The Tale of a Draft Horse
First of all, a little bit of history. Draft and other breeds considered “harness horses” commonly had their tails docked (or amputated, both terms are correct) for 2 main reasons: so the long hair wouldn’t become tangled in the harness and so that the horse couldn’t get their tail bone over the reins. People partaking in this arguably barbaric practice justified it by saying that the underside of the tail is sensitive and when the horse feels a foreign object underneath the tail, they automatically clamp down and panic [quick interjection: we’d like to know how well they’d react to the sudden appearance of a foreign object in their tailbone region!] – at which point, because of the clamping, when the horse bolted the reins were no longer effective and ‘holding on to your horses’ (as is so commonly suggested) was no longer an option.
At this point our common sense forces us to ask whether these issues aren’t reasonably easy to rectify? 1: braiding or wrapping the tail would take care of the loose hairs and 2: proper introduction to and training of harnessing would acclimatize the horse to having foreign objects in contact with the underside of their tails. We would like to know why, with all of the incredible ingenuity in this world, are people STILL permanently disfiguring horses and not looking to remedy the issue through improving the design of the harness itself? But then it’s not really about performance and safety, is it? Not according to this quote we found on the Alberta Farm Animal Care website,
“Greg Ruzicka uses heavy horses in his PMU operation. “Tail docking keeps the horses cleaner in the barn and easier to manage.” Undocked heavy horse tails tend to be more thick and unruly than in lighter breeds”
Oooh ok, we get it now. You’re willing to hurt your horse with the initial procedure and consequently deny them their only protection against flies and other biting insects because YOU DON’T WANT TO CLEAN THEIR TAILS!
Case in point: The following is a draft horse available for sale on equine.com.
He is advertised as a Belgian Draft and his disciplines are noted as trail horse and field hunter. There is no mention of driving or being harness trained. So why is his tail docked?
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, also from equine.com, we have this beautiful Belgian draft mare for sale.
Notice how she has all of her tail? She’s advertised as a trained draft and harness horse.
Something else to consider: Pony breeds, such as the Norwegian Fjord, that are commonly used to pull carts – well it’s not so common for their tails to be docked – as shown here from equinenow.com.