Monday, January 19, 2009

Farty, snorty horses

Gabe was definitely feeling much better after his colic Friday. By Friday night he was back to his silly self and wanting to eat EVERYTHING in sight. I was so relieved! He only got half of his dinner so by Saturday morning he was FAMISHED. He yelled at me from the paddock as soon as he saw the feed room light go on and I thought he was going to knock me over and steal his breakfast as soon as I walked into his paddock! But he was good and remembered his manners as soon as I gave him my ugly boss mare look and told him to back his big rude butt off.

We turned every body out in the big fields Saturday. Finally! It was cold enough so the ground was still frozen so they couldn't tear up the grass but the frozen puddles are gone, at last! They all bucked and farted and ran like a bunch of crazy animals and Gabe ran and ran and ran with his short little tail straight up in the air and snorted loudly at everything. I love watching him go and one of these days I'll actually remember to bring my camera with me so I can video him in all his glory. He is so gorgeous when he trots and canters, he floats gracefully and the power behind each stride is amazing.

That pathetic little tail is getting longer but the hairs are pretty fragile and any kind of brushing results in much breakage and subsequent length loss. As soon as it's warm enough his tail is getting a deep cleaning and conditioning and after that, regular deep conditioning so I can try to get those fragile little hairs to toughen up. His tail gets a bit of conditioning now but whatever I do at this point is minimally effective until it's good and clean. I can't have a horse with a puny little hock-length tail! It will grow and I will make it grow! I've always been able to encourage my horses' tails to grow long and thick and healthy. Even Chief, an Appaloosa, has a thick, long tail, and Appaloosas have notoriously pathetic, scrawny tails. I had to cut a couple of inches off the end of his tail last summer because it grew so long it was dragging the ground. Same with Calypso. She came to use with a thin, wispy, short tail. It's now long and thick and I have to cut the ends off at least once a year to keep it from dragging.

My secret? Intentional neglect. Seriously. I don't brush their tails at all unless absolutely necessary, and when I do have to brush them I wash and heavily condition before I touch it. I use a stiff body brush (never, never a comb!) from the bottom up and work little bits of tail at a time. It can take me an hour or more to prep and brush a tail. Once it's washed, conditioned and brushed, I leave it alone until it needs it again. Between washing and conditioning I work a bit of olive oil hair conditioner into the dock to keep it well-conditioned and soft. A happy, healthy dock grows a strong, long tail. I do brush the TOP of the tail, near the tail head, just to keep the dock skin healthy, but I don't touch the length of tail. I pick out mud clods, knots and burrs by hand and don't panic over hay or straw. I've found the BEST products to use on horse tails are the products designed for African-American hair, they are better than ANY horse-specific product I've ever used.


  1. Yea...sounds great to have him out of the zone of C!
    VIDEO!! Please...need to see some Gabe floaty trot! I could imagine it the way you decribed though.
    And I am with you on the tail grooming...I just cringe when I see folks at the barn going after the tails with combs and not conditioners!
    I also use a stiffer brush(Love my tail) and first thing I do after getting my mare to stand and not creep out of the Groom bay...spray both mane and tail...and then when I come back to actually do them..they get more!
    Wa's favortie grooming area is her dock, I* brush it and then massage it with my hands too..the soft underneath side...OH she loves that!

  2. PS tell the name of your products...I will go to the supply house and look!Great Idea..why didn't I think-of-that?!

  3. Kacy...Every time he gets to running and messing around I immediately think "Why the heck didn't I bring my camera?" My camera has been spazzy lately..sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I need to get a new one!
    One of the products I use is Queen Helene's "Cholesterol Hair Conditioning Cream." Queen Helene's also makes a tea tree oil shampoo that I really like for manes and tails. The other one, the one I use between shampoos, is called Hollywood Beauty Olive Oil Creme Hairdress for Dry Hair, or, if the store is out of that, I use the Hollywood Beauty Olive Cholesterol. Both are available at drug stores and are insanely inexpensive. I think I paid just over $3 for the olive oil conditioner and it's a good-sized tub.

  4. So glad to hear that Gabe's colic episode has passed. Sounds like a gas colic to me - did he fart and feel better?? If it happens again, get him to trotting, the bouncing really helps the gas bubbles to clear out of the gut. I agree with you - colics are mighty scary!! HATE THEM!!!! Thank God that the big guy is all better. Sometimes if you're suspicious of an impaction, or if you just want to encourage ample water consumption, give them warm water with some sugar and peppermint oil in it - or you can just dissolve peppermint candies - most horses love it and will drink more than their usual quantity. Great "treat" for those cold winter days when water isn't so appetizing. Warm wheat bran mashes (extra soupy) with a little molasses, lots of water and some applesauce works well in the winter especially for horses who are prone to impaction or gas colics - kind of like a rotorooter job for the hind gut. Stay warm and please give that Gabe a smooch for me!! Thanks for visiting my blog - oh, almost forgot - those saddle racks my hubby made for me out of cedar fence boards and plywood. They work well and are inexpensive. See ya, sure do appreciate your comments.

  5. I may have to try that trick! I've always been in the mind that the best way to grow a healthy tail is to leave it alone. My barn owners constantly Show Sheen and comb their horses tails and try to get me to do the same, but I won't give in. I've had my horse for nearly five months and have yet to comb his tail! He keeps himself very clean, so there's nothing yucky in it. I'd like to give it a good wash, but it's too cold right now. I think I may have to try you suggestion about oiling the top to keep the dock healthy.

  6. Jenn,
    Hay now..would you consider accepting an award(s) from me? Come on over to my place to see. You are not obligated but, I mean it, and would love to hear the 5 things and also thought the Lemonade may be REFRESHING in the middle of a cold snap as you have always been to me since I started to write to you.

  7. So glad that the big guy is better :) My cob has a terrible ratty tail as year a youngster chewed the end as well and I had the choice of either cutting it short or leaving 3 straggly I cut it...and everyone asked if he was docked lol.

    Incase your interested I have a new blog for Gardening
    It would be interesting to get some feedback from gardners in far off places :)

  8. Glad Gabe is OK. Poco (Appy) has a gorgeous tail, but a wild, thick, frizzy mane. Which product would you suggest?

  9. We have pretty good tails at our place, too. I don't wash and condition too often, but if I do, I brush out while the conditioner is still in the tail. Like Jenn, starting at the bottom. My sorrel mare has the most awesome colors in her tail. Golds, reds, bronzes... I would love to have my hair colored that way -- with a touch of blonde, of course!

  10. I like to use Cowboy Magic detangler before I do Beamers tail. It is expensive, but you use so little of it and it lasts a long time. It really keeps the tail from getting tangled, and I can just use my fingers to comb out his tail.

  11. KK...thank you! I need to run by and pick it up!

    Leah..Chief also has a crazy thick, frizzy mane. I keep it pulled thin and use the leave-in olive oil conditioner in it to help the frizzies. And during the summer, my daughter likes to keep him braided. He's such a tolerant old dude!

    Tammy...I think that's the key....just not brushing 'em until absolutely necessary. One of the big hunter/jumper barns I worked for brushed tails EVERY DAY (you couldn't show up to a lesson with shavings in your horses tail, it was considered rude) and they had the lousiest tails EVER.

    Shirley...I've used the Cowboy Magic Detangler in the past and it is a pretty good product. It's definitely slippery! You're right, though, it is quite spendy.