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Curious about tail docking. Why is it still done?

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    Curious about tail docking. Why is it still done?

    Ok, I know how horses' tails were docked in the old days. Hunters were used as carriage horses in the off hunting season, thus their short tails. Docking was used to keep the flowing tresses out of the way of the traces, blah, blah, heard all the excuses.

    But I drive through the country now and often see the draft breeds in fields with shorty-short tails. Why does anyone do this anymore? Also, where do these owners find vets willing to dock a foal's tail nowadays? ((Shudder)), I can't imagine the ugh/ick factor of some vet sedating and hobbling a draft foal for this barbaric procedure.

    For heaven's sake - hasn't anyone heard of putting tails up in mud knots? Any competent groom can learn this skill.

    I wonder if the vets who do this are also the ones who have no issues of conscience when mutilating cats - taking their first knuckles off for *declawing*. Ugh.

    #2
    I would expect they're working drafters (farm work or carriage but most likely farm.) They can waste time every day putting the tails up over and nover (or leave them in mud knots constantly) or dock them. They've invented fly spray and unlike cats with toes, they don't stand on their tails.
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      #3
      A lot of them are probably still working horses or former workhorses. Draft horses that end up in rescues often have docked tails because they were used as workhorses prior to ending up in rescue.

      Also, a lot of folks that show drafts still dock their tails. I took my guy to a draft show in Maryland and he was one of the few horses there with a full tail and the announcer explained several times over the PA about the whole 'long tails can get caught in the traces' or whatever.
      The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
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        #4
        Fashion.
        "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

        ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

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          #5
          I've had drafts with docked and non-docked tails. A small part is for history, a big part is for safety....it's not all for fashion. People who haven't driven drafts really don't understand what dealing with their tails is like.

          The dock on a draft horse is a big thing, Most drafts are driven vs. ridden, accordingly, flies can get the tail swishing around and when the reins are trapped under the dock there's no great way of clearing the reins. I had a Gelderlander that would really swish his tail and get it over the reins, luckily, I was close enough when driving a 2-wheeled cart I could reach forward and clear the reins. I finally wound up using a tail brace that kept him from being able to lock up the reins.

          If you've got a team of drafts working together and the reins are suddenly not working, you can get into serious trouble very quickly.

          That said, I wouldn't have a horse docked if I had them as babies...makes it tough for them to clear flies and you have to keep their tails short since they can't lift them up when they go the bathroom...not very hygenic. I've had 4 shires, one docked and 3 with natural tails...benefits both ways.
          "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"

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            #6
            No other reason than style.

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              #7
              I don't think it was started for style, truly

              I've driven a Standardbred that got his tail up over the line. On the race track. It Was Not Pretty. It was dangerous, and healing up the place underneath his dock that lost a couple of layers of skin to my finally being able to pull the line out from under while traveling at an alarming rate of speed was a long uncomfortable process for him. He was wearing a tail brace at the time, still didn't prevent it.

              I've driven docked draft horses and while I don't agree with the practice as a matter of principle, I certainly understand it. They dock lambs tails for hygienic reasons, and I've never had a draft with a natural tail that didn't make an utter mess of it, they just can't lift it high enough to get it out of the way, and the tails are heavy and thick. I ended up cutting sections out of tails because unless you truly wanted to wash it daily, there just wasn't any way from it becoming a stinking, filthy mess, even if you brushed it out daily, no matter what magic stuff you sprayed on it.

              I've driven Standardbreds that the trainers would braid their tail up then secure it with the end of the brace bandage used to wrap it, to the shaft of a race bike. If the bike wrecked, that tail was not going to come loose right away. Would docking have been better or worse?

              My biggest concern would be fly swatting, other than that and the initial docking (and we geld them, so I'm not sure that is the worst argument) I don't have a problem with it as long as there is some protection from insects during the summer.

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                #8
                Originally posted by analise View Post
                A lot of them are probably still working horses or former workhorses. Draft horses that end up in rescues often have docked tails because they were used as workhorses prior to ending up in rescue.

                Also, a lot of folks that show drafts still dock their tails. I took my guy to a draft show in Maryland and he was one of the few horses there with a full tail and the announcer explained several times over the PA about the whole 'long tails can get caught in the traces' or whatever.
                Funny how so many other breeds can show in driving WITHOUT docked tails. Just an excuse. How come everybody else can be bothered to do something else with tails other than cut them off?

                There are breeders who do the docking themselves, have seen it done...with bands used to castrate hogs. They put the bands on the baby foal's tail to kill the tail and it falls off. Disgusting.

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                  #9
                  I think there is a massive difference between driving at a breed show, and actually working farm equipment... If you don't agree with it, don't do it. Simple as that.
                  Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

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                    #10
                    Having driven a draft cross in a downtown setting with a natural tail, it can be horrifying! She knew exactly how to flip her tail in a figure eight to literally grab the lines and pin them to her butt. Game over for her driver.

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                      #11
                      Oh my, you just opened up a can of worms.
                      well, flame suit on, for me it's just plain fashion or simple lazyness to tie or braid the tails.
                      Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                      Originally posted by DottieHQ
                      You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.

