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

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, 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


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Posted on October 6, 2011, in Conformation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 54 Comments.

  1. I have to comment here- I Own Percheron horses- and yes, all have been docked. Their tails get horridly muddy, and heavy if I let them grow out those wonderful tails. It’s much safer that if they have long tails, due to the fact that IF that long tail should ever get over one’s lines- its Very hard to get one’s lines free. Drafters’ docks are incredibly powerful and a wreck can easily happen from a horse spooked by a driver attempting to swing a line free. I happen to own a Clyde mare who’s poor tail is only a few inches long- THAT to me is barbaric. How in the world can she ever grow enough tail to swish flies ? The other horses here all have been docked much longer, and grow lovely long tails, if allowed. My two retired Percherons both have silver tails past their hocks right now. I let them all remain inside during the day- with box fans blowing… then they go out all night long to do “horse things”.

    While I disagree w/ your “barbaric” comments- I understand where you are coming from with that statement. I always figure that a person who spouts that around Really needs to do some more “homework”, and I just smile at their lack of education.

    That said- keep up the ”snarky-isms”, I love it !

    A Percheron owner 🙂

    • I have to say she did mention the reason’s for the docking procedure. But what she can’t understand is, if it’s a common problem can it not be remedied by introducing horses to said problem so that they can be trained to handle the situation. Even so I do understand, though don’t agree with it for a carriage horse.

      Doing it for convenience however, I can’t abide by. If the tail is difficult to clean or maintain, keep it a little shorter with scissors or braid it up. I have a belgan who has a very very thick heavy tail. so much so that he can’t lift it all the way up and out of the way when he poops, which leaves a disgusting tail so I take a little extra time and trim up the hairs that get in the way (nicely so you don’t even notice) and make sure to keep the underside of his tail clean. If allowed the tail will drag the ground, so we keep it trimmed up around mid cannon bone height because of the deep mud we deal with here. Yes it takes a little more time but we won’t subject him to a painful procedure for the sake of time.

      • Ok- I don’t know why this insists I reply to Erin, but I’m directing it towards Teresa…. Anywho- I’ve owned both docked tailed horses and undocked- All drafters. Sure- those long tails are lovely- but having had to deal with long muddy, tangly tails for nigh on 22 years now, I would also trim those “long tails” ( Drafters again- mind you.) much shorter.

        Do you drive your guy, teresa ? ( totally understanding about the poopy tails – my gelding doesn’t lift his up much & its gross) Has he ever swished that pretty tail, and gotten it over a line ? I’ve trained driving horses for a long time- and ALWAYS teach them that wiggly things under one’s tail is “A -Okay”. Some are just goosey and don’t ever learn to like someone trying to lift that Long dock up so they can remove a line.

        So far as docking being a “painful” procedure, I liken it to getting one’s ears pierced when young. Yeah- it hurts- for about 15 minutes, but then the blood supply is cut off and there’s no pain. IF DONE CORRECTLY, that is. When I moved up here, omg- there was a vet who’d wait til the young drafters were Yearlings- then it was like a surgery to dock. Never Ever would I do THAT to a horse of mine ! Neverrrrr… brrr, I get chills just thinking of it. Yuckie 😦

      • Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but I DO understand And have done that, Teresa…. MANY times.

        I’ve been training horses for 40 years- and the driving horses since 1989. Long before any horse I’m training gets long lined even, it is taught about cruppers, breeching and lines under tails. Still- given the right circumstances- a horse could flip out, a line get caught, tail clamps, equine mind explodes, thinking that certainly the scary monster now has access to those precious hamstrings and more hysteria hits.

        Again, the correct way to dock anything is oh so similar to getting ones’ ears pierced, OR banding sheep,etc.

