20 Tips for Healthy Tails

Is your horse’s tail short, thin, dry, rubbed out or frizzy?
If so, these techniques will help your horse grow a healthy tail and will help you keep it long, thick and looking great.

As funny as it might sound, I will never forget the defining moment that forever changed the way I care for my horse’s tail. The incident happened years ago, when I boarded at a public stable. I had my horse tied outside his stall and I was just about to brush his tail when the resident dressage trainer walked by. She stopped abruptly, gasped, grabbed the hairbrush out of my hand and shook it in my face.

“Never, ever, use one of these on your horse’s tail!” she exclaimed.” Then she threw the brush in a nearby trash can and marched off.

I was so shocked that I just stood there with my jaw gaping, my horse’s tail still in one hand and other frozen in place, palm open and now devoid of the hairbrush. After a moment, I regained my composure and looked toward the garbage can, contemplating whether or not to retrieve the brush. As if she could read my mind, the trainer, now far down the barn aisle, looked back over her shoulder and shook her finger at me.

I did retrieve the brush from the trash can, but I didn’t use it. I was too afraid the trainer would catch me. Instead, I sought her out while she was grooming her own horse. I looked at her horse’s tail. It was gorgeous. It was long and thick, right down to its neatly banged end. I peeked into her grooming box and didn’t see any tool that resembled a hairbrush.

Once again, she read my mind. “If you use a hairbrush on your horse’s tail, you will only pull the hair out faster than it can grow back,” she said. “I never brush my horse’s tail,” she declared. “I pick out the shavings and I use my fingers to detangle any knots. If you would stop brushing your horse’s tail, it wouldn’t be to thin.”

My horse’s tail was thin. I never used a hairbrush on it again.


Grooming your horse serves many purposes. It is an ideal time to get to know your horse and to bond with him. Horses, in general, enjoy being brushed. Thorough grooming promotes good health and a shiny coat by removing dirt and dander that can cause dry, itchy skin. If you take the time to groom your horse thoroughly every day, you will notice any small cuts, abrasions or irregularities that you otherwise might not find. A grooming session is also a good time to teach a young horse good ground manners, such as standing quietly and picking up his feet when asked.

Most horse owners want to do everything possible to promote a long, healthy, thick tail. Like your horse’s coat, his tail requires some elbow grease, but of a different kind. Here are some tips to help your horse grow a healthy tail and to help you keep it long and thick.

1.  Healthy hair comes from the inside out. No amount of potions and conditioners will improve your horse’s coat, mane and tail if he is not receiving proper nutrition. Healthy hair comes from protein, amino acids and vitamins in quality forage and feed.

2. Use grooming tools designed for manes and tails. Human hair brushes will break the hair and pull it out. Use only wide-toothed combs and dandy brushes on the tail.

3. Don’t brush your horse’s tail every day. In fact, don’t brush it at all. Although it looks nice when it is brushed out, if you brush it every day, it will gradually get thinner and thinner. It takes years to re-grow each long strand of hair that is pulled out.

4. To stimulate growth, brush the dock of your horse’s tail daily with a dandy brush. This will loosen and remove dirt and dander, which can make your horse itchy. Brushing the dock and upper part of the tail bone also increases blood flow, which stimulates growth.

5. If your horse is rubbing his tail, determine why. Horses rub their tails for several reasons. Parasites will cause itching, so make sure your horse is on a regular de-worming program. Insects will also cause itching and some horses are more prone to skin reactions caused by insects. Protect your horse from insects by using insect repellants. Horses will also rub their tails in response to irritations around the sheath and anus area. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect this might be the problem.

6.  If your horse has developed sores or “hot spots” on the dock of his tail from rubbing, treat them promptly. An effective way to do this is to pre-soak the sores with COWBOY MAGIC® Greenspot® Remover, a waterless skin cleansing wash that’s a shower in a bottle. Spray the irritated area, let it soak for five minutes, and then gently scrub and rinse. Repeat these steps, if needed. If the wound has scabbed over, Greenspot® Remover can also be used to soften and remove a scab in order to treat the underlying tissue. Once the wound or irritation is thoroughly cleaned, it can then be treated with a topical ointment to promote healing. Any sores or hot spots should be cleansed and treated daily until completely healed.