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                        #12
                        So do tail braces work or not? If they do work, there's not a lot of excuse for docking, sounds like.
                        I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                        I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by RubyTuesday View Post

                          There are breeders who do the docking themselves, have seen it done...with bands used to castrate hogs. They put the bands on the baby foal's tail to kill the tail and it falls off. Disgusting.
                          You can't physically band a pig's testicles. You have to use a scalpel to make an incision in the groin area and pull the testicles out and cut or bite them off. Just thought you should know so next time you use an example, it isn't a made up one.
                          Originally posted by The Saddle
                          Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.

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                            #14
                            Originally posted by rustbreeches View Post
                            You can't physically band a pig's testicles. You have to use a scalpel to make an incision in the groin area and pull the testicles out and cut or bite them off. Just thought you should know so next time you use an example, it isn't a made up one.
                            She may have gotten the species wrong (elastrator bands are used on lambs and calves), but indeed, they are employed for tail docking by some drafthorse breeders.
                            "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

                            ...just settin' on the Group W bench.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Niennor View Post
                              Oh my, you just opened up a can of worms.
                              well, flame suit on, for me it's just plain fashion or simple lazyness to tie or braid the tails.
                              It wasn't a question of braiding the tail to prevent the mare I used to drive from grabbing the lines. She'd use her tail bone in a figure eight motion to grab them and then pin them to her butt. She was very quick about it. She could have done it with no hair on her tail. She used the tail bone. Once she grabbed the lines she *usually* didn't do anything she shouldn't, but she certainly could have.

                              The company I worked for bought adult drafts and half drafts so we weren't the ones doing the docking. Most of the full drafts had docked tails though when they were purchased. Most of these were from auctions or places where the horses came from less than desirable situations. The owner liked to rescue horses. If they'd work pulling a carriage downtown, awesome. The ones that couldn't handle it were sold to suitable homes.

                              Many of them grew rather long tails despite not having a full tail bone. We had several that we had to bang their tails or they'd be absurdly long despite being docked. Those got banged to mid cannon or so and them braided and tied up to keep them out of the diaper bags. The ones with full tails also got banged and braided up.

                              The handful of Percherons with REALLY short docked tails had fake hay string tails tied on so they could get flies when they were out on the farm.

                              From what I have seen, if they only take about half of the tail bone, the tail still grows to a natural length and the horse can use it essentially normally while preventing the horse from using it to grab lines. The REALLY short ones don't grow much hair and I very much disagree with that practice. I don't necessarily *like* docking any amount of the tail, but I can see the argument for it.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by Ghazzu View Post
                                She may have gotten the species wrong (elastrator bands are used on lambs and calves), but indeed, they are employed for tail docking by some drafthorse breeders.
                                I know. They dock cow tails with them as well, but it rubs me wrong when someone throws out an animal agriculture reference and is incorrect. God knows we have a hard enough row to hoe without misinformation being disseminated to the masses.

                                Castration bands are also a nice threat to keep husbands in line!
                                Originally posted by The Saddle
                                Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by rustbreeches View Post
                                  I know. They dock cow tails with them as well, but it rubs me wrong when someone throws out an animal agriculture reference and is incorrect. God knows we have a hard enough row to hoe without misinformation being disseminated to the masses.

                                  Castration bands are also a nice threat to keep husbands in line!
                                  It's what I was told by someone raising pigs and they were called hog bands. In any event, I saw the Clydesdales done by the breeder herself. It was not made up because I wouldn't have thought of doing such a thing.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by RubyTuesday View Post
                                    It's what I was told by someone raising pigs and they were called hog bands. In any event, I saw the Clydesdales done by the breeder herself. It was not made up because I wouldn't have thought of doing such a thing.
                                    Seeing one breeder do something stupid or not up to industry standard does not justify blanket statements.
                                    "I would not beleive her if her tongue came notorized"

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                                      #19
                                      Docking horse (Hackney and draft) tails is done for the same reason dog tails and ears are still (ignorantly, IMO) docked and cropped: old fashioned fashion.

                                      Outdated and unwarrented fashion.

                                      It was felt to be a safety issue by the driving populace in the centuries that predated motorized transportation. Tails got dirty and in the way. Foxhunters were also docked at one point in history as well for ease of cleaning after a hunt. War horses had their ears cropped off to prevent that from happening by the rider's saber. All this it is unnecessary now. Riding and driving is done for pleasure now, and only the Amish communities use horses for everyday transportation and farming. Cropping is no longer in vogue, and only Hackneys and drafts, being almost exclusively driving animals, are the last vestage of the docking practice - more for traditional sake than for safety reasons since it is done when the horses are foals, long before they ever feel a harness, let alone learn to drive. So who knows which ones will be tail flippers??

                                      And yes, I do drive, and have for decades. So know the history of docking/cropping. It's about time the Hackney and draft people in this country end docking altogether. I know some breeders of Hackney horses here that have stopped docking; they recognize it is no longer applicable to this day and age