Whether you are a seasoned exhibitor, or someone who is just beginning to show, tail extensions are an integral part of show ring presentation. A beautiful tail makes for a finished look, and tail extensions are now used in every phase of equine competition; halter horses, hunter/jumpers, reiners, rail horses and all-around horses. Tail extensions have become as much of a part of show preparation as banded manes and hoof black.
Not all tail extensions fit all types of horses. Tail extensions should be purchased with these points in mind: Color, Length, Weight (fullness), Attachment type and Bottom style.
The tail extension will braid in deep inside your horse’s free flowing tail hair, so generally that is the tail hair color to match. Run your hand down to the bottom of the tail bone, and part your horse’s free flowing tail hair. The predominate color of your horse’s inside tail hair will be the color you want to match.
Some horses have a bi-color tail – one color of tail on the top of their free-flowing tail hair, fading to another – usually lighter – tail color on the underside of their tail hair. In these cases, you have options. You can go with a bi-color tail extension to match the different colors, or you can go with a solid color tail extension, matching either the topside tail hair color, or the underside tail hair color.
There are also horses that will have a veil of different colored tail hair lying over the outer portion of their tail hair – usually at the base or up high on the tail bone. You see this quite a bit with gray horses, and some color breed horses. Keep in mind that just as the different colored tail hair veils over your horse’s longer tail hair, the horse’s long tail hair will veil over the tail extension. With the tail extension in place, you will still have the same color pattern – so the tail hair you want to match is the inner portion of your horse’s free flowing tail hair. The different colored outer tail hair will not factor in when matching color.
Length is easy to figure; all you need to do is measure. Start your tape measure where you like to braid in the top of your tail extension against your horse’s tail bone. It’s best to braid your tail extension up higher on the tail bone so you have the stability of the tail bone underneath the tail extension. This makes it easier to snug the tail extension up against the tail bone, and give you a place to lock the tail extension in place with stabilizer braids. Start your tape measure against the tail bone, and measure down to however long you want the tail to be, but no longer than the point of the fetlock – you don’t want to run the risk of your horse stepping on the tail extension while backing up.
Stay away from braiding in your tail extension below the tail bone. If you braid in below the tail bone, there is nothing to support the tail extension, and you will get a pendulum effect, where the tail extension goes one way, and your horse’s tail goes the other way.
Measure with the horse’s discipline in mind. With halter horses, measure down to a length appropriate to their age. Reiners and cow horses; go no longer than the top of the skid boot. That way, their tail extension won’t get caught under their hocks and fetlocks when spinning, sliding or working a cow. All around horses; take the tail extension length to slightly above the point of the fetlock. That way, it will be out of the way when going over poles in trail, or backing around a cone in showmanship. Pleasure horse exhibitors will usually take the length of the tail extension to the point of the fetlock, or slightly lower.
Another point to factor in when measuring for tail extension length is the age of the horse. If your horse is still growing, add some ‘grow room’ when you take your measurement. Go up a little higher on the tail bone when starting your measurement to add a bit more to the length of the tail extension. For now, you will braid in the tail extension higher on the tail bone, but as the horse grows, you can lower the tail extension to keep the length of the tail extension appropriate to the height of the horse. This keeps you from having to purchase a longer tail extension later in the year.
The weight of the tail extension comes down to a matter of personal preference, but again, you need to keep your horse’s discipline in mind. Halter horse exhibitors prefer a more natural look, so they will usually go with a lighter weight tail extension. Same with most hunter/jumpers, reiners and cow horses. Yearlings shown in lunge line will usually wear a more full tail – ¾ lb or 1 lb. POA’s and stock ponies will usually wear a lighter weight tail extension, but big, stout ponies can certainly carry off a bigger tail extension. Rail horses and all-around horses will usually wear the big tail extensions – 1.50 lb to 2 lbs in fullness. However, these pointers are merely guidelines, the look want is your choice to make.
So, how big is big? To give you an idea of fullness, here are some visuals to help you get the picture. A ½ lb. tail extension, once it’s washed and ready to braid in (remember, a clean tail extension will be more full and flowing than a dirty one), will be about the size of a saucer – i.e. cup and saucer – at the bottom where the tail extension is the most full. A ¾ lb. tail extension will be about the size of a lunch plate and a 1lb. tail extension will be about the size of a dinner plate. A 1.50 lb. tail extension will be in circumference about the size of a turkey platter, and a 2 lb. tail extension will be about the size of a bushel basket.
If your horse has tail carriage issues, or uses their tail, you may want to go with a more full tail, since the additional weight will help flatten the tail carriage. If your breed association allows, you may also want to consider using a weighted tail extension, which increases the weight of the tail extension due to the heaviness of the weight system.
Attachment type is again a matter of personal preference. Standard knob type tail extensions can be ordered with a tie attachment, double loop attachment or tube attachment. The double loop attachment and tie attachment are made out of horsehair, so they are compliant with all breed associations.
We also offer our Braider’s Choice attachment, which is a single loop attachment popular with hunter/jumper exhibitors, since they work well with hunter braided tails.
None of the attachments are difficult, but the double loop attachment is the most popular. The tube attachment is easy to put in, but it is not as versatile as the other attachment styles, since it’s made to braid in directly at the bottom of the tail bone. With the other attachment styles, you can braid your tail extension in anywhere up or down the topside of the tail bone, so you have the ability to lengthen or shorten the tail extension, depending on the classes you are showing in, and the height of your horse.
The braided horsehair double loop attachment and the braided horsehair ties attachment are the only two attachment styles that can be used with a weighted tail extension.
This also is a matter of personal preference. However, since halter exhibiters like the tail to look natural, they prefer a tapered end. Likewise, with most hunter/jumpers and cow horses. In the lunge line classes, you see both blunt and tapered tail extensions. The trend for pleasure horses and all-around horses is a tail extension with a blunt bottom, but again, it’s whatever look you prefer.
If you follow these guidelines, you will have all the information you need to order a tail extension that is the best fit for your horse. The end results? Your horse will look his best in the show pen – wearing a tail extension that matches beautifully, and fits correctly.