        I own a Percheron mare who is now fully retired. She was docked correctly when I bought her at just 18 months old. We competed at many many hitch shows, and did our share of winning too. I was the person who trained her to drive – And ride- She knows lower level dressage movements, and once done with showing with the drafter breeds, we moved into driven dressage against the little horses. She also excelled at that- with in the realms of being a Heavy Horse. Then I started a very small carriage business. She was one of the mares solid enough and trustworthy enough to pull the carriage . I had one other mare that was part of this too. One day, my mare was very surprised by a loose pig…. yeah, a BIG one. Well, she’d never seen something like that- let alone heard the sound it made. I was surprised too !! It came out from under some bushes along the side of the road. She stopped, head Way up in the air, snorting, and telling me she Really didn’t wanna be there any more. In the process of getting us turned around, one of my lines slipped up under that tail. Omg- she slammed her tail down on that line, and took off. Fight or flight instinct had kicked in 10000 %. It took me almost a city block in measurement before her brain clicked back on and she heard me saying ” Ho”. ( whoa) Finally I got that line back in it’s right place, and we took the “long way” around. <;)

        An example of how a horse in panic mode, simply will not hear it's person…. its' into saving it's own hide, and to heck w/ anyone else. According to my mare- that pig had snuck up behind her, and grabbed her tail as she was turning around. There was No way I could have reached up, lifted that incredibly strong dock to free my line- and her tail had been docked already. I prefer the drafters w/ shorter tails… I treat them as my partners, and they get treated better than I do most times.

  2. I’m curious how long Kris’s horses’ tails are docked. Apparently They can be docked very short, as in the top picture above, or left slightly longer. I just can’t seem to paint a visual picture of what Kris is saying without seeing some pictures of what she is describing. She says all her Percherons are docked, but also says they have long tails past their hocks. Need…more…info! –ignorant about tail docking in Round Rock TX.

    • Hi Erin,

      Ahahaaaa- finally I am following the ‘instructions” here. A CORRECTLY docked Percheron tail is long enough to cover the “private parts” in mares. Below their vagina, and with the colts- One has to count joints to get it long enough , or guess. I can’t remember how many one counts, but I was told that by a very educated draftsman. Always place the tight band Between those joints- after scrubbing the area clean and clipping away some tail hairs. When I docked my personal horses- at 3 days old- I Always set that band a good 2 ” below where ” correct” was. My 5 yr old mare grows a very pretty shiny black tail- and she has a good ” swisher” too ! So many folks ask me if she has a natural tail in fact, it’s so thick and pretty. I hate to see horses who’ve been owned by those people who shorten tails to much- its a pretty sad thing. That first photo of the butched off square tail- on the Belgian mare- is a good example of some idiot being allowed to set tail lengths. I don’t know if I can find my geldings photos of a long tail- that I’d want others to see ! Ahahahaaa- he is ALWAYs a total dirtball. I’ll try- can one post pics here & if so , How ?? Or Erin- I can email you one or two, so ya can see ?

  3. Here’s a great article that explains a little of both of what y’all said: some do it for management and safety, others manage just fine with undocked tails….

    • great link Erin, LOVE this quote specifically

      “In the UK tail docking in horses has been banned since 1949 under the Docking and Nicking of Horses Act. Several UK heavy horse groups have indicated that undocked tails do not cause any problems. Kerstin Alford, of the British Horse Society, says, “The incidence of injury in undocked horses where lines may become caught under the base of the dock can be avoided by correct practice and adaptation to the implements and lines used. If the likelihood of such an injury is significant then it is the method and practice that should be changed.”

  4. My family has raised Percherons for years, and yes, most have had their tails docked. No, not nearly as short as the pictured horse, but short enough that the lines could be retrieved from under the tail if an accidental “tail clamping” happened. Just like a good rope horse can clamp its tail and lunge if the lariat runs under their tail, so too will a good harness horse no matter how broke. With a reasonable length docking, the horse will still grow a long tail. Some of ours still make it to the ground.
    The other reason for a docked tail is the show ring preference. A little tidy bun of a tail makes those apple bottoms look perkier and rounder… not the best reason to disfigure a horse, but certainly not isolated to the draft industry.
    There should be more innovation, and an over haul in the taste for the ring but that’s about as likely as dressage horses in front of the bit, western pleasure horses with a set of 3 legit gaits and TN Walkers on a barefoot trim.

  5. Yeppers, you got it keenespeaks. I’ve almost had a pretty severe runaway, thanks to a line slipping under a tail- and it was a docked tail too. No one bothered to tell me the mare was skittish about that until After she almost took out a fence line. Long before one gets negative about the drafters’ tails- I agree….. take a long look at what is being done to the W/P horses who happen to use their tails under saddle. Or how long a gaited horse( IE- TWH/ ASB) has it’s tail in a tail harness. So long that most of the hair is rubbed off and the tail bone is raw. There are FAR more wicked things happening to horses in general, than Just the drafters. ( I won’t go into the world of Showing the big time hitch horses….talk about some cruelties)

    • I have a big problem with people justifying what they do by pointing out that someone else is worse. That’s like somebody stealing a DVD because someone else stole a TV. Doesn’t make it ok!

