circumstances are all based around the same principle.

Horse Tail

To protect hair, twist and grip bottom. Move grip as section is organized, always starting from the bottom. The safest place to stand is on the side and close.

The horse's natural protective oils do not move over the turns to slide down and fortify the strands. So, they get brittle to break.

Likewise, the idea that not touching tails saves them is misleading. First, ringlets and dreadlocks mean the hair is locked together in turns and does not move freely. So, oils do not readily move through the hair to strengthen it. Hair breaks. Plus, when you do need to get the tail ready to show, it is such an ordeal that far more hair breaks.

Detanglers are silicone or oil-based. They suffocate hair or attract sun and dirt, which parch them, leading to weakened hair. They also seal in stains, leaving hocks and tails yellow.

Whitening shampoos might leave hair looking clean for a moment, but they strip oils, making hair dry and porous.


Thirsty, it attracts more dirt. Ever feel like a grey is always dirty? Most conditioners simply coat hair as well.

Horse Tail

To reduce the possibility of breakage, pinch small sections of hair at the base and slide down the length to comb tail with fingers.

Would you rather daily care be easy and quick? What if tails stayed organized and cleaner longer? It is not only possible, but very simple. Here's how:

1. Use an all-in-one shampoo that fortifies without stripping hair. It should have aloe vera to promote growth, medical-grade tea tree oil to kill irritants and a light conditioner that actually enriches hair. While tea tree is nature's best anti- septic and anti-fungal, it can vary greatly in quality. To eliminate rubbing, soothe bites, promote healing and growth, make sure to use only the highest grade. Otherwise, you may stop itching for a moment, but ultimately promote it by leaving skin more vulnerable.

2. Use a big comb on clean, wet tails. Wet hair stretches, so it is more forgiving.

3. To comb wet tails, first twist the length to protect it. Then, grip the bot- tom. Comb from the bottom up to your grip. Then move your hold up 6-8 inches. Always start combing from the bottom. If you hit a snag, work it from below. Organize a tail to the roots. When it dries, hair will want to separate instead of wrap around itself.

4. If you hit a snag, work it from below.

5. Organize a tail to the roots. When it dries, and work up it gently. Separate tangles from below. Never pull hard. Hold the brush very lightly, so if you hit a tangle you feel it and can work it gently.

Horse Tail

Gather organized hair in one hand.

6. If hair is sticking together because the tail is dirty and bathing is out, use an enzymatic spray made for horses. Properly pH balanced, it can break the bond between hair and dirt without coating or stripping hair. Wipe off impurities with a towel and comb wet.

7. Pick daily. The best option is to pick tails. That is pinch and pull small sections. Run your fingers down them to effectively comb the strands. Collect the organized sections in one hand.

8. Brushing can be fine IF you choose your implement carefully. Paddle brushes have too many bristles. I like cheap ones made for blow-drying hair. Bristles need to be far apart with knobs that are the same piece as the bristle. Otherwise, they break off, leaving sharp ends that break hair. Always twist and hold the bottom of the tail.


Bio Pic

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.

As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.

The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.

Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.

It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.

*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Whitener Spray Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.