What's the best way to wash my horse's tail?
The tail is one of those things that most horse owners really want to preserve. One way to do that is to make sure it's clean, tangle free, and well maintained. Every tail, no matter the horse, will need a good shampoo at some point. The frequency depends on your horse, his house (inside or outside), and his general environment. Sometimes, I find the need to wash only the tail and not do a full bath.
When it's tail washing time, I have a pretty specific method of working. I like to use a smidge of shampoo dissolved in warm water in a bucket. This is a great way to just dunk the tail up to the tail bone in bubbly water and have lots to work with. Then you can use a sponge to add some of your mixture to the upper part of the tail. Another choice would be to wet the tail, tip to toe, and then use shampoo in your hands to massage in, top to bottom is pretty easy and lets the shampoo slide down the tail.
The ol' dunking method.
Either way, it's very important to spend a lot of time working it gently into the tail. At the tail bone, you also need to spend your time working it into the base of the hairs and the skin. While you are there, do another inspection of the tail bone looking for bumps, lumps, scrapes, tumors, ticks, and the like.
The tail bone is also the area that you devote your time to rinsing, and rinsing really well. Suds left here can irritate the sensitive skin and cause rubbing and tail damage. Start at the top and rinse down.
If you choose to use a conditioner, be warned that these are much harder to rinse out, so plan accordingly. I typically use a tiny amount on the tail bone because of the rinse factor, and more on the ends and body to make detangling easier. I apply, then wait a few minutes before rinsing.
After it's all said and done, I like to dry the tail using the "helicopter" method for a few whirls to remove some of the water. I grab the tail below the tail bone and spin it around. Luckily, my horses don't blink at all, an alternative is to use a towel and blot dry.
A lot of us are concerned with losing tail hairs - and just like our own hair, it does come out naturally, and no amount of product or tail bag or pampering will prevent it. So don't panic if your brush has some hairs in it! So now the tail is damp, which is when I like to apply a light detangler. I will wait for the tail to dry fully before I comb it out, that's just my choice, you may prefer to comb it out wet or damp. For me, the tail seems slicker and easier to brush when dry.
Also keep in mind that a ton of product left in the tail can sometimes create "dirt glue" on the tail.
For those of you that use tail bags, be sure to apply them well below the tail bone, and I suggest braiding them into a conditioned braid. I also suggest removing and re-tying every day to make sure all is well in there. I know lots of horses that do great without tail bags, and I know some that do better without them. It's your choice and what works for you.
What tips do you have for washing tails? If you need to brighten a dull or stained tail, you can learn more about that here.