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Plaited Tails, a Perfect Finishing Touch
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Plaited Tails, a Perfect Finishing Touch

A neatly plaited tail can look extremely smart and really puts the finishing touch to a horse's turn-out on show day. Plaited tails are allowed in most disciplines, but do check the rules if you are entering showing classes as some demand that the horse is exhibited with its tail left loose or neatly pulled.

The horse's tail must be quite thick and the hair either side of the dock must be long enough to braid.

A word of caution before you begin: plaiting a tail can only be done when standing directly behind the horse. Never, crouch or kneel down or stand behind a horse which has been known to kick. If possible, have an assistant hold the horse and bring the tail over the stable door. You can then plait it up in safety. If the door is too high to do this, a piece of plywood in the doorway works just as well.

Before you begin, brush the tail out so that it is free from knots and tangles. Don't use show shine at this stage or the tail will be too slippery to plait.

  1. Comb the top and sides of the tail with a comb and damp it with a sponge.
  2. Apply either plaiting gel or egg white to the top and sides of the tail using your fingers.
  3. Now you're ready to plait. Take a small section of hair from the left, middle and right sides at the very top of the tail.
  4. The first stage is much like a French plait.  Cross the left section of hair over the middle section.
  5. Now take the right section over the section that is now in the middle (the original left section).
  6. Next take some more hair from the left of the tail.  Add it to the section which is now on the left (originally the middle section). Cross it over the middle section as before.
  7. Carry on in this way until you are three quarters of the way down the dock. Keep each section as even as possible and maintain an even pressure as you plait but don't pull the hair too tight. Make sure you keep the plait in the centre of the tail.
  8. Now finish off by plaiting the remainder of the hair in your hand in the usual way without taking any more hair from the sides.
  9. When you reach the end of the plait, secure it with a rubber plaiting band the same colour as the tail hair. If you prefer, you can use plaiting thread instead of a band.
  10. Fold the long end of the plait up and loop it under the French plait.  Secure the resulting loop either with a plaiting band or by sewing it. If you want to you can stich the two sides of the loop together to form one plait.
  11. Remember to 'bang' the end of the tail neatly to finish off the look.

Place a tail bandage over the plait in preparation for travelling. Remember to unravel it though rather than pull it off when you remove it. You must never leave a tail plaited overnight. This will really irritate the horse and you will probably find he has rubbed your masterpiece into a fuzzy loo brush by the time you arrive in the morning!

Although this all sounds rather confusing if you've not tried anything like it before, you can achieve the desired result with practice and patience and the end result is well worth the effort.

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Leave a Comment

  1. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    Voted. LOL at Loo brush! So very true too, that picture in my mind is priceless. :D
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    1. autumnap
      autumnap
      Thank you! x
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  2. Chestnut Mare
    Chestnut Mare
    Voted. Beautiful! Do most horses not mind having this done? I would think there must be some who hate it! You might be interested in my latest blog, Small Is Beautiful, check it out and please vote if you like it. :-)
    Log in to reply.
    1. autumnap
      autumnap
      Thank you! All my horses actually really enjoyed having it done. You can give a very soothing tail/dock massage at the same time which always seems to go down well. x
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  3. PonyGirl
    PonyGirl
    I enjoyed your post as always. I was taught to braid the tail all the way to the bottom of the dock. It's weird, since my teacher was also from the UK. Do you know if the difference is just a matter of taste, or do different disciplines prefer doing it different ways? Or perhaps the style has changed since I learned to braid (41 years ago- ouch!)
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    1. jst4horses
      Here in California each show and each kind of horse has its own trend. The year might even have a trend, so it is good advice in the article to check out the regulations. We for the most part do exhibition work at our events, so anyone can do their own thing. I personally like flowing manes and tails, But, I have horses that really seem to get more showy themselves when they are braided up. Like a lady dressed in a tiara and diamond earrings just feels a difference than in her pony tail and tee shirt!
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    2. autumnap
      autumnap
      Thank you. I think it's just a matter of taste and also depends on how thick your horse's tail is as to how far down the dock you can actually go without the whole thing starting to look like a lumpy sausage! x
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  4. jst4horses
    Thank you for a great article.AND the reminder to not stand directly behind horses that kick. Our horses are trained to get their tail plaits while standing rear to the stall door. Most of ours are old and saavy enough to just stand there and plait, but otherwise, thank you for the reminder to not stand, crouch, or kneel behind horses that are known to kick. Or any horses.I can never say this enough, BE safe. Once you forget a horse is a horse, you are going to get hurt. One good fly bite on a leg can turn a usually gentle horse into a kicker if your face or knees are right there. I use fly spray on the legs before working with the tail for just that reason. Most horses I have trained as babies are plait saavy in just a few days. Of course, they are plaited every day during a ten day intensive for barn and show safety with bandaging, wraps, boots, and plaits, and of course noise and crowds. I overheard a woman say one day that while she knew most people say don't brush a tail from behind, she does, because when she detects movement she can jump back. She can jump back right into the direct hit from a hoof that is then at a distance to really hurt her! Please, please, please, stand to the side, or take the hints above to be safe when plaiting from behind makes it necessary to stand directly behind. PRACTICE so you can do it fast, and your horse is used to it as another safety precaution.
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    1. PonyGirl
      PonyGirl
      You're so right about standing behind a kicking horse. In fact if you find yourself in a position behind the horse, and he's going to kick, you should move FORWARD toward his butt, so his kick won't have as much impact. Their reach behind is incredible. I have a scar on my arm from my horse who had a ruptured intestine. I was there when he first got sick, and I thought at the time that he just had simple colic. We were walking him, trying to keep him from rolling. I was a good 7 feet behind him and off to one side when he kicked out. He caught just the side of my bicep. I was so far back that it didn't even push my arm back, but the resulting laceration was severe enough to bleed for 2 days, and I still have a scar 10 years later. No one's reflexes are faster than a horse's and even if they were, there's no way the person could jump back far enough to be out of range.
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    2. autumnap
      autumnap
      All very good advice worth noting. It's so easy to become complacent and end up getting trodden on or kicked.x
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  5. jst4horses
    Thank you for a great article. AND the reminder to not stand directly behind horses that kick. Our horses are trained to get their tail plaits while standing rear to the stall door. Most of ours are old and saavy enough to just stand there and plait, but otherwise, thank you for the reminder to not stand, courch, or kneel behind horses that are known to kick. Or any horses. I can never say this enough, BE safe. Once you forget a horse is a horse, you are going to get hurt. One good fly bite on a leg can turn a usually gentle horse into a kicker if your face or knees are right there. I use fly spray on the legs before working with the tail for just that reason. Most horses I have trained as babies are plait saavy in just a few days. Of course, they are plaited every day during a ten day intensive for barn and show safety with bandaging, wraps, boots, and plaits, and of course noise and crowds. I overheard a woman say one day that while she knew most people say don't brush a tail from behind, she does, because when she detects movement she can jump back. She can jump back right into the direct hit from a hoof that is then at a distance to really hurt her! Please, please, please, stand to the side, or take the hints above to be safe when plaiting from behind makes it necessary to stand directly behind. PRACTICE so you can do it fast, and your horse is used to it as another safety precaution.
    Log in to reply.
  6. Admin
    Admin
    Thanks Autumnap! Informative and inspiring-- just what we're always looking for in a post!
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