7.  The best way to keep your horse from rubbing his tail is to keep it clean and moisturized. If your horse’s tail is dirty or his skin is dry, he will rub his tail to relieve the itching that is caused by both. Use COWBOY MAGIC® Rosewater Shampoo to thoroughly clean your horse’s tail and restore moisture to the hair and skin at the same time. After shampooing and rinsing, apply a small amount of COWBOY MAGIC® Rosewater Conditioner to the dock of the tail and massage it into the hair and skin. To condition the long strands of hair, rub a small amount of conditioner on your hands and then work it into the hair using long strokes with your hands. Leave it on for several minutes and then rinse. Rosewater Conditioner will remove the buildup of residue caused by minerals and chemicals in your water. The conditioners penetrate below the surface to moisturize the hair and skin.

8. Give your horse’s tail a bubble bath. A handy trick for washing your horse’s tail is to put a small amount of shampoo into a small bucket and then add water to make it sudsy. Hold the bucket in one hand and dunk your horse’s tail in it with the other. Swish it around thoroughly, then rinse.

9. Get lasting results with COWBOY MAGIC® Detangler & Shine™. Once you have washed and conditioned your horse’s tail, apply a small amount of COWBOY MAGIC® Detangler & Shine™ to the hair, working it in from the top of the tail to the bottom Detangler & Shine™ will help loosen any tangles and prevent new ones from forming. If you want to comb out your horse’s tail, use a large-toothed comb, start at the bottom and comb out small sections at a time while you work your way up the tail. Hold the hair firmly in your other hand while you comb so that if you hit a tangle you won’t pull the hair out.

10. Protect your horse’s tail while it dries with a slip knot. If you want to keep your horse’s tail up off the ground while it dries, put it in a loose slip knot. This way, he won’t be able to step on it and the hair will still dry quickly.

11. Never wrap the top of your horse’s tail. It is nearly impossible to keep a wrap on a horse’s tailbone unless it is so tight that you run the risk of cutting off the circulation. Furthermore, if the wrap irritates your horse, it may actually encourage him to rub his tail.

12. If your horse’s tail touches the ground, you can “put it up” to keep him from stepping on it. Three popular methods for protecting a long, show tail are wrapping, bagging and ragging. Wrapping involves braiding the longest section of the tail, looping it up several times and then wrapping it with a self-sticking bandage. The wrap is hidden inside the center of the tail and the horse is still able to swish flies. Bagging is similar to wrapping, but instead of wrapping the tail, the braid is put down inside a special bag made just for tails, or you can use a large sock. Ragging entails braiding three strips of sheet and braiding the entire tail by wrapping each section in a strip of sheet. The ends are then tied up and the excess sheet gives the horse something to swish.

13. If you have your horse’s tail wrapped, bagged or ragged, be cautious about turning him out in a paddock or pasture where he might get his tail snagged on a fence or tree. As horses swish their tails at flies they often snag hairs on fence posts and lose a few strands in the process. If your horse catches a wrap or piece of ragging on a fence post and panics, the resulting damage could be severe.

14.  Even if your horse’s tail is wrapped, bagged or ragged, you still need to care for it regularly. When you remove the braid, straighten the hair using your fingers, rather than a brush or comb. The hair will be kinked from the braid, and combing it will only make it frizzy. The best way to remove the kinks is to wash and moisturize the hair. Hair left bagged, wrapped or ragged for long periods of time is prone to breaking at the point where the bag, rags or wrap is attached.

15.  An alternative to bagging or wrapping a horse’s tail is to knot it. Knotting involves putting several figure-eight knots in long sections of hair below the end of the tailbone. The knots stay in place, resist tangling and keep the longest part of your horse’s tail up off the ground.

16.  If you are showing and want use gel or hairspray to smooth down the short hairs at the top of the tail, wash the tail thoroughly when you are finished. These products are drying and may cause your horse to rub his tail to relieve the itching.

17. To tidy up the appearance of the top of your horse’s tail for the show ring, trim the sides rather than plucking the hairs.

18. Bang your horse’s tail to give it a neater, thicker appearance. “Banging” is the traditional term used to refer to trimming the bottom of your horse’s tail. Banging gives the tail a thick, boxy appearance. For best results, trim it when the hair is wet and combed out. Cut only the longest hairs straight across the bottom.

