Packing For Your Child’s Riding Camp

kids riding camp Forrestel Riding CampYou’ve decided on the perfect summer riding camp for your child, and the camp has sent you a list of suggested items to pack. Great! But, before you start squeezing items into duffle bags, go over the list yourself to see what you have, need and should take.  While some camps are wonderfully thorough in the packing lists they provide, others might miss some essential supplies that your young rider will really need to have.

Riding Equipment

Regardless of what is on the camp’s list, you should send your child with a helmet, boots, riding clothes, and riding gloves. It’s generally best to send along a lightweight, well-ventilated helmet for your child to use during the hot summer months. If your child wears tall boots, be sure to send along a pair of paddock boots for use when doing barn chores.

If your child will be participating in horse shows during the camp, find out what types of outfits are required ahead of time. Some camps take a more casual approach, allowing riders to show in breeches, tall boots, and polo shirts. Other camps may participate in more competitive shows and require the traditional show outfit. Be sure that your child has the necessary helmet that he or she will need. You’ll also want to send your daughter with any hair accessories that she needs for shows.

Sunscreen

Always send your child to camp with sunscreen. Look for a sunscreen with a high SPF rating – your child will be spending many hours in the saddle and might not have frequent chances to reapply. You might want to send your child with sunscreen in stick form – it’s easier to apply and less messy when your child is at the barn.

Rain Gear

Include a rain jacket (breathable and waterproof is best) for those inevitable rainy or windy days.

Bug Spray

Bug spray is another necessity that your camper will need. Bugs are all too common at camps and barns; your child will be grateful for the spray.

Water Bottle

Pack a good-sized water bottle for your child to bring along to the barn to have on hand during lessons. An insulated bottle is best, keeping the water cool even in the heat. Make sure that the top is designed so your child can open it with his or her teeth while wearing gloves.

The Horse

If your child will be bringing his or her own horse with them to camp, your packing list will more than double in length. When packing for the horse, you will want to send along all of the horse’s feed, supplies, and equipment.

Horse Treats

Regardless of whether your child brings their own horse to camp or not, send along a package of horse treats. Your child will appreciate being able to reward the horses at camp.

Paperwork

Be sure you have signed all the appropriate paperwork for insurance and medical information.  Including a riders medical armband or bracelet affords extra important information in case of an accident.

Your child will definitely need these essentials when attending a summer horse camp – be sure to add them to your packing list.

Photo credit: Forrestel Riding Camp
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Inside Your Horse’s Mouth

dentistvisitWhen someone says, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” they are talking about the custom of telling a horse’s age by looking at his teeth.  It is possible to estimate the age of a young horse by observing the pattern of teeth in the mouth, based on which teeth have erupted.  A horse’s incisors, premolars, and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down through chewing. A young adult horse’s teeth are typically 4.5–5 inches long, but the majority of the crown remaining below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth slowly emerges from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.  Differences between breeds and individual horses, however, can make precise dating impossible. 

Horses are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape (there are up to five shapes of tooth in a horse’s mouth), and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent sets.  By the time a horse is fully developed, usually at around five years of age, it will have between 36 and 44 teeth – mares have 40 permanent teeth and males have 42 permanent teeth.  The difference is that males have 2 canine teeth that the female does not have.

All horses have twelve incisors at the front of the mouth, used primarily for cutting food, most often grass, while grazing. They are also used as part of a horse’s attack or defense against predators, or as part of establishing social hierarchy within the herd.  Behind the front incisors is the interdental space, where no teeth grow from the gums. This is where the bit is placed when horses are ridden.  Behind the interdental space, all horses also have twelve premolars and twelve molars, also known as cheek teeth or jaw teeth. These teeth chew food bitten off by incisors, prior to swallowing.

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower one. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases can cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

In the wild, a horse’s food supply allowed their teeth to wear evenly.  But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced.  Equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician, or in some cases is performed by lay persons, including owners or trainers.  Regular checks by a professional are normally recommended every six months or at least annually. 

Many horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this, too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. 

Problems with dentition for horses in work can result in poor performance or behavioral issues.  However, good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.

