Riding and competing on mountain rides is more enjoyable for horse and rider. Horses can use their muscles in different ways and perform therefore overall better than compared with rides over only flat ground. Riding steep uphills certainly require a higher energy output and horses tire faster on sustained uphills. The rider can help his horse a lot by dismounting and walking or running with the horse.
At the Global Endurance Training Center we teach tailing in our endurance clinics. Tailing helps horses to conserve energy and helps the rider to stay in shape. So everybody wins!
Many riders participating in the Easyboot Hoof Boot Contest during the last couple of years used these techniques and did really well. Tevis riders use tailing all the time.
When you tail, you are pulling on a horse with about 10 to 15 lbs. That small amount of pull allows the runner to double the cadence of the footfall. You will run twice as fast compared to running next to your horse without tailing. For the horse, the difference between carrying the weight of the rider and a little pull on the tail is huge in energy conservation.
Now, where do you start?
First, you need a rope with a clip on one end and a loop on the other. The rope can be a 5 mm climbing rope and should be the length of your horse with extended tail. The clip goes to the ring on your halter. If the lead line is too long, it might tangle between the front legs of your horse.
Clip onto the headstall ring.
While riding, you can hook the lead line with a carabiner onto the saddle to get it out of the way.
Blue arrow shows the loop at the other end of the lead line, the green arrow points points to a ring you can add to the middle of your lead line so you can shorten it while riding. Ride and Tie people often use that set up.
There are some horses, that get the idea of tailing right away. You grab their tail, they turn the head, contemplate for a couple seconds and off they go. Others require a little more training.
First, at home, grab and pull on your horses tail as often as possible. Then it won’t be a surprise to them when you actually start tailing. Pulling on horses tails also helps them to stretch their backs and align their spine. Most horses enjoy this. After some preparatory tail pulling, we go for our first actual training, tailing on the trail.
A horse new to tailing is best trained with a rider on the back. The rider keeps the horse going forward, the runner just grabs the tail.
Here is a little video clip on how this works:
Another possibility: have a rider pony your horse while tailing. That way the horse won’t be able to turn around on you and is learning to go straight ahead. It is important for the horse to understand to keep on trucking, as soon as you grab onto the tail.
Here an action clip of that method:
Keep in mind that these methods are for teaching and training only. You may not use this technique during an actual endurance ride, it is against the rules to have another rider hold onto your horse while you tail or you tailing off another riders horse.
A few key points to remember:
1. Never tail without a lead line. Horses can accelerate quickly, you might stumble and fall and your horse is gone. If you have a very strong horse that is hard to check, you can hook your lead line to the bit or the reins.
2. Make sure you can see the trail on the side of the horse to minimize your own stumbling.
3. Keep your tailing arm fairly straight, it conserves your energy. You can slightly lean backwards.
4. Loop the tail around your hand, that way you use your upper arm instead of your lower arm. Most of us, unless we are rock climbers, have more strength in biceps and triceps than in the lower arm.
Take note of the looped tail, the straight arms and the leaning back.
Close up shot of hand positioning.
Often heard question: Do horses kick while tailing?
I have tailed on probably over a hundred different horses, with proper preparation, none ever tried to kick me. That doesn’t mean it cannot happen. Always watch the horses ears and body language. If in doubt, let go of the tail and turn your horse towards you with the lead line. Then practice more at home by grabbing and pulling on their tails.
While tailing during a race or ride, initially it helps your horse if another horse is leading the way. Have another rider go ahead of you up the hill, your horse will have more motivation to follow.
Tailing works equally well with Easyboot Glue on Horseshoes, Easyboot Gloves, other protective horse boots or bare foot horses.
Just do it! It’s a blast, both you and your horse will have more fun on the trail.