As a breed, we really need a new book on the Modern aspect of the breed.
I am going to post again on the tail cutting issue, and I really want to get into some of the other issues, like shoes and so on... One topic at a time though. Don't want to muddy things up. Tail Sets
Kyani is very right. This is a VERY blurry issue even for "us". Very blurry.
When the tail is cut it is not the nerve, but the tendon that allows the horse to clamp his tail down with much force that is cut.
This all started for practical reasons, just like the docking of tails of working drafts was practical to keep the tail clear of the machinery. Part of what Saddlebreds were used for back in the day were for fancy carriage horses.
The tail cutting came about because of thier carriage background. If the driving lines were to get caught under the horse's tail, and he were to clamp his tail then the result could be absolutely disastrous.
It is one thing riding a horse and having it freak out and throw you. It is quite another ordeal indeed when you are in a cart and your horse freaks out(which can happen if a horse clamps his tail on the lines). I've seen so many more horrible driving accidents than riding accidents. Really, I couldn't care less if a rider falls off. So what. Go catch the horse and make sure the rider is okay. If a driver gets tossed out of a cart, that horse is running blinded from what is behind him, being chased by a big rattly thing that has a possibility of hitting him behind and is closed in on both sides of him, and he has NO contact with his driver, which leaves him confused and scared.
It started with a practical use, and is now merely a cosmetic procedure.
The people in favor of set tails believe that it completes the look. That it balances out the overall appearance of the horse.
Here is how we get our horses ready to have thier tails cut. First we fit a Tail Set to them. It is very loose, and care is taken so that it is fit to each individual perfectly. If a part of it rubs, then that part is either covered in fleece like a shipping halter type, or simply the part is removed or adjusted.
To help ready the tail, we put what is called a bustle on them, which is just a really thick crupper. ( http://ehorseequipment.com/index.asp...ROD&ProdID=486
) This, in the process of getting the horse used to wearing the set, helps stretch the tail so that the procedure and healing time is better for them.
After they are fitted and comfortable with thier tail set, then they are ready to have thier tails cut. We personally use our vet, because he is very experienced, well reccommended and has done an exceptional job on ours. The horse is sedated, and the area anesthetized. The vet has the tail held upright and straight as he performs the slight nick to the two tendons that allow a horse to clamp his tail tightly to his rump. After the cut the tail is bandaged and put in the tailset, thistime with a higher set crupper. During the healing period, the tail MUST MUST MUST be cared for dilligently. The horse should be checked throughout the day for the entire healing process to make sure the set hasn't slipped, and the tailset needs to be changed every day. As the tail heals, the tendons heal in a more stretched out version of what they were before and they lose the ability to clamp thier tail. They still have full movement of the tail, though yes it is limited in the set. (I've been whacked in the face to often by my old gelding to know that one! Hah!). Actually, during this healing time, ours are usually well padded with cotton to make them more comfortable.
Since we often do not have an entire barn full of horses in sets, usually, after we are confident that the tail is completely healed and the horse is doing well with it, the set comes off in the morning before breakfast, and put on in the evening before dinner.
The aftercare is SO important to the outcome. The tails are part of the overall picture, and if you don't care for it as you should, you have wasted all your time and money. I will try to come up with an average price what the end cost usually is on having one horse's tail done.
I'll use the analogy that I used in the other thread. If you are going to get braces on your teeth(had them for six years), you had BEST wear your retainer when you get them off. You may not wear them all the time, but thier importance is paramount to the appearance and outcome of your teeth.
Next up, I hope, will be the Shoes.