 

What Makes A Good Equine Vet?

dr. Johnson equine vetIt happens to all of us at least once.  Your equine vet retires or you move to an area that your current vet doesn’t serve.  Now you have to f ind a new vet for your horse.  If you’re like many horse owners, you’d rather find a new doctor for yourself than a new vet for your horse. A vet is your partner in maintaining your horse’s health, so it’s important to make sure that the vet that you use is a great one. Do you know what traits you should be looking for in a great equine vet?

Listening to the Owner

Any good vet needs to have the ability and willingness to listen to the horse owner. A good vet should listen to and acknowledge your concerns, and should also have a conversation with you about your horse’s condition, potential treatments, and overall prognosis.

When you’re talking with a vet, you shouldn’t feel like the vet is rushing to finish up the conversation (unless the vet has received an emergency call – then you need to make an exception). And while a vet may have a different approach to horse care or a different view of your horse’s health than you do, a good vet will also be willing to listen to your perspective.

Answering Owner Questions

Answering owner questions is an imperative trait of any good vet. You should feel that you are able to ask your vet about any concerns you might have about your horse’s health. In some cases, symptoms raised through questions can help your vet to pinpoint medical issues that may be plaguing your horse. Asking questions helps to better inform you about your horse’s health and any changes that you may make to keep him healthy or improve his health. And most importantly, your vet should never act like you are silly for asking questions.

Staying on Top of New Veterinary Advancements

A great equine vet will make an effort to stay on top of new medical advancements. Veterinary studies, treatments, and procedures are constantly being revised, discovered, and released. A vet who stays on top of the news and advancements in the veterinary field can better treat his or her equine patients.

Offering Emergency Coverage

Emergencies always happen at the most inopportune times. Nights, weekends, and holidays seem to be the occasions during which your horse will become seriously ill or injured. Even if a vet practices solo, it’s important that he or she offers emergency coverage. Whether it means securing another vet to stand in or making arrangements with another practice to handle client emergencies, a great vet will ensure that help will be available if and when you need it, even if it’s during the off-hours.

Great vets possess the above traits, and more. Most importantly, they all have a true commitment to keeping their equine patients healthy.

For more information and to help you find a vet in your area, check in with the American Association of Equine Practitioners.  There are some great guidelines and resources on the web site as well.

Photo Credit:  Equine Veterinary Service

Could Your Horse’s Next Career Be As Part Of A Therapeutic Program?

Therapeutic Riding Program Forward StrideWhen it comes to your plans for your horse’s retirement, is donating him to a therapeutic riding program an option? Donating your horse to a therapeutic riding program may seem like an ideal option, but therapeutic riding horses need to possess a very special set of skills. Could your horse make the cut? Consider the following must-have characteristics.

Calm Temperament

Above all else, therapeutic riding horses need to be calm and patient. They cannot be highly reactive or spooky, since this would put their riders at risk. A therapeutic riding horse should be able to take strange and new situations in stride.

Soundness

It is a common misconception that therapeutic riding horses have an easy job of just walking around. That’s not true. In fact, working as a therapeutic riding horse can be physically demanding, since the horse must compensate for unbalanced riders. Some therapeutic riding horses are asked to trot or canter, and may carry riders who bounce against their backs. A therapeutic riding horse must be sound and strong enough to work in multiple lessons per week.

Tolerance

Tolerance is a major factor in any therapeutic riding horse’s job. A good therapeutic riding horse will be tolerant of all sorts of different situations, from a rider playing games off of his back to being in close quarters with other horses and humans.

Focus

A therapeutic riding horse will be confronted with conflicting stimuli, and he needs to be focused enough to pay attention at the task at hand. For instance, a horse may need to carry a rider who has little control of his body. The rider may sway back and forth or thump his legs against the horse inadvertently. A therapeutic riding horse needs to be stoic enough to ignore issues like rider imbalance, while still remaining sensitive and focused enough to recognize and obey the rider’s signals to move forward, stop, and turn.

If you wish to donate your horse to a therapeutic riding program, then find a particular program that you feel would be a good match. Programs are always expanding and now include riding, driving, vaulting, emotional support and more.

Give the program director a call and ask about the process of donating and evaluating a donation horse. Many riding centers have intensive evaluation and training processes for their horses.

