Body Language Part Four: Talk to the Tail
A horse’s tail makes excellent fly swatter! Of course, it can also give us a number of subtle and no-so-subtle clues to our horse’s mind.
Clamped Tail- Not unlike dogs, when a horse’s tail is clamped down it is a sign of stress or nervousness. He may also tuck in his hindquarters and shift his weight onto his back legs. There is a good chance that your horse may act out of fear or discomfort. This is a good sign that he needs your reassurance. It is also a good idea to check the fit of your tack and make sure that your horse is not in any pain.
Rapidly Swishing/ Wringing- When your horse’s tail is gently swinging their tail from side to side in the field or on the cross ties, they are using their tail as a fly swatter. Sometimes when turned out together, horses will stand side by side facing opposite directions. They then can swish away flies from one another’s faces. Also, often times a horses tail will swish rhythmically while they are walking or trotting under saddle. A rapidly swishing tail or a wringing tail can be a sign that your horse is irritated. When a horse moves their tail either side to side or up and down rapidly, they may be getting ready to kick or buck. Regain your horse’s focus if you are riding or if you are on the ground, be sure to heed the warning. Again, be sure to check your horse for any signs of discomfort and that your tack is fitting properly.
Flagged Tail- While tail carriage can vary from breed to breed, generally a horse that is carrying his tail higher than the level of his back is excited or nervous. If your horse’s tail is flagged, he is not paying much attention to you and you need to regain his focus. Especially when accompanied by a raised head, a flagged tail is a good indication that your horse may spook, buck, or bolt.