4-step, no-wash equine tail makeover 

When a bath isn't possible, follow these steps to get your horse's tail looking great.

Step 1. Douse the tail with a silicone-based grooming product, either spray or gel. This will coat the shafts of the hairs, making them slick and helping tangles, dirt and burrs to slide out easily. Make sure the product penetrates thoroughly into the innermost hairs and the entire length of the tail.

A person brushing the black tail of a brown horse
Even when you can’t bathe a horse, careful combing of a horse’s tail can keep it healthy and looking good.

Step 2. Use your hands to work out the biggest tangles. The easiest method is to hold the tail at the end of the bone and lift it to a near-horizontal position with one hand. Then, shake out a few hairs at a time and “comb” them with your other hand. Remove any burrs or dirt clods you encounter as you go. This process will be slow, especially with a thick tail, but it’s a good way to detangle without pulling out hairs.

Step 3. Go through the tail again with a wide-toothed comb. Work from the bottom of the tail upward, grasping firmly just above the section you are combing to avoid pulling out hair. Ease out any knots carefully by hand, adding another bit of silicone spray or gel if necessary.

Step 4. Part the hairs to examine the skin over the tailbone, looking for ticks, injuries or other signs of trouble. You can remove ticks and treat minor abrasions on your own, but call your veterinarian if you see anything unusual, such as lumps under the tail—which could be melanomas.

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