When donating your horse, make sure to find out what your responsibilities as the former owner will be, including what will happen if he doesn’t make that initial cut. You should also ask what options will be available when your horse can no longer be of service to the program.

If you don’t have an appropriate horse to donate to a therapeutic program, remember that there many other ways to help support these programs.  Donate money or volunteer your time to work with the horses and/or the riders.  It’s a great feeling!

For more information on therapeutic programs, visit the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) website.

Photo credit:   Forward Stride

Liability Insurance For Your Barn

horse and dollar signWhether you are building your barn for your own personal use or as a business for boarding, training or breeding, you need to know what your liability risk is and how to best insure yourself and your assets from lawsuits.  While this blog is based on a seminar by Oregon equine attorney Kathryn A. Hall, the information is not to be construed as legal advice – it is strongly recommended that you meet with your own lawyer and an insurance agent who specialize in equine businesses.

Equine liability is the responsibility for equine-related loss, damage or harm.  This can be due to personal injury, injury to horses or property damage.   Depending on how your barn is used, you can be liable for contracts for boarding, training, breeding, lease or sale.  You may also be liable as the owner of the property or the business.   If you are also a trainer, you may have professional liability when advising or making decisions for clients.

As a landowner, you have a duty to be aware of dangerous conditions and to keep your premises reasonably safe by eliminating those conditions.  You also have a duty to warn people invited onto your premises of any dangerous conditions or activities, i.e. horses and horseback riding.  However, not all liability is automatic and states can vary.  If there was no legal duty to look out for or protect someone, there is no liability.  Or if there was a duty, but no breach of that duty occurred (sometimes accidents just happen), then there is no liability.  Again, it is important to discuss your state’s laws with an attorney.

How can you limit your liability?

  • Obtain appropriate insurance – your homeowner’s policy may not be enough.
  • Use well-written contracts, including waivers.
  • Use a separate corporate entity for your equine-related activities.
  • Understand your state’s equine inherent risk law.
  • Implement sound business practices.
  • Keep your premises well maintained.
  • Promote good horsemanship and safety.

One of the most common forms to help limit liability is the written contract.   It can clarify the parties’ rights and responsibilities, including disclaimers.  It should include such things as the jurisdiction and venue for any litigation, alternative dispute resolutions and the right of the winner to recovery attorney fees from the loser.  Make sure it is as complete as possible – don’t just say “horses are dangerous.”  List the ways they can be dangerous – running, kicking, biting, falls, etc.    Also be sure that the right person is signing the contract.   While most stables have a parent sign for minors, remember that an adult can only sign away their rights.  No parent can sign away a child’s rights nor can they sign away the right of the other parent.  Although this may seem like overkill, it is also best to have BOTH parents sign the waiver (unless one parent has sole custody of the child). 

You have probably seen numerous pre-printed forms at tack stores or “standard” forms on the internet.  These may only be appropriate for the most straight-forward of transactions.  However, they may not comply with your state laws and the quality is only as good as the person who wrote it.  Having an equine attorney for your state draft your contracts and waivers will ensure that it covers your specific business practices – plus the attorney will be on hand to defend it in case of a lawsuit.

Finally, ensure that your staff is reliable and well-trained, that you have plans to cover fire, disease and extreme weather, and don’t be afraid to turn around boarders, trainers or guests who won’t sign your paperwork or who you feel present an unreasonable risk.

Underfoot In Your Barn

rubber paversBefore you start building your new barn from the ground up, start with the ground and below. There are three parts to the underside – the foundation, the footings and the flooring.  Foundation and footings are what hold your barn up, keep it from shifting in cold and heat, and provide the stability to keep it from moving in high winds.  Those decisions are best left to the professionals.  An Extension Service engineer can take a look at your proposed building, the site and the soils and advise you on the proper footing depth and wall sizes.  You may want to hire a professional to pour the concrete walls or floors, especially when working with floors with drains or plumbing.

But flooring is what you and your horse will be standing and walking on.  The easiest and least expensive is just leaving everything dirt.  However, horses in stalls can start pawing the dirt and can eventually make quite a substantial hole.  In addition, if you have a high water table, a prolonged rain or melting snow can cause your stall and aisleways to become a muddy mess.