      • What everrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. I never said it was okay, and I’m sorry about your
        “big problems” ( there’s always counseling ). I mentioned those items because in the world of show horses, there’s a Lot more going on that is considered abusive than shortening a horses tail for human safety,etc.

        Perhaps you need to really hunt for some more bad photos of drafters- so everyone will understand the other negatives in training that they go thru ? You know- those horribly shocking ones ? It doesn’t seem as though you really know much at all of what goes on in that world. As I have learned to say ” I’m sorry ya feel that way”. There- argue with That. 🙂

        Instead of bitching about things- DO SOMETHING. Lead the way for the truly tortured and abused horses of the world- Make laws happen, create a haven For those abused and tortured animals in your back yard….. take in rescues until you can no longer afford to feed the family, let alone your abused horses. Just because I happened to be one who replied to the original post, I’m getting it all ? well, I don’t see that as fair- even perhaps ” Abusive ” ?????????????????? So who is being abusive now ? Not meeeee… my horses are all cared for properly, they’re happy and content, and in top health, and I merely tried to explain my side of the draft world. No, I don’t think ALL drafters should have their tails whacked off as a two year old, but if ya really took the time to understand my written words… ehhhhhhhh, never mind. Some folks are closed minded, and that is how they stay. I have better things to do than banter w/ someone who isn’t open minded- but forever looking for a way to copy the fuglyhorse gal. There- THAT is snarky.
        I’ve got weeds to mow before winter hits .

        • I don’t see anyone being “abusive”, just a group of people debating the issue at hand. No one has stated that training draft horses to pull is inherently cruel or that docking tails is the ultimate form of horse abuse. The question is whether it’s actually necessary (we even brought up the reasons why it’s done!), or if there are practical alternatives. I happen to fall on the side of it being not. The fact that it’s been banned for 60 years in the UK and people seem to be managing just fine supports that. And the fact that there are other forms of abuse out there doesn’t mean this debate is not worth having!

          I’ll ignore the snarkiness at the end except to state that, IMO, taking in more horses than you can afford to care for contributes to the problem, not the solution!

    • And you yourself just said that having a docked tail didn’t actually stop the panic reaction.

      • My point was that even a well trained horse will panic. Not the fact that a tail had been docked. It made life easier when it came to getting a line back for the correct control.
        Have YOU ever driven a hitch of 18 hand Percherons ?

      • “so everyone will understand the other negatives in training that they go thru ? You know- those horribly shocking ones ? ” Hmmm… funny how that person never bothered to give any examples of those horrible training methods… (for someone so knowledgeable of the draft world, you’d think they’d actually want to show their knowledge)

        “take in rescues until you can no longer afford to feed the family, let alone your abused horses.” Yeah… cos that would really help HORSES so much… I love it when people defeat themselves with their own reasoning…

        • ” You know- those horribly shocking ones ?……………..” Kris

          ” Hmmm… funny how that person never bothered to give any examples of those horrible training methods… (for someone so knowledgeable of the draft world, you’d think they’d actually want to show their knowledge)”

          I was being sarcastic- but there’s no “emoticon” to show that here. 😉

          Seems to me that many of you gals are simply looking for a way to make another feel bad ….. IE- not taking the text as it was meant, etc.

          There is no one here that I feel a need to prove my knowledge to…. not one of you. For petes’ sake- Monica didn’t even realize the differences between a Heavy Horse- and a Friesian or Andalusian. Good grief people. Try learning before you spout off things and add photos to show you have no clue.

          With this, I’m not going to bother replying to anything- and will express total dislike if someone mentions this blog. It’s silly, petty and seems to be an attempt at being similar to the fugly gal who also has a blog. The difference is- SHE knows what she is talking about !

          See ya- enjoy cutting each other to shreds; I haven’t the time for it.
          I have horses to “torture”…

  6. It’s a PMU farmer. Need we say more… really? Shitty person to quote in any relation to animal care for all the crap they do to those poor mares and how they introduce millions of unwanted innocent horses into the world so women don’t have to suffer a little naturally occurring discomfort (hurray for synthetics and herbals!)

