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.
- Comb the top and sides of the tail with a comb and damp it with a sponge.
- Apply either plaiting gel or egg white to the top and sides of the tail using your fingers.
- 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.
- The first stage is much like a French plait. Cross the left section of hair over the middle section.
- Now take the right section over the section that is now in the middle (the original left section).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.