Range of Motion Exercises
for Your Horse's Tail
The horse's tail is an extension of his spine.
Because of this, you can learn a lot about a horse
by watching his tail. Is it carried to one side? Does
he clamp it down? Or, does he let it hang loosely
right down the middle?
Horses who have a lot of tension or pain (especially
in their back) will clamp down their tail. They may
be very spooky, especially about things coming up
at them from behind. They may be high-headed,
which will lead to tension and pain in their back.
So, I guess you can tell that tail work will help to
relax and loosen the muscles in your horse's back.
It can also help to get your horse used to you
working "back there". In case you ever need to
check his temperature or the vet has to perform
some kind of procedure or something.
How to Perform Tail Exercises
Safety first!!! If your horse kicks, keep yourself safe at all times. You may even
want to skip these exercises until you feel it is safe.
Begin by standing off to the side so that if your horse does react by kicking, you
are safely out of reach. It is actually better to stand close to the horse off to the
side rather than farther away. The closer you are, the less likely he is to be able
to make contact.
Touch your horse on the rump before just grabbing his tail so you don't surprise him. If he seems tense, try doing
some light Equine Massage Therapy Movements, such as stroking or effleurage to relax him. If he seems
relaxed, you can move forward with the exercises.
Start by grasping the tail with your fingers. Put one hand on each side of the tail. Just lightly move the tail around
to test for tension. Is he clamping his tail down? Does it feel just a little tense and unsure of what you are doing?
Or is he fairly loose?
Now that you know what you are dealing with, try to move it
around in small circles - go both directions. Does he seem
OK with this so far?
If so, then let's move on.
Try to feel the vertebrae in your horse's tail. Grasp the tail
with both hands and gently, but firmly, move the vertebrae up
and down and back and forth.
Next, lift the horse's tail and make it look kind of like a
question mark by placing one hand under the tail to support
it and using the other hand to push the tail in toward your
horse's body. Do NOT force this. If your horse is resistant,
skip it for now. In this position, move the tail back and forth
and around in circles.
Then, put your hand under the tail and SLOWLY curve the tail up and over top of your horse's rear end. It will be
like you are trying to get the tip of his tail to point at his rump. The tail will probably not touch his rump though. Do
NOT force this. Some horse's may not like this at all, and some may be able to allow it with no problem.
Again, do NOT fight with your horse. Stay within his limitations. The goal is not to make him go farther than he is
able. The goal is that repetition of these exercises will allow him to go farther than he does now.
To finish these exercises, you may perform a tail pull. Grasp the tail with both hands. You can either hold onto the
vertebrae in the tail, or some horses like it if you just hold onto the hair. See which one your horse likes best.
Some horses like both. Each version offers slightly different benefits, so do both if you wish. (Not necessarily
during the same session.)
When you have a firm grasp of the tail, stand with your feet wide with one in front of the other. Place your weight
on the back foot and "lean" your weight backwards. Be sure you take up the slack and release the tail SLOWLY.
Do NOT just let the tail go.
You may either hold the tail pull for as long as your horse finds it pleasant, or you may do short pulls. Take the
slack up for the count of 5 and then release for the count of 5.
If you are doing this correctly, you will notice that the horse leans into the traction. As he does this, he will tighten
his abdominal muscles. This movement from your horse will serve to strengthen his abdominal muscles at the
same time it is relaxing his back muscles.
When you are finished, give the tail a good "shake". This will help to get rid of that last little bit of tension and
become a signal to the horse that you are finished.
Just remember, be careful and don't put yourself in danger. Horses can kick. If you are concerned about your
horse's behavior, then save these exercises for later.
Information presented is for educational purposes only and is not intended
to replace professional opinions or recommendations.
Consult your veterinarian for advice about any medical condition or
treatment needed for your horse