19. As a safety precaution, stand beside your horse when you groom his tail, not directly behind him. Even if your horse has never kicked at you in his life, you never know when something might startle him. Also, if you are at a public stable, keep in mind that other, less experienced equestrians might be watching you, and so you want to set a good example by demonstrating proper horse-handling skills at all times.

20. Take your time. This is your opportunity to spend quality time with your horse. With your busy life, you many not have time to hand pick shavings out of your horse’s tail one chip at a time, but you should still make every moment with your horse a quality one.



  1. Beatrice says:

    I think this is great advice.. But! My mate has a stallion that is untouched and just sits in the yard, never had a human touch it, it’s just used for breeding, his tail is thin. He doesn’t rub it out, or anything, it’s long, but definitely not thick. It’s very thin. One of the thinnest tails i have ever seen, I brush my Standardbreds tail daily and hers is so thick I have people asking me if it is fake, I can’t even fit my whole hand around her tail because its so thick. Every horse is different. Like an Appaloosas tail is disgusting, there all thin and yuk! Ive never seen one with a decent tail. Some horses just have naturally thick tails.

    • Faith says:

      I have to disagree with your statement about the Appaloosas, my mom’s horse has a thick and gorgeous tail, and she’s a full Appy.

      • Faith says:

        Hey, my name is faith too! And, I have an appaloosa! What a small world! Anyways, my appaloosa sits in the field all the time, and her tail isn’t taken care of, and it is very thin. You’re right, it does vary from horse to horse, but I have noticed that Appaloosas tails are more thin than others.

        • Elizabeth says:

          My Appaloosa mare’s tale is rather thin, but then I read somewhere that the rat-tail was bred out of them. Her tail is easier to comb out than my Quarter Horse gelding. His is a knotted mess! In used babyoil on it, and after much work, got it to a manageable level.r I am wanting to try coconut oil, it is rather expensive, so I used the baby oil to get the majority of the tangle out. He is now able to use his tail better, and I think he appreciates that. His taiil is rather long, so want to trim it up a bit. My mares tail is just the right length, so don’t really need to do anything to hers.

    • Heather says:

      My Appaloosa has a very thick, long tail.. Full Appaloosa, and in old age.

    • Grace says:

      I have an Appaloosa that is full appy; 13 years old and his tail is beautiful. Very thick, a lot thicker than my QH. It varies from horse to horse not breed.

  2. Emma says:

    I have heard not the brush your horse’s tail time and time again. I brush my horse’s tail 2 or 3 times a week with a bently mane and tail brush, always use a detangler (I’m a huge lover of Carr Day and Martin’s Canter Mane and Tail) and he has a fabulous thick tail that I have to trim every couple of months to keep it off the ground. I agree with Beatrice that every horse’s tail is just different. Obviously a good diet and health is most important but I’m unlikely to ever stop brushing my horse’s tail.

  3. Erin Sloan says:

    I have a bay thoroughbred and his tail is an unwieldy beast. I try to brush it out about once a week if I have time. I would truly love to have his tail be long although its vert thick. Im not the hugest fan of perfectly trimmed tails although I could get used to it. I use a wide metal comb I got a Murdoch’s and cowboy magic it really works magic. Ant tips for a really long mane??

    • Cowboy Magic Team says:

      Thanks for the compliment Erin, sounds like you are on the right path. For the most part, the same tips that apply to the tail work for the mane. We like to think in terms of prevention…Prevent the hair from getting knotted, tangled and filled with dirt. Our Detangler & Shine™ helps not only to detangle & moisturize but also to repel dirt and dust. If you need to do any detangling, use your fingers to work out the knots and tangles before using a comb, this will prevent breakage.

  4. Emily says:

    My QH mares tail is a nightmare! I’ve tried finger combing it and it took me 45 minutes. Things are constantly getting stuck it in too, so I brush it out once a week or sometimes once every other week.

  5. Tanya says:

    I have a Clyde stallion, 3 years old and he was bought at an auction, they chopped off his tail because it was full of burrs before sending him into the ring. It has not been docked…I was just wondering what I can do to help it grow faster. I’ve seen pics of him before the auction and it was long…

  6. Maddy says:

    Hiya, I have a thoroughbred gelding with a horrible thin tail, and I’ve been working with it for a while, and its much better, putting vinegar on your horses coat/mane/tail will increase its strength, shine and growth and also deter bugs and flies, also washing their tails and leaving conditioner in the tail, plait it with the conditioner in to keep it clean and relatively detangled.