A better option is installing several inches of gravel, sometimes called screenings or 5/8 minus.  You want small, irregularly shaped gravel – the roundness of pea gravel can cause it to shift too much and large stones can bruise a horse’s hoof. Once the gravel is installed, compact it down.  You can rent a compacting machine, but if you just have a few stalls, you can also just spray the gravel with water, and then use a hand compactor to pound.  Repeat a couple of times, letting it settle a few hours between compacting.

Another common flooring option is concrete.  It is expensive, but easy to clean and disinfect.  It can also be hard and cold on the horses that are standing on it.  Many barn builders use concrete in feed and tack rooms to help prevent rodents from burrowing in.  Concrete is also common in aisleways and washracks where it is easy to keep dry and clean.

The addition of stall mats (like those by Classic Equine) can help keep horses from pawing dirt floors and can add additional cushioning with gravel or concrete floors.  Classic Equine Equipment also offers Tru-Step® Pavers for a safe, comfortable and nonslip surface in horse stalls, aisles and wash racks.

“It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”  – Musician David Allan Coe

The Barn Owner/Barn Builder Bond

CEE doorsA barn is built by just two people – you and your barn builder. He may have many other people on the job, but the success of your barn is going to depend on your relationship with your barn builder.

When looking for a barn builder, referrals are always a good way to find one.  But remember that someone’s dream barn or way of working may not be the same as yours.  If the referral came from someone who had a simple shed row barn built and you are thinking of something with dormers, a hay loft or special flooring, it may not be the right fit.  Ideally, you want a barn builder who will not only listen, but will offer suggestions as well.  But one that knows that the final decision is always yours. You don’t want someone who has just one way of doing things no matter what you want.  On the other hand, if you’re new to barn building, you don’t want a barn builder who does everything you say, even though he knows it’s unsafe or there’s a better way to do it.  Your barn should be a collaborative effort.

Here are some things to discuss with a potential barn builder:

  1. Discuss the site location with your builder.  If he has reservations about your choice, discuss them and work to find an alternative site.  Also, make sure you know who is responsible for site preparation.  Sometimes the barn builder handles it; sometimes they want you to take care of it before they start.
  2. Discuss the timetable for your barn. If you are building a huge barn, the builder will need to set aside adequate resources to start.  This may mean that scheduling may be pushed back a month or more.  Consider whether you’re willing to wait that long.   On the other hand, a small barn project can sometimes be slid in between completing one large project and starting another.  But big projects can run longer than anticipated and that window of opportunity can disappear, so confirm with your builder exactly when they will start your barn. And when they will finish.
  3. Discuss zoning requirements, permits, code inspections, etc. and what these entail. Also, determine who will be responsible for getting these. 
  4. Discuss who will contact underground utility companies about buried lines for cable, phone or other utilities. Don’t assume it will be the builder – he may be assuming it will be you!
  5. Ask about the crew who will do the job. Have they been with the company long?  Or do they use sub-contractors?  Are they covered by the builder’s insurance?
  6. Ask about the contract and ask if you can see it (and possibly have your lawyer review it) before signing.
  7. Ask about how problems with workmanship will be handled after the barn is built. How long will the builder stand behind his work?

Finally, while hiring a barn builder is the most efficient way to get a barn built,  most barn builders have limited time and expertise in designing a custom barn to meet your specific needs.  If you need more assistance in the design of your barn, you may want to consider using an architect who specializes in equestrian facilities.  The architect is there to evaluate the needs of the owner, from overall site planning, programming, phasing, and design to overseeing the entire construction to make sure the barn is built as intended.  Yes, the cost is more, but if your barn is your business (or just your passion), an architect can help you with both form and function.

Take the time to find the right people to do the job for you.  And, to help matters along, try to have a pretty clear vision on what you want your barn to  look like.  Yes, you can leave it up to your barn builder, but then it’s not YOUR dream barn, it’s his.

Photo  Credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

 

How An Equine Architect Can Help You Build Your Dream Barn

cee-project.jpgYou’ve made the decision – THIS is the year you’re building your dream barn! You’ve got the ideas, you’ve got the money, you’ve got the permits.  Are you ready to go?  Not quite.

