Monday, 16 October 2017

How to Put Up a Tail

Phantom's tail is supposed to be white. Like this:
I had to go back two years of pictures to find one with a white tail.

As soon as she wears a blanket, it looks like this:
More poopy coloured than white.

A few years ago I started putting her tail up over the winter months to try to keep it cleaner. My barn doesn't have an indoor washrack, and trying to wash a tail when it's -25 degrees Celsius ain't fun. I've had many people ask how I put her tail up, so here is my tutorial.

Supplies needed:

  • Duct Tape - I like to use fun patterned tape, but you can use the plain stuff from the dollar store, or good ol' utilitarian silver.
  • Vetrap - I prefer to colour coordinate with my duct tape. One roll will do her tail at least 4 times.
  • Elastics - the silicone ones are better than the rubber elastic types as they don't fall apart.
  • Leave-in conditioner treatment - Show Sheen type products really dry the ends of the tail out, and her tail feels like straw when I unwrap it. I switched to a human leave-in conditioner, and it's made a big difference. So don't use Show Sheen! 
  • Scissors
Start with a (relatively) clean and combed out tail. Apply the leave-in conditioner, making sure to apply to the ends. Comb it through and allow to dry.

Optional step - I use a bit of a french braid on the lower part of the dock. It must be super loose!! I put no tension on the braid. I do this because the shorter hairs on the side that wouldn't go into the braid below the dock get rather poopy. I would skip this step if her tail hairs were long enough to go into the main braid or if the poop factor wasn't an issue.
Very loose french braid, with a band at the bottom of the braid.
You can see how loose it is!

Braid the bottom of the tail, starting your braid below the end of the dock. Keep the first couple of inches fairly loose, then you can add more tension to the bottom part of the braid. If you did the french braid, add the tail of that braid into one of your strands so that it is included in the main braid.  Put a band into the end of the braid.

Get your scissors and Vetrap handy.
Take the end of the braid, and thread it through the top part of the braid, an inch or two below the end of the dock.
Depending on how long the tail is, you might need to double it and pass it through again.
Take the Vetrap, and thread it through with the end of the braid.
Wrap the Vetrap one wrap above, but making sure it stays below the end of the dock. I make this wrap snug.
Then continue to wrap the braided part of the tail. You only need one layer, so you don't have to overlap by much. Just make sure the whole braid is covered by Vetrap, including the end of the folded braid. Cut the Vetrap and stick it in place.
Cut 2 strips of the duct tape, about 4 inches long. Lay them across the end of the braid, in a kind of X pattern. Then cut a slightly longer piece, and wrap the top of the braid, ensuring that you keep the tape on the Vetrap. Keep this piece snug.
Then, starting at the top strip of tape, wind the roll of tape over the Vetrap down to the bottom. Again, a single layer is fine. Cut the tape when done.
The finished tail:
A bit blurry as she was moving it.
I try to take it down and rewrap it every 3-4 weeks through the winter.

This is how I do it. I know there are other ways that other people do it.

I don't like tail bags or socks, as they are fabric and absorb the poop or mud, and then the poop or mud soaks into the tail. If poop isn't an issue for you, they might work fine.

By threading the Vetrap through the top of the braid, and then wrapping above it, it kind of locks the covering in place, preventing the wrap from just sliding off the bottom. Been there, done that.

The duct tape covering gives it a bit of waterproofing. But if it rains, water will slide down the top of the tail and will get into the wrapped braid. Where I live, it probably just means that it's going to freeze into a tail-sicle. I have heard of tails rotting off, so if you live somewhere where it won't freeze, take heed if the tail gets wet.

By keeping her tail up all winter, I can usually cut 4 or 5 inches off the bottom in the spring. This helps to get rid of some of the worst-stained parts of her tail every year.

If you have any questions about the process, let me know!

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