Dressage question - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 12-21-2008, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Dressage question

Why do dressage horses wring their tails so much? I have noticed this after watching several competitions.
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post #2 of 8 Old 12-21-2008, 03:25 PM
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It depends on a lot of things - the tail is a continuation of the spine, and is a good indicator of how relaxed a horse is. Ideally the tail will give an indication of the flexibility, relaxation and movement of the horse's back. When a horse is doing a lot of athletic movements, if it is relaxed and working well through itself its tail will move with its motions. But there are of course issues in the dressage circuit of horses that are in fact not carrying themselves correctly and which are very tense, and different tail movements may be an indicator of this.

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post #3 of 8 Old 12-21-2008, 03:47 PM
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some horses will really swing there tails around when their un happy or at least thats what i was told.
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post #4 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 09:40 AM
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i agree with both of the comments above. :) there's a difference though between a relaxed tail swinging like claireauriga mentioned and the angry tail swishing/wringing that HAF mentioned. Usually the angry tail swishing is accompanied by pinning ears, inverting, etc.
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post #5 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 02:37 PM
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There has recently been a lot of debate on this topic since Blue Hors Matine and her WEG gold.
The general concencus on Blue Hors Matine is that she is a very sensitive mare and is not swishing her tail out of discomfort, but instead from being "ticklish" and working through her body.
We have to remember that horses naturally swish their tails. Why else would many breed circuits nerve, break and position tails. They just don't want them to move like they would naturally.
If you watch two stallions fighting, they are both going to be absolutely collected, just as we want a dressage horse. And their tails are going to be wringing around. I have no idea why this happens, but it seems to somenow be a product of collection.
Another explanation is the nearly constant aids and half halts that dressage riders are giving their horses. Although on the surface everything looks calm, in order to keep the horse moving perfectly there is constant adjustment and readjustment every stride. At the stage in training where these dressage horses are ridden to perfection, they are also very very sensitive and so this constant aiding by the rider can be met by some ticklishness that will cause tail swishing.
Yet another explanation is maybe it is just a concentration thing. When you are working very hard to think and concentrate you may chew your lip, pull on your ear, etc.. This could be the same thing with horses is that when they are at that high a level of concentration they might just wring their tails out of habit.
A final explanation is that of discomfort. Some horses either as a result of natural lameness, lameness from poor conditioning/use of gadgets or rolkur will be sore and so may wring their tails because it just plain hurts. This is usually accompanied by a sour expression, pinned ears and other disobedience (unless it's been beaten out of them).
So yeah, it depends on the horse, the situation and the level of competition. If I saw a training/first level horse with their tail wringing I would assume that the horse is in discomfort. Where as a horse like Matine is just working well and hard.
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post #6 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 02:53 PM
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I was thinking of Matinee as well. Lots of people have examined her performance and these are the main discussion points they've brought up:

- overall, she looks relaxed and as if she's working well. Her ears are alert, not pinned, she doesn't seem distressed, so it's not anger, pain or unwillingness
- she's a developing horse, not a finished one, and hence as she is a little less skilled in the way she uses her muscles movements of the tail like hers may be more common
- tail movements appear linked to collected movements and disappear (aside from general flexibility) in extended work, so it's quite possible it's connected to how she is using her muscles there
- however, others point out that her tail movements seem linked to when Andreas gives an aid with his spur. So, while she may be responding willingly now, the tail movements may be a learned response to poor spur training earlier on

If you believe everything you read, better not read.
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post #7 of 8 Old 12-22-2008, 05:59 PM Thread Starter
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That's interesting. Thanks.
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post #8 of 8 Old 12-23-2008, 11:53 PM
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Pain or discomfort can be an issue, though not all horses who swish their tails are in pain, as said above.
My mare Cessie, swishes her tail a lot she is NOT in pain it is just her, she does it all the time in the paddock too, her ears are forward and she is willing, she can get a bit sensitive when she is in season, but hey she is mare and shes a little sore from her woman things, any girl who has gone through puberty knows that, that can hurt.
sorry that was slightly off topic lol.
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