    The rest I totally agree with. I can understand why they did it then… because they relied on horses and people couldn’t be bothered to learn how to be a proper horse person (just like the many assholes who can’t drive/trash their cars with improper care) but now, yes, it’s just barbaric.

  7. That’s something that always bothered me too. Granted, I don’t know that much about draft horses or driving, yet I’ve seen horses used in driving competitions with their tails intact. Here are some examples:

    Yes, I know none of those were drafts but these are horses moving at higher speed than drafts, yet there does not seem to be any issue about their tails causing any accidents.
    And here is a pair of drafts also being driven and also with their tails intact:

    And then there’s my main pet peeve, docking tails of horses that aren’t even used for driving! Wtf is up with that?

    Note: All shots were taken by me so there’s copyright issues here.

  8. I see it as being abusive…. but that is my opinion, just like you have yours. The other folks were not being rude- but YOU ? ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhyeah, Ms Snarky- one.

    Ok- after looking at All of the photos, Monica… the first shot- that is an drafter type in a CDE. Long tails are sometimes ‘done up’ as to have them out of the way. I guess the second one is of the same horse ? The painted horse has “some” draft in it- but it sure as heck looks like a PONY size ?? The pair is a pair of FRIESIANS- Not considered all drafter. A ” Light Draft” is how I like to describe them. Friesians ARE very fine driving horses- ask Ummm, what’s her name—- Martha Stewart- She rides AND drives hers, for instance.
    The last two greys under saddle are either Lusitanos Or Andaulsuans. Note- the saddle is a dead giveaway. And those tails are NOT docked, but banged in the normal Spanish manner. Notice their brands- Omg- might THAT be abusive and cruel ? Ask your neighbor Spanish person who raises Andalusians….

    Obviously you don’t know your horses really well. I think you’d better stick to your photography- which is Wonderful by the way ! I don’t care to use them, so not to worry- your shots are going to remain yours.

    Here’s a picture of a pair of Hackney horses- those tails are Not docked, but banged like the English prefer their horses’s tails to be.( at least I HOPE it is able to copied n’ pasted !)

    (** Like Monica’s photos – mine are from my private collection, taken by me, and copyrighted- so please don’t ‘steal’**)

    Below is a photo of the Percheron mares here…plus one gelding behind them. I had just shortened their tails a little due to poopies on them. Take notice- long tails, even though they are all docked . My black mare’s tail is well below her hocks right now, thick and wonderful. BUT If I show her in competition w/ the hitch horses, her tail can easily be shortened to be done in a Scotch Knot .I hope this works, but some how I doubt it….

    • Sorry, haven’t yet figured out how to add photos in the comments. Only comments we block are spam though – no censorship here!

    • So why then are only the tails of drafts docked? Why not all carriage horses? -it’s ok to maim drafties but not others? This is where I think it might be more of a convenience issue and not strictly safety related because, as you previously stated Kris, the draft’s tails can get quite muck filled. -given previous comments I do want to make it clear that I am actually asking – if you have an answer as to why other breeds tails aren’t docked I would like to know. 🙂

      And as for abusive – some people (and here I don’t know if Monica will or not) might find what you said about her not knowing horses really well offensive. Kind of outside of the spirit of this debate, isn’t it?

      • Draft tails are docked due to their tails being incredibly long, thick and tough to keep care of. Back in the days when most drafters were being used AS draught horses… their owners didn’t have the Time to comb out tails that were in ringlets, and muck covered. The light breeds were docked Way back when- the ‘carriage’ horses- OR they were banged off right below the ends of their docks. So they were not docked but banged tails. ( Remember the poems/ lyrics about the bang tailed horses ?) Long ago- the drafters didn’t have docked tails- but folks saw how easy it was to care for a shorter tail- so it became popular to do. Now a days one will see drafters in shows either docked, or braided up in a short hunter type . This ‘enhances’ those wonderful wide behinds… I call them ‘apple asses’. Its considered “proper” but it isn’t at the same time. What makes a stunning draft horse IS the conformation, and disposition ; Not whether it has a short tail or not.

        Often times, the carriage horses had/ have grooms to care for them… not many drafters had a groom to care for them. They were lucky if they got groomed at All. Thus- the carriage horses have always had longer tails. The Hackneys, IF I remember right- were docked many years ago.

        Monica doesn’t know her horse breeds. If she called all the gorgeous horses in those few photos ” drafters” because they are NOT. I was meaning to be offensive- I find that irritating when people spout off about things and then add pictures to show how incorrect they are ?

