This is why I am so conflicted with the show circuit.
This colt is lovely.
His head carriage is much more natural than what we've seen in the last several years.
I was happy to see it.
But then I saw his tail.
His poor,mangled, surgically blocked tail.
A blocked tail hangs long and low and doesn't switch in frustration. It gives the look we stock horse people love so much, but doesn't require training a horse so at ease he runs with a quiet tail on his own. It also stops one of horses main means of communication. Blocking a horse's tail is the equivalent of an overdose of Novocaine for one of us.
"Mhuh? Glable, mleah, slomo, nee?" Drool....
You might still be talking but nobody is going to understand you.
A few injections of Everclear and you've got the look we want in western pleasure, reining, cow horse, cutting and halter. Before anybody gets too excited about me opening the door to slam western events, I hear tail blocking is now prevalent in dressage, all the way up to USEF events.
We need to keep our outrage pointed where it belongs, at anybody, in any event, with any horse, willing to damage them permanently for cosmetic purposes. It's crazy. It's the industry.
I'm going to 'fess up here. I've done it. Once. I could give you all my excuses and reasons why I did it, but I'm not. I will tell you I had it done by a veterinarian who was able to inject the horse so the effect was temporary. If everything worked out right of course. I was lucky, it was temporary, and the horse I had injected recovered completely. I'll never do it again. If I can't win because my horse rats out a misplaced
spur or a sore hock with an angry snap of her tail, then so be it. I'm not a good enough trainer to get the job done, at least as far as I'm concerned.
Before you hang me from the highest tree here, keep in mind, a lot of my opinions and thought processes come from experience, seeing the results of our idiocy, and deciding I wanted no part of it. Not from jumping on the soap box of indignant ignorance and screaming my head off. I'll be as honest with my mistakes as I am with my successes if they are helping people learn. As soon as they become a reason to tar and feather me and run me out of town, well, I'll go back to showing photos of fairy princess horses.
Tail blocking hides the myriad of unfair training involved behind winning big. It hides sore backs, over cuing, fear of being spurred until they bleed and spur stops. It covers exhaustion, fear and anger. Gums, lips and tongues ravaged by lip chains and twisted wire snaffles aren't an issue with a quiet tail.
Blocked tails hide the stress of being started too young and pushed too hard. We insist that our horses perform at mentally impossible levels and appear happy while they're doing it. So let's go ahead and ignore the possible side effects. How about fecal dribbling? There's a nice look for your dappled gray reining champion. Problems with foaling, impactions and spinal displacement are all a price your horse can pay for a five minute run in the arena.
Of course it doesn't hide anything, not really. If you watch long enough, you'll learn to recognize the spastic twitch of a blocked tail, trying desperately to say what needs to be said. It's like walking into a warehouse and seeing a bound and gagged woman hogtied to a chair. Her eyes are bulging out of her head, she's covered with cuts and bruises and when you see her you say, "My she has pretty hair." Because if she was in pain she would say something, right?
What seems truly crazy to me, is we're taking away our horses rudder. A horse's tail is the counter balance to their head through all those NRHA, NRCHA circles, spins and turns on the fence. How the hell is a horse supposed to give a calm and balanced performance when his tail is hanging down like a weighted baseball bat?
Wouldn't it be more interesting if there were points given for the use of a quiet tail to enhance a performance and points taken away for rider interference causing a loss of harmony?
How fun would that be?
So here you go. Can you see it? Watch the dock of his tail.
NRHA Futurity Champion