If a horse’s tail gets caught between his hind legs he is not using his body properly. If the tail lays flat and listless these are clues that energy, messages and feedback from the brain to the body and back may not be traveling up and down his spine properly. If the tail is clamped down, the horse may be in fear or in pain, closing the hindquarters down. This is something to discuss with your veterinarian.
If your horse’s tail swishes constantly and more so during transitions, changes, or anytime you make a request, your aids may be too loud or he may be frustrated with the work. A little swishing when asked to do something demanding for a short time is different from constant swishing. We must observe and know our horse to figure out what is concentration and what is upset.
The tail reflects the health of our horse’s spine. As the spine undulates in a slightly serpentine pattern through our horses’ body, his tail should carry through this motion.
As our horse uses his back and body better and better, as his balance changes and improves, he will use his tail differently. We want to keep an eye on it and note improvements or set backs as they tell us how well the training is progressing or is stalling.
We look for a tail that is carried in a soft arch slightly away from the body with the mass of hair rhythmically moving from hock to hock in a pendulum motion.
Touching your horse’s tail, gently lifting it and rotating it, combing the hair with your fingers, taking segments and gently pulling them in a circular motion while observing your horse will give you feedback about how he feels in his back and body. This should be done easily with no resistance, the tail should have a good weight in your hands and feel alive, not dead.
PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Stand to the side at first and stay close to the croup. If your horse reflexively clamps down or threatens to kick, do not try to force the issue or become aggressive. Reassure your horse with a neutral touch and your voice. If the problem persist, contact your health care pro, do not insist as you and your horse may get hurt.
MORE INFORMATION: Thank you Debranne Patillo and Equinology – www.equinology.com – for sharing with us a detailed and fascinating article on crooked tails, hamstrings and massage strategies to address both. Equinology has a very informative Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/102065933291/