        There are SO many different driving competitions to show one’s horse in- some have long tails, some have banged tails off short, and some are docked. No where in show rules does it Require a horse to be docked, but they still are. I’m talking HEAVY HORSES here… as the original discussion was only about them.

        This is only one of the reasons why I stopped showing light horses and moved over w/ the drafter folks. They don’t pull this ‘chit’ with each other. They HELP each other. It wasn’t long until the draft folks went to extremes with the big footed horses, the super high over checks ( remember Black Beauty ??), drugs, weighted Heavy shoes to entice even more action, breeding for fire and loosing those wonderful draft minds, creating taller and taller animals but sacrificing the bone and quality that made the Heavy horses the ones who ” moved ” our great country. I now show w/ the light horse people again- IF I even show – but in pleasure and driven dressage. Having a World Champion in my barn that I trained and competed to that level kind of allows me feel that I don’t have to Prove to others that I am ‘ that good’. With that- I am now outta here.

        • Defensive much? You can dish it out, but you sure can’t take it! I love how you liked the snarkiness to start, but can’t handle it if any of it is directed at you or your discipline.

          A. Monica admits she’s not experienced in this area. She never referred to the Andalusians as drafts, just asked what the justification of docking riding horses’ tails was. And Friesians are light drafts.
          B. We’ve all acknowledged there was originally a purpose to docking, we just think that there should be better alternatives in this day and age.
          C. The fact that docking has been banned for considerable periods of time in other countries and people still manage to drive horses (the English have such a strong “preference” for undocked tails, they made it illegal 60 years ago) suggests it’s really not necessary.
          D. Suggesting that cutting off circulation to an appendage so that it dies and falls off is somehow comparable to a minor flesh wound (ear piercing) is kinda laughable. Ever heard of “phantom pains”? It’s quite common in human amputees. How do we know horses don’t experience something similar with their amputations?

          And if you can’t handle people disagreeing with you, feel free to go elsewhere!

          • Nope- I only get defensive when I feel like I’m the only person who trying to defend themselves against people who are out to hurl proverbial stones. Jodi- I see you are a person who thinks she knows it all too. Don’t call names until you are perfect…and you are not. This has turned into just what I thought it would. I have seen horses suffer…. I’ve seen them injured beyond your imagination can go. I too have worked for a vet… Charlotte- I have seen pups have their dew claws removed at 3 days too. Never saw / heard one SCREAM in pain. Good grief- you people need to get real and a life. I have been TRYING to explain why horses tails are docked- not get into an argument ( And yes- Snarky one- it Is )… Monica sent photos of horses during a “debate” concerning drafters and tails. So one is going to figure she sees them all as Draft breeds. Friesians are Not Heavy horses- they are light drafts. Andalusians are not Heavy horses…. they’re far from it, and try calling either breed a ‘draft’ – see what happens. Duh.

            Again- from the little bit I have been here- I’ve seen way to much ass kissing, parading about as though you all know what is best for horses, and a bad attempt at becoming the next ” fugly” group. It isn’t working, and won’t ever. Simply because others do something- it doesn’t make it right. I never said docking was correct- what I’ve been Trying to do is explain WHY. But nooooooooooo- no one saw it that way. So – due to all the anger here from ” tree huggers” , this is it. I won’t be around all of this, and this is it. Bad references from one or more will eventually shut this blog down, and I for one, hope it happens soon. It won’t though because humans Enjoy so called ‘debating’. At long last- I am truly outta here. Horse show today, and I have much better times awaiting w/ my mare. Yeah- the one who’d been tortured and abused, according to the pita people here.You folks obviously look for something to pick at – just like a bunch of stupid chickens.

      • That’s exactly what I was trying to figure out. I guess I still haven’t quite figured out this whole trying to make myself clear on the internet thing.

    • U, Kris, I did point out that the first 3 pictures were NOT of draft horses. Please read the post carefully.

      I also know that Friesians are also considered light drafts unlike say, Belgian drafts. But they still have very long, thick tails. So why are the tails of Percherons and Belgians docked but not Friesians?

      The horses in the last picture are all Lusitanos btw, and whether their tails are docked or banged, I don’t really care. Some Portuguese seem to wear tack after the Spanish fashion for some reason that’s beyond my comprehension. Either way, I don’t agree with what was done the the horse’s tails, it’s not torture, but it’s unnecessary, ugly, and, as mentioned before, it leaves the horses with no defense against insects.

