How can I help my horse grow a long tail?
Well, a horse's tail length is determined by lots of factors. Genetics, his environment, nutrition, and care. I want everyone to understand that you can't put a magic lotion on his tail and that will make his hair follicles, deep in the skin, make his hair grow faster. Magic lotions CAN protect the hair that he already has from breakage, damage, and if it's greasy enough, from getting too tangled and caught on things.
We can't do a lot about genetics, but we can about environment, nutrition, and care. It's up to you to make sure his environement is OK for his tail. Are the paddock fences smooth, or are there lots of places for tail hairs to get caught and ripped out? Is he turned out with other horses that nip at his rump and tail? Does your horse like to rub his tail? You can check out a previous article on Tail Rubbing for more information on how to prevent and treat this..
As far as care is concerned, there are a few things you can to do help his tail along. Think of it as the most fragile thing ever, and therefore should never see a brush. Only use your favorite detangler in moderation and your fingers to pick through. You could use an environmentally friendly product, like De-Stress from EcoLicious Equestrian to help you carefully get rid of tangles. Another school of thought says that you should brush his tail daily, to prevent huge tangles and help spread his natural oils down the tail shaft. If you horse's tail is often dirty and muddy, you may want to consider the first method of leaving it alone for a few days then rinsing and detangling when you get rid of the mud.
Time will grow this tail out! Also, consider a loose braid or tail bag. My experience has been that the hairs may be protected in a braid to tail bag, but you horse will lose some fly protection and may rub his tail more. This will be an experiment for you to figure out.
In the nutrition department, we have a great friend in Karen Isberg, the President of Kentucky Performance Products. Here are her suggestions for tail growth from the inside out!!
"Certain nutrients, such as omega fatty acids; the trace minerals zinc, copper and iodine; the essential amino acids lysine and methionine (found in high quality proteins) and the B vitamin biotin, must be present in the correct amounts in a horse’s diet or skin, hooves, and hair will suffer. Getting the right balance is key, more is not always better. Take selenium for instance, this trace mineral must be properly balanced in the diet, too much selenium can cause toxicity which leads to hair loss in the mane and tail, among other symptoms."
Pasture grass will help with the nutrition end of things, and if this is not available, please work with your Veterinarian and Equine Nutritionist to address any dietary questions you have!
What has worked for you in the tail growing department?