You might not have considered the fact that you may need to expand the idea of just building a barn and look at building a “facility” – barn, arena, turnout, storage, parking, etc.  There are many options available to someone who wants to build just a barn, but once you start adding all the other structures, it can get a bit overwhelming.  Here’s where an equine architect can definitely be worth the investment.  You can even ask an equine architect to help you find the ideal equine property for your needs.

 An equine architect can help translate your ideas or complete vision into reality. Typically, an architect is a person trained and licensed to plan, design, and oversee the construction of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings. In the architectural profession, technical knowledge, management, and an understanding of business are as important as design. While not an official designation, an equine architect is someone who has experience and expertise in designing and building equine facilities.  These can include horse parks, race tracks, show venues and boarding, training and breeding facilities.

The architect hired by a client is responsible for creating a design concept that meets the requirements of that client and provides a facility suitable to the required use. In that, the architect must meet with and question the client [extensively] to ascertain all the requirements and nuances of the planned project. This information, known as a program or brief, is essential to producing a project that meets all the needs and desires of the owner—it is a guide for the architect in creating the design concept.  After a complete and thorough discussion with the client on all of their wants and needs, an architect accepts a commission from a client. The commission might involve preparing feasibility reports, building audits, the design of a building or of several buildings, structures, and the spaces among them.

The architect participates in developing the requirements the client wants in barn and stallsthe building. Throughout the project the architect can co-ordinate all aspects of the design team. This is where an equine architect can be a major help on larger facilities.  They will know who offers the best footing or who is having a sale on stall components.  Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers and other specialists, are hired by the client under the supervision of the architect, who must ensure that the work is coordinated to construct the design in a timely and efficient manner.

Architects can also deal with local and federal jurisdictions about regulations and building codes. The architect might need to comply with local planning and zoning laws, such as required setbacks, height limitations, parking requirements, transparency requirements (windows) and land use. Some established jurisdictions require adherence to design and historic preservation guidelines.

Equine architect John Blackburn of Blackburn Architects, PC explains the difference between a barn builder and an equine architect.  “A design/build contractor is selling a product, not a service, and is not often a trained architect, which limits his or her ability to think creatively outside of the box.  With an equestrian architect, you’re purchasing a service rather than a product. The architect is there to resolve the needs of the owner, from overall site planning, programming, phasing, and design to overseeing the entire construction to make sure the barn is built as intended.”

While hiring an equine architect may seem like just another expense, your equine architect is there to help make your dream come true.

Photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

Getting Back To Work

horse in shavings horseandhoundUKMost likely during winter, your frequency and length of ride time decreased quite a bit.  Now you want to start enjoying longer trail rides or maybe competing in an upcoming show.  This information can help to condition your horse after a lay off.

Just like with human athletes, horses must be conditioned properly when returning to work after a long hiatus. It’s recommend to begin by concentrating on aerobic exercise first.  Start with low intensity exercise preferably in short multiple sets per day. This will help build cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone/ memory while guarding against fatigue of tendons, ligaments, muscle, and joints.  

A good place to start with a horse that has been laid off for 2-3 months would be:

  • A 15 minute walk session – the longer walk warm up gives the horse plenty of time to stretch and get accustomed to the weight of a rider again.
  • A 5 minute uncollected trot set – this allows the horse to build cardiovascular fitness.
  • 10 minute cool down
  • Do once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Five minutes of uncollected trot and the five minute cool down allows the rider ample time to evaluate the horse’s fitness level by measuring the length of time it takes the heart rate to return to an acceptable level.  If the heart rate remains elevated for longer than five minutes after the trot set, decrease the length of the trot to build up fitness. These short sessions limit the wear and tear on the horse and allow for two sessions per day so fitness is increased faster. 

To build up aerobic fitness, the target heart rate is 150 bpm or greater.  Normal resting galloping conditioning HORSECHANNELheart rate of a horse is 32-44 bpm.  Normal heart rates vary between breeds and individuals. Knowing your horse’s normal rate is paramount.  Fitter horses will have lower resting heart rates just like human athletes. Use the values to guide length of trot time during the starting stages of your exercise regimen.  Then gradually add in canter work.

