Ask A Pro: 10 Tail Grooming Tips with Julie Goodnight

Renowned trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight shares her top tips for helping your horse achieve a healthy, beautiful tail.

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There’s just something about a horse with a luxurious tail. Long, shiny tails are a sign of good health and horsekeeping, and they’re hypnotically pleasing to look at. But beautiful tails are about more than just equine aesthetics, they also help horses communicate and play a critical role in fending off flying pests.  

Julie Goodnight using ShowSheen

Even if your horse isn’t genetically blessed with Godiva-like locks, there are still plenty of things you can do to help your horse’s tail become longer, thicker, and shinier. Renowned trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight shares her top tips for helping your horse achieve a healthy, beautiful tail.  

1. Make sure your horse is on a good feed and de-worming program.

Tail health starts from within. Look at the base of your horse’s tail—those hairs are a good indicator of your horse’s health. Are those hairs frizzy and broken? It might be time to re-evaluate your nutrition and deworming program.”  

2. Use grooming products formulated to protect hair and minimize breakage.

“It’s just a fact that horses are going to use their tails in ways that damage them—they swat, they swish, they’re exposed to the elements, and they get caught on things. All those things lead to knotting and breakage. But all that can be helped by keeping the tail clean and using a protectant like ShowSheen® Hair Polish & Detangler. Not only does it make tails look great, it’s also clinically proven to reduce breakage by 40% and repels dust and debris. After cleaning and detangling your horse’s tail, simply spray a light mist over the entire tail and carefully brush through.” 

3. Detangle by hand.

“Over-brushing is probably the top reason for thin tails and hair breakage. For both manes and tails, I use my fingers to comb through knots before using a brush. Whenever possible, I’ll also rub some ShowSheen® Detangler Gel around in my hands before combing through the tail with my fingers. You’ll pull out fewer hairs with your fingers than you will a brush. I then like to follow up with the ShowSheen® Hair Polish & Detangler to really help that brush glide through the hair without causing breakage.” 

4. Resist the urge to cut out knots with scissors.

“Many people think the easiest way to deal with knots is to just cut them off. Don’t do it! Saturate the knot with a high-quality grooming spray like ShowSheen® Hair Polish & Detangler to assist with detangling, then patiently finger-comb through the knot. If you use scissors, it’s going to take years for those hairs to grow back.” 

5. Clean your horse’s tail before putting product in it.

You don’t want to put valuable product on top of dirty hair—you’re just sealing in the dirt! Clean the tail first. The ShowSheen® 2-In-1 Shampoo & Conditioner is great because it’s a one-step process that both deep cleans and conditions.” 

6. Braid your horse’s tail in the summer instead of using a tail bag.

“This is a personal preference, but I don’t believe in putting a horse’s tail up in any way that limit its functionality. I do braid my horses’ tails, but I don’t enclose them in any way. I make sure the braid is soft and loose, so the tail can still function the way it’s supposed to. If you braid the tail too tightly, the hair will break and you’ll end up with a thin, frizzy tail.”  

7. Too cold for a bath? Try a trash bag wash.

“It’s challenging to wash tails in the winter, so I often do a trash bag wash. I’ll get a bucket of warm water from the house along with a trash bag, put the tail in trash bag, get the tail wet, throw some shampoo in there, then massage it around.  I cut a hole in the bottom of the bag to let the dirty, soapy water drain. Next, I use a pitcher to pour clean water down the tail to rinse the tail clean. We do that once or twice during the winter. If it’s too cold for even a trash bag wash, I’ll use a waterless shampoo like ShowSheen® Miracle Groom Bath In A Bottle to remove dirt.” 

8. Pay attention to cleaning your horse’s dock.

An area where people seem to run into a lot of problems is at the base of the tail bone—the deep, dark interior of the tail. It’s very difficult to get that area clean without also raking out a lot of hair. Put ShowSheen® Detangler Gel on the bottom of the tailbone, massage it in really well to work out those dead skin flakes, then let it sit for a few minutes. Starting at the bottom of the tail, finger comb your way back toward the dock, moving upward only once the snarls at lower levels are detangled.”   

9. Protect your horse’s tail from tail biters.

“Oftentimes, tails get chewed by foals and cattle. Once that happens, it can take four or five years for the tail to grow back. Deter tail chewers by applying a mix of Vaseline and cayenne pepper to your horse’s tail.” 

10. Don’t braid too tight or too high.

“A tight, high tail braid is a good way to not only break hair but also make your horse uncomfortable. If you start the braid right at the tailbone, every time that tail swishes, the movement is going to be pulling at those hairs at the bottom of the tailbone. Instead, start the braid a hand-length below the tailbone. That allows the tail to move without pulling on the hair. Tightly braiding the hair can also cause lots of breakage (and if you’ve ever been swatted by a tightly braided tail, you also know they’re basically weapons!).  

By following these grooming tips—along with a little patience—you’ll help your horse grow the longest, lushest, healthiest tail possible!




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