      P.S. I don’t care if people use my photos as examples (of course I’d rather not have them stolen), I am saying they are mine so I’m not breaking any copyright laws.

  9. I may not own any drafts or know how to drive. But I have been present when 2 to 3 day old puppies have their tails docked by vets. They scream, even with pain killer and some may die from the shock.
    That said, I do not believe there is a justifiable reason to dock tails or crop ears for any reason on any animal unless it’s a medical problem(go ahead jump on me).
    If a line getting under a horses tail is the problem, why wouldn’t you do something to ensure the tail cannot lift so high as to get over the line? So there’s a bit of a mess if the horse poops on his tail, but cleaning up a dirty tail is more humane then chopping it off because people are too lazy to look for another solution.
    Well that’s my two cents opinion. Cheers and Take Care!

  10. I’ve seen a lot of unfortunate horses suffer from various tail practices. I’m talking big life threatening infections, requiring amputations, lasering, and constant cleaning/bandaging, because wraps fall off stumps. When you see a horse suffer (flys aside) and see humans risking their safety to care for this tender region…I just want you all to be aware. Some may take care to do things like this at a young age and using blocks, clean practices and such. But when things like this are legal and allowed shown in the ring..You have left the door open for asswads to do it wrong. So debate it knowing that.

  11. Oh jeez. Just gonna throw in my two cents here.

    Kris, I understand you’re feeling picked on, but I don’t think anyone has started the personal attacks on you the way you have on everyone else.

    Telling the community about the purpose of docking, the arguable “need” for it in times past, and even admitting to having horses with docked tails is all well and good. But that’s not how your initial post came off. In your first post, it appeared that you were promoting the docking of modern draft horses. Why? Because all you talked about was validation for it. That’s my reasoning, and maybe I’m wrong. But I’m willing to stand by the idea that you support docking for a variety for reasons.

    And past your initial post, you just started trying to sling mud whenever someone brought up a point to counter yours. No sense in saying more about that!

    My two cents on the issue? I get it. Kris, you say that it’s dangerous to have a full tail while driving. I can absolutely see your point. Dangerous things happen with horses, and giving them one more reason to go out of control (because we all know even the most well-trained horse is capable of panic), I can understand not taking a risk of the horse flicking his/her tail and getting it over the line.
    What I don’t understand is: why that means you have to dock it? That’s where you lost me. I’m pretty sure you can braid, band, etc. their tails in a fashion that reduces the risk along the same lines as docking.
    Maybe I don’t understand the great risk that a wrapped tail poses?

    Then your next point is that you don’t want to deal with “draft horse tails.” I can understand why no one wants to be responsible for that mass of hair. But once again, what I can’t understand is why that requires the tail to be docked.
    When it comes to animals, I do have the philosophy of “if you don’t want to deal with it, don’t get the animal.” Sorry. If you don’t want to brush your cat or trim its fur to keep the mats out of its coat, then don’t get one with long hair. If you don’t want to exercise your dog for 2 hours a day, don’t get a herding breed.
    In my opinion, you don’t get to just pick and chose with your animals. You can’t just get a border collie because you like how smart they are and then maim it in some way that makes it easier to deal with when it comes to exercise requirements.
    Same for a Percheron – you didn’t need that horse. no one held a gun to your head and forced you into it. Yes, you really like the sport of driving. Yes, you really prefer draft breeds for it. Great. Now do the work required to keep the animal healthy and pain free. If that means brushing and shampooing a tail several times a week, OH WELL. You don’t just get to cut it off because it’s inconvenient.
    If you can’t deal with it, at least consider cutting the tail instead of docking it. This goes with my previous analogy -> lots of people get their persian cats and poodle dogs trimmed short so they don’t have to brush as much. A horse’s reasonable length tail is arguably more valuable than a poodle’s long coat (assuming it’s an indoor dog that isn’t going to become ill from exposure with a short coat), but at least if you just cut the horse’s tail he could grow it out in the future with another owner or after retiring, etc.

    As far as being “pain free” yah right. If someone cut off my finger, it would hurt like hell. Would I adjust? Sure. Would the pain eventually recede? Definitely. Would I ever be “100%” again? maybe. I don’t see how the horse’s tail is different.

