How do you manage and condition tails that are kept braided?
It's important to remember that what you put on the outside of the horse does not impact the hair and coat as much as what you put inside the horse. Nutrition and overall health are critical to tail, mane, and coat health. That being said, you can do a lot of things to keep a really nice tail. Some of us like to keep the tails loosely braided and/or in a tail bag. This either works for your horse, or it doesn't. I've known many a horse that thinks a braided tail is an invitation to rub it out, by whatever means. The tail is there for fly control, among other things, and braiding it up limits that ability. Let's say your horse is totally fine with a braided tail. Here are my suggestions for caring for a braided tail.
Make sure that your horse's tail is clean and dry. The skin on the tailbone should be super clean of all product residue to avoid causing irritation on the skin. I also like to thoroughly rinse the tail with warm water to remove all conditioners. (I did an experiment where I left some conditioner close to the tail bone, and it was HORRIBLE...so sticky...but it will deter a tail eater from munching away on your horse's tail.)
Does this tail braid make my butt look big?
I will usually add a smidge of detangler to wet hair, wait for it to dry, and then very carefully brush/pick out. I will start the tail braid below the tailbone and keep it very loose. Less product is more here, as it can get sticky and attract dirt. I'm a fan of keeping any braid as loose as possible if it's going to be in overnight or longer.
I find keeping the tail loosely braided is great for some horses - like mares who maybe have a very thick tail that is easily soiled with urine. It also works great for others with very brittle tails that get tangled easily. You should temper this with your horse's environment (does he live out and need to swish a lot?) and his temperment (is he OK with a braid, or not?) You can also leave out a few hairs on the sides of the braid to help with fly control.
What are your experiences with loosely braided tails? Do you like to condition them? Do you use tail bags?