  7. […] Healthy tail hairs are elastic and shiny, thanks to the lubricating sebum excreted from oil glands at the base of the hair follicles. It’s perfectly normal to find dead hairs among the healthy ones–they’re victims of the normal growth-death-replacement cycle as the body constantly replenishes itself. But beware of dull, brittle tail hairs and hair falling out by the handful–these could signal the onset of disease or a dietary deficiency and require prompt attention. […]

  8. Sandy Harris says:

    So interesting article! My father loves horses and he even has one. He takes care of that horse as if it is member of the family. I will send him this article for sure! Regards! Eltham Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  9. Adriana says:

    So as I was reading i read something such as cutting the tail while it’s wet which means pulling a wide tooth comb through it, definetly be very careful when combing the tail or mane while wet, hair tends to be very fragile when it’s wet, it tends to stretch 40-50 percent of its length and is very stretchy like a rubber band. Same goes for human hair! So I honestly prefer to wait till it’s completely dry then use your comb with leave in conditioner/ sheen to help it comb out better and then cut so you don’t wind up cutting off to much cuz the hair shrinks back up a little after drying! I like to spray the leave in after you towel dry the mane/tail .And of course if you pull it to tight while cutting it could result to a faulty length because of it shrinking back up! And it is very important to use conditioner after shampooing your horse because any shampoo will take some moisture out so replacing it with conditioner and with leave in conditioner will help with that dryness and will help the hair gain better elasticity which will help the hair not break so easily! Oil and cream are not the same iether! Oil is more for frizziness and shine as to where cream is for moisture which of course if you have good moisture then you will already reduce frizz! This goes for your own hair as well! And use good professional products! A lot of the over the counter products are watered down and tend to grow bacteria in them, have alcohol mixed in them, which lack the hydration that hair and scalp need, and some non pro products will also leave a waxy build up on your hair and scalp/ mane, tail, or hide and will cause your hair to statick! Scalp/ hide itch and cause flakage making it look like dandruff when it’s not. Dandruff is not white in color and falls to your shoulders. Dandruff is yellowish In color and is sticky with a smell. So don’t buy head and shoulders if you have dry scalp please, it will make it worse. Tea tree in Paul Mitchell products is going to help the humans out and cowboy magic rose water line has good moisture for horses. And people please don’t use horse shampoo on your selves! Reason being is ph balance is different for horses as to humans! . So you get what you pay for! Be fair to your self and your horse!

  10. Pat Boegle says:

    It is true that what goes in will surely show on the outside, I feed TNT (Total Nutrition) from Dynamite* plus top grade grass/alfalfa hay,small amount of chemical and molasses free grain, fresh water at all times, my horses tail rapidly became beautiful, long thick and silky, I do use fingers to detangle, starting at the top of the tail and working down.
    I also use human shampoo and conditioner, or Cowboy Magic, never Mane and Tail !
    Being a Dynamite* distributor I am prone to trying our products before moving on to another, so far they have NEVER failed me, more info available.

  11. Gracie says:

    I’m young and don’t have much experience with horses, and i just began riding at a local barn. I inherited a thoroughbred/Tennessee walker who was abused and starved. Her tail is so long and thick, but it has so many knots! today, i went and bought some cowboy magic and trimmed my horses tail. i had never really messed with it before, so i would need a whole bottle to make any difference. She also has a huge spot where manure has just built up and i don’t know what to do. Any advice?

    • Pamela says:

      Be cautious, but if your horse will tolerate it try putting the shampoo in a bucket with water and see if he/she will let you soak it. While it’s soaking use your other hand to massage the area that is full of dirt/manure. It may be tiring to hold the bucket and do this so see if someone will help.

  12. Janet says:

    Can I used the cowboy magic for my hair because my his not gorwing

  13. Grace says:

    I use cowboy magic detangler and shine. It is a dream come true. Works better than any other thing I’ve used. Good job, cowboy magic!

  14. Racing Mom says:

    We have several horses that are turned out to pasture when the day is done, depending on the start of the day the tail is tangled or not. An old trick use from my grandfather is to use a light spray of WD-40. It does not leave a greasy feel and keeps the tail form the terrible tangles. Give it a try.

  15. This is all really, really great advice for horse tails. My most favorite tip is health comes from the inside out. Great feeding, caring and loving always helps, but just like humans some of us are just born with better hair!

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