    That’s my thoughts. I’m not trying to make personal attacks, but I’m telling you why I disagree with your logic. If there’s some big issue I’ve missed that completely invalidates my reasoning, feel free to say so. There’s no need to claim I’m trying to become the next Cathy from Fugly.
    If you can tell me why it’s unacceptable to you to do anything but dock tails, I’m interested. That doesn’t mean I’ll be convinced, but I’m willing to listen to your reasoning.
    And please reconsider docking in the future. There’s an issue of cognitive dissonance in situations like these: you’ve got horses with docked tails, people around you must promote it, and you think it’s okay. You can’t consider going back on your opinion, because it would mean admitting to yourself that you’re not comfortable with the negatives of docking a horse’s tail and your previous assumption that “it’s just fine” is wrong.
    Just consider it.

  12. My husband and I have 2 Spotted Draft horses that we started showing 2 years ago. When we bought the horses their tails were already docked and both were used for driving and the one was also used as a riding horse also.

    Whereas I do not agree with docking of the tails and I would probably never dock one myself, I do understand the safety part of a docked tail.

    It is NOT a hair issue, although the hair can get entangled in the eveners and I have seen the aftermath of that mess…not pretty. Docking is not just a matter of cutting off hair. I think the definition was already posted but it seems there might be some confusion. It is a tailbone issue. The tailbone itself is partly amputated. The horse in the first picture of the original post was docked incorrectly. Genitalia should NEVER be exposed like that. The horse in the third picture- I am willing to bet that her tail is docked but has been left to grow the hair out. Hair still grows on docked tails it also still collects poo and in our mare’s case- pee. Our drafts have thicker tail hair than my pleasure horse! We still have all the upkeep that we would normally have on full-length tails. During show season we thin their tails and trim them to about 3 or 4 inches above their hocks, I have seen others go shorter but never like the first picture. It makes it easier to tail knot them and a much cleaner bun. Yes I am admitting to trimming and thinning hair for convenience! 😉 When we are done showing for the season, we let them grow out.

    The safety part of it does indeed have to do with lines getting clamped under the tail. You do lose all control and brakes. It is easier to flip lines out of a shorter dock than a normal length dock. On some carts and wagons there would be no safe way to release them. When we drive single we use line carriers that attach to the hip strap, the lines tend to stay farther away from the tail. This works for us in my opinion but we also have horses with docked tails. A horse with an undocked tail still could get their dock over the lines.

    Also, you have to understand that drafts breeds are surrounded by tradition. Generation after generation after generation has been plowing, showing, logging, etc. with these horses and not much has changed. Brighter colors and shiny harness are about all the changes you see in the show world. Yes the horses are bred different but the presentation is still bathed in tradition however right or wrong we see it today. Years ago docking was done because of safety for animal and humans. Today, I would say it is because of safety, tradition AND cosmetics, solely MY OPINION though.

  13. Someone linked to this post in an Australian forum – check out the discussion over there as well 🙂

    • You know you got a good thing going when the controversy starts. Go Snarky! 😀

      OT but I can I post with my FB account but i have to have a WordPress account to like a post? O.o

  14. First of all, the horse in the third picture DOES have a docked tail. It is a bit longer than the first two photos (the first horse was docked WAY too short) but make no mistake, that is a docked tail.

    I actually own a draft cross mare. Her tail is not docked; I purposefully looked for a draft who did not have a docked tail and trust me, it was a bit of a difficult search. Pure drafts are bred first and foremost for harness work and harness horses have their tails docked, for reasons already explained above in detail.

    Since I do have a draft cross, I can tell you all from first hand experience that draft tails are THICK. I skipped combing out my mare’s tail for just over a week. After that week I went to shampoo her tail out and discovered her hair had actually wrapped underneath the tail bone and formed mats. I had to cut off almost half of her tail to get rid of the mats and the knots. Now I comb and condition her tail every other day. I have to, or it would become unmanageable.

    Harness horses, especially drafts, do not often recieve daily care. Don’t get me wrong, they have a nice life. Most often they are put out to pasture to enjoy themselves 9 months out of the year and during the summer they are put in pulling competitions or have to drive big carts around pumpkin fields in October or sometimes even have to plow the fields. If these horses did not have their tails docked, the mats alone would be painful and cruel. Drafts just don’t have the same tails as the lighter breeds. They just don’t.

