How to Braid a Tail
Thursday 19 January 2012
Once you have the hang of braiding the mane, you might want to learn how to braid a tail. A well-braided tail can be the perfect way to set off well-developed hindquarters. If your horse has weak quarters, you would probably be best to leave the tail unbraided.
You will need a double-length piece of wool to braid the tail. It is also helpful to have a plastic needle or a bodkin (a metal blunt needle with a large eye and a slit down its length to capture the wool). Take a look at your local sewing or craft store to find something blunt with a large eye to fit the wool. If you can’t find anything a pull-through will work, but a needle is much easier.
Before you begin, make sure that the tail is clean and well combed out. Show sheen the bottom of the tail, starting below the end of the dock. Never show sheen the top part of the tail or you will not be able to get a braid to stay. It is also very helpful to have the wool precut and folded in half before you begin. Try laying it on top of your horse’s quarters so that you can easily reach it.
At the top of the tail, separate one strand from the left and two strands from the right. Starting with the left strand, cross it over the top right strand so that the left strand is now in the middle. Then take the bottom right strand and cross it over into the middle, as you would in a normal braid.
This is where you start adding hair to make this a French braid. Take the current left strand, and cross it over as usual. Then take a small section of hair from the left side of the tail and add it to the crossed section of hair. Proceed to do the same thing on the right, adding a small section of hair from the dock to the crossed segment. Continue down the tail until you reach about 1” above the end of the dock.
French braiding takes a lot of practice. It is important to keep the braid as tight as possible so that it does not sag. The smaller the sections of hair you take, the tighter and tidier your braid will turn out. Try to keep the sections as even as possible as you braid.
When you reach the end of the dock stop adding hair and continue to braid the hair. Before you go too far, be sure to add the wool so that it is split between two segments of hair. Keep braiding until the braid is around 8” long. Tie off the braid as usual.
Use a pull-through to pull the wool up through the bottom part of the French braid. The regular braid should be folded in half with the remainder of the tail hair folded beneath it so that it flows down in a ponytail. Split the wool into two and tie them beneath the braid so that the loose hair is tightly attached to the braid underneath. This will keep the hair tidy, even if your horse swishes his tail a lot.
If you have a needle, this is the time to thread it. If not, use a pull-through. Using the needle, sew the wool down the length of the folded braid. This will close the open loop of hair and make it tidy. Sometimes this is not necessary, but if you have made the loop a bit on the long side, this is the best way to keep it neat.
A well braided tail can really make a horse stand out in the ring. Many braiders never perfect the tail braid, so it can be the little bit extra that makes your braiding the highlight of the class.