Confessions of a Grooming Supply 'Ho: Tail Taming

The Arsenal

Everyone and their mother has an opinion about the "proper" way to groom & preserve tails. I'm about to tell you mine. Take it or leave it, but it works for me, and I think my pony's tail is pretty darn gorgeous as a result of it!

First and foremost, a disclaimer:


The item pictured above is a Sarvis curry comb, and it is NOT MEANT FOR USE ON MANES AND TAILS. Personally I think it's just about the most useless piece of grooming "equipment" out there and they should all be melted down into something more useful. They aren't even very good for currying, and it's nearly impossible to get hair out of them. If I had a dollar for every time I've witnessed someone RIPPING OUT THEIR HORSE'S TAIL with one of these, I'd be rich. If I catch you using one of these godforsaken things, I will rip it out of your hands and slap you.

That said.


I think grooming tails is fun, but there is a specific way to do it in order to keep the tail manageable, tangle free, and full.

First things first: Do not attempt to comb or brush a tail when it is wet, dirty, or without some sort of detangler. You WILL break hairs. The average tail hair takes YEARS to grow to full length, so you need to preserve those suckers!

If I'm dealing with a dirty tail, I like to scrub thoroughly with shampoo, rinse well, apply conditioner, rinse, and then apply a gel detangler product while the tail is still wet, after which I use a spray detangler.

If this sounds like kind of a process, that's because it is. And it's not pictured because it's cold out and I don't want to wash Dino's tail at the moment, plus it's clean from his snowy adventures.


Once the tail is clean and dry, or if you started with a clean, dry tail in the first place, spray on a detangling or shine product of your choice. My personal favorite is the Cowboy Magic spray, but use what you like. For really thick or wavy tails, you might choose to add in a gel product as well. Again, Cowboy Magic is my go-to, but Vetrolin makes a decent one as well. Whatever floats your boat.

The good stuff!
Disclaimer: IF YOU INTEND TO BRAID YOUR HORSE'S TAIL, DO NOT USE A SHINE OR DETANGLING PRODUCT ABOVE THE TAIL BONE. This will make everything slippery and impossible to deal with. Don't do it.

Now, wield your weapon of choice. I like this sort of medium-width comb with offset teeth, but a pin hairbrush works quite nicely as well.

My well-loved tail comb.
Grab the tail. DO NOT START BRUSHING FROM THE TOP DOWN, or again, I will slap you. Slide your hand down the tail until just a few inches are sticking out from your fist, lay the loose hair across your thigh, and brush or comb this section until it is tangle-free and smooth. Slide your fist down the tail again, exposing a few more inches of tail hair. Brush. Repeat all the way up the tail, combing through the lower part before moving up to brush a new section. This gets out any snags or knots at the bottom first so that your comb doesn't get caught and rip out tail hair. You should have very few - if any - tail hairs in your brush once you are finished. Often horses will shed the shorter hairs from the top of the tailhead, so don't be alarmed if you get a ton of hair out of this section of the tail. That's normal.

Like so.
Now, to finish the tail, you have a few options.

Some people like to leave the tail au naturale and let it sort of come to a natural point at the end. Personally, I think this looks untidy so I prefer to bang my tails at around fetlock height. To do this, grab the tail the same way you did when you were brushing it out, and slide your hand all the way down. Flip the end of the tail up so you can clearly see all the uneven ends. Grab a set of scissors and cut straight across. Repeat a few times until you are sure you've cut all the hair evenly. And you're done! Depending on your horse and personal preferences, you can trim the tail shorter, but I tend to prefer the long-but-neat look myself.
I like to comb Dino's tail out a few times a week, always with Cowboy Magic, to keep it nice. Since I use a shine product frequently, if he gets a burr or branch stuck in his tail, it just slides right out with no breakage. I'm not a fan of tail bags or braiding, or the "don't touch it unless you're going to a show" method. I find that just with regular care and maintenance, his tail stays beautiful.

And if you use a Sarvis comb, I'll slap you.


  1. You just validated how I deal with Simon's tail, because I pretty much echo what you do. Yay!

    1. I've found a kindred spirit in tail-maintenance! Does anyone else share my unabashed and firey passion of hate for the Sarvis combs? Anyone?

  2. I brush Miles's tail like ... once a week or biweekly. Always with detangler. I need to invest in a conditioner for the summer tho... add it to the list!

  3. In the winter, I wrap Shy's tail up to keep mud, snow, and ice out of it. I take it down once in a while to see how long it is getting (past the ground now), brush it, and rebraid before I wrap again. In the summer, I pretty much deal with her tail the same as you, wash, rinse, condition, rinse, detangler, shine for show. I do not brush her tail always, but I will hand comb it for tangles between brushes. She is a Haflinger, so I leave the tail as long as I can without her stepping on it when she backs up.

  4. I almost never brush Henry's tail and if I do, I put a TON of spray in it and then use a body brush :)

  5. I hate those Sarvis combs! They are kind of pointless!
    I like the way you do tails. Very similar to my methods. :)

  6. You and me both on the brushing! I have an insane tail-care routine, detailed here. I pick the tail strand by strand with a comb, you would be proud!


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