    So add that to the argument for why tails SHOULD be docked. I do not agree or disagree with the practice. If you don’t own a draft, then you don’t really know how crazy their tails can get. So consider that, and consider this — most of you don’t own a draft. You haven’t done any pulling competitions. You can point and yell and call people names, but you. don’t. own. drafts.

    • Thank you. Beware- these people sit around, waiting for someone to have a different opinion than themselves.Similar to a bunch of attack dogs with nothing to do. They do change ones’ thoughts to become wrong, Drafters don’t have the same tails as the little breeds. You know that- and so do I. I don’t care either way- docking or not, as well…. but once I wrote that I Had drafters, many of these people assumed I supported it.I prefer the thinner, shorter hair on tails. Most times I do not HAVE the time to fuss with “hair”. A reason why I do not own Friesians, Andalusians or the like- same w/ the fuzzy legged horses. I own a top bred Clyde mare who is retired now, and Still she needs extra care for her feather. Try as you may- they’ll still misconstrue words and sentences to suit themselves. So they have a “reason” to be rude. I figure if one hasn’t a clue about something- shut the heck up and go learn more first. And not what someone else has typed on a website- go to the source. Someone who Owns the item and ask. I tried to explain WHY the docking, but had pretty much no luck because these people only read enough to find an area to pick at. Like a bunch of hens, me thinks. I tried, and have now given up- but thank you for adding to the info.

    • So, if I’m getting this right, the main reason for docking tails on draft horses is convenience after all. People choose to have draft horses, because they prefer their build, because they’re good for driving, whatever the reason, but then they just aren’t committed enough to make the extra effort of taking proper care of those ridiculously thick tails. Most people just take the easy way out.

      Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you don’t have some valid points there. I do agree that is someone is not going to properly groom those VERY high maintenance tails, they’re they might be better off being docked that causing the horses further pain. But i still don’t agree with it. I that when someone decides to be a draft owner, then they should be prepared to make the extra effort to care for their horse’s tails, just as much as they do for their health and fitness.

      I still don’t understand why not all the draft breeds are treated equally when it comes to tail management either. I’ve given the example of a pair of Friesian driving horses before and no one answered that question though. Sure, Friesians are light drafts, but are they tails really much easier to deal with than the “heavy” draft ones? To me, they look pretty hard to manage, but I’ve yet to see a Friesian with a docked tail. Could you explain that to me?

  15. Another thought on it… I live currently in Savannah and as I was walking I noted a carriage that walked by with a couple Percherons with docked tails. There are also several breeds in the tour companies who don’t… but after living in Savannah (and I’ve lived in many places including outside the US) I have rarely encountered as many morons behind the wheel as I have here.

    I can imagine in the case of the tour drafties, just a moment of panic with a few galloping strides could be disastrous with the neanderthals that drive around here… yet only a few of their horses are docked and some of the horses I’ve seen have been youngsters/green without docked tails. These horses go through crap loads of desensitization to noises, touches, flashes… all sorts. And they certainly need it for what goes whizzing by them, sometimes nearly into them.

    These guys are kinda doing what the whole purpose of docking what supposed to be to help, preventing panic in busy scenarios (or otherwise dangerous ones) and they do just fine.

  16. If you don’t want to deal with the long thick tail on draft horse then why don’t you just cut it short? Thin it out? Something other than cut part of the tailbone off?

  17. To my feel, the ‘casual’ solution is a tail bag, the show solution is an updo! In England, where tail docking has indeed been banned for a long time, draft horses are routinely shown with their tails in a bun like this:

    Tell me that doesn’t look absolutely gorgeous and much better than a docked tail.

  18. Get back to real use of those draft horses. I see the Amish plowing muddy fields with 12 or 16 horse hitch and totally understand why you would dock them. By the time you tack a 12 horse team get it all muddy plowing all day and clean up the vital stuff, feet, harness. I would not be inspired to comb out tails too. Yes some are docked shorter than I would like but I guess you can screw up anything if you try. That said I drive my hackney with a natural tail and have never had a problem with her tail. Lots of things wig her out but tail is ok.

  19. Ok I don’t see how people can justify docking a draft horse’s tail when people have admitted that a docked tail can still clamp on a line. Several other posters have said that that has happened to them with docked horses. If it still happens shouldn’t people be putting more thought into changing the harness other than docking tails?

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