Heart rate response is the most accurate method to determine fitness. Heart rate monitors are commercially available, but can be costly.  Using the help of someone on the ground, your horse’s heart rate can be easily measured. Using an index and third finger, a pulse can be easily felt under the mandible.  Count for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to calculate beats per minute (bpm). Calculations made from counting for only 10-15 seconds produce greater error.  In addition to heart rate, respiratory rate, gum color and texture, presence and amount of sweat, and rectal temperature are all good parameters to measure.

In addition to cardiovascular fitness, it is also important to remember your horse will be building musculoskeletal fitness. Short periods of cyclical loading like multiple short duration sessions of moderate intensity exercise are best.  This type of work reduces the incidence of stress fractures and reduces the strain on boney structures. 

Many veterinarian and trainers are in favor of “two a day” workouts. Short workouts twice a day are great for increasing aerobic fitness quickly while limiting the stress on the musculoskeletal system.  They also allow the horse’s epaxial (back) muscles to get used to carrying an actual load again. Remember over the winter your horse has lost some of his topline. His muscles have changed, check saddle and pad fit carefully. The fit will more than likely change once or twice during all of this conditioning so be prepared to make tack changes as the need arises.

The best advice to equestrians getting back in the tack- BE FLEXIBLE. This is a dynamic process and an individual one. No one horse will regain fitness on the same schedule as the next and no two horses will be starting from the same point.  Show good horsemanship – know your horse and adjust to what he needs. Problems arise when there is poor planning and a cookie cutter agenda.

Photo credit:  HorseChannel, HorseandHound

 

Horse Tails

grindstone from flyerBraided, bundled, banged or natural.

Go to any horse barn or event and you are likely to see a wide variety of horse tail styles.  Don’t get me wrong – they will all be beautifully cared for.  But, depending on the discipline, you may see them in all shapes and forms.

While the rules for the particular discipline does not include how the tail should look, many of the disciplines have “tradition.”  And many of these traditions are based in practicality.

driving bundle CarriageDriving.netIn polo and occasionally in the marathon (cross country) phase of polo bundled DreamTimecombined driving, you will see horse tails braided bundled up into a fat braid.  This is mostly done for safety.  In combined driving, you have numerous reins as well as traces (the leather lines that connect the horse to the vehicle).  With all the twisting and turning in marathon driving, it could be easy for a tail to get caught in the reins or under a trace, making the horse uncomfortable.   In polo, the braid can help the tail stay out of the way of a swinging polo mallet or a competitor’s face.

dressage LifeLongEquestrianIn dressage, the tails are always long and lush.  It is part of the beauty of the dressage movements.  Did you know that some competitors even use fake tails to get the look?  And, yes, it’s legal for most breed associations.  Check the bottom of tails and you will see that they are cut straight across.  This is called a “banged tail.”  Actually, the bottom is cut on a bit of an angle so that when the horse moves, he lifts his tail and this type of clip will make it look like his tail is cut straight across. And, when the tail hairs are all one length, they are less likely to break off, keeping the tail looking full. 

Some tail styles help show judges select winners.  In hunter shows and in equitation braided HorseChannelclasses, the tail is almost always braided.  This helps the judge see how the horses uses himself on the flat and over fences.  Braiding a horse’s tail is fun for some and a nightmare for others.  If you don’t have the technique or the patience, it’s usually best to hire a professional braider.

When in doubt as to what style your horse’s tail should be, you can’t go wrong with leaving your horse’s tail in its natural shape.  Make sure it’s clean with no tangles or bits of shavings stuck in it.  Neaten up any hairs that really stick out and you’re good to go.

There are lots of tricks to give  your horse a beautiful tail.  Some people buy a “tail bag” and keep the horse’s tail in it to keep it clean and untangled.  Some swear by certain shampoos and conditioners (both made for horses and made for people).  Most will warn you to never brush your horse’s tail – you can break off some of the hairs and get that “punk” look.  If your horse’s tail has tangled, gently use your fingers to pull the tangles apart.  If you do brush, always start at the bottom and get that tangle free before moving up the tail.

Remember, as one of my horse show friends used to say, “It’s not as important to be good as it is to look good.”