Horse Holding Tail to the Side — What does this Mean?

What does it mean when a horse’s holding their tail off to one side? A horse holding its tail to one side can mean several things. The horse’s tail is an extension of the spine so sometimes spinal problems can be displayed in unusual tail carriage.

Unfortunately, one of the most common causes of a horse holding its tail to one side is having their tail cuts or deadened by horse show professionals. If the horse holding their tail to the side is a Quarter Horse, and may have been bred or trained for AQHA shows, there is a chance that the horse’s tail has been chemically deadened, and the procedure was done incorrectly. The ideal AQHA western pleasure horse does not lift and carry their tail as they move, they keep their tail flat between their buttocks. To create this look artificially, some horse trainers will inject alcohol or other chemicals into the horse’s tail to make them unable to lift their tail. This practice is forbidden by the AQHA but still is done commonly, unfortunately. Depending on how badly the job was botched, the horse who carries their tail to the side may or may not be able to swat at flies or lift their tail out of the way when they pass manure. If minor, the only damage from the procedure may be the horse holding their tail slightly to one side.

A similar procedure is also done in Saddlebred horses, but instead of injecting to flatten the tail, they cut ligaments at the bottom of the tail to free up the tail to stand up high. If this is done unevenly, or the tail is set improperly, the horse may carry their tail to one side. Horses that have had this procedure done, however, can still use their tail to swat flies and lift it out of their way. This practice is not against the rules for Saddebred showing, although an improper tail carriage is a fault.

So depending on breed you can deduce why your horse may be holding their tail to the side. A horse that holds their tail to the side is no longer a show prospect for serious showing. If your horse’s holding their tail to the side and is neither a stock horse breed or saddleseat horse you should ask your vet to examine the horse to see if the horse’s holding their tail to the side because of a spinal problem.

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