Reading A Horses Tail
 By Saferaphus   •   24th Sep 2017   •   484 views   •   0 comments

Beautiful thick manes and tails are a horseís ownerís pride. But a tail is much more than a thing of beauty.

Of course, your horse uses its tail to whisk away flies and other biting insects. This is important because while most bugs are just annoying, some are dangerous, so nature provides the horse with some defenses, such as a mane to flip against its neck, skin that can twitch when it's touched lightly, and a tail to swish back and forth. Itís not unusual to see two or more horses standing head to tail so that both head and hind quarters are benefiting from the tail swishing.

While itís handy to whisk away flies, the tail, as an extension of the spine, plays a role in a horseís balance. Some horses swish or wring their tails to help keep their balance when being ridden. A jumperís tail will flag and twist as they come out of jumps. Changes in direction may cause a horse to rebalance itself with the help of its tail. Watching your horse, and learning its own unique body language will help you learn what tail movement can be attributed to balance, and what is being expressed in mood and attitude.

Does your horse swish its tail angrily when you ask it to do something it would rather not? Or, when itís feeling energetic, does it flag its tail high as it gallops around? A horseís tail can tell us something about how it is feeling. A mare in heat may hold its tail up. Swishing can indicate irritation. A clamped tail may mean the horse is nervous or scared. A relaxed side to side swish means the horse is comfortable while it is being ridden. This is the gentle swish you most often see in dressage horses. If your horse is wringing its tail, it may be very agitated and this will look different than the tail rolls a horse does when it is relaxed in its work.

You canít determine if your horse is sick from only looking at its tail. Nor is testing hair samples from the tail terribly useful, unless you were wanted to get a look at your horseís overall health in the past. A very long tail hair can take five or six years to grow to full length at a rate of about two centimeters per month, and anything that could be tested in a hair sample may not be very useful in the present. Also, the rate of growth will be determined by the season, the horseís health, genetics and how the tail is cared for.

How a horse uses its tail can tell us something about any lameness and overall body stiffness it might have. A horse that holds its tail to one side may have developed a hind leg lameness, or tense muscles in its hindquarters, especially if the horse didnít carry its tail crooked before. This can be caused by an injury, poor saddle fit leading to back pain, muscle imbalances or even a neurological problem. It may take the help of a veterinarian, saddle fitter, riding coach, chiropractor or other professional to discover the root of the problem.

A completely limp tail can be a sign of a spinal injury or neurological problem. Horses can Ďbreakí or dislocate their tails, although this is rare. And sadly, a horse with a limp tail may have had nerve blocking agents injected to prevent it from swishing its tail while being ridden. Or, the tendons may be cut so the horse canít move it. This is illegal but it has been done to show horses who are expected to appear docile and obedient.

Another reason a horseís tail may be limp is infection with botulism. Or, A very stiff tail or one held stiffly to one side may be an indication of gut pain. If hair starts falling out, itís an indication that there is a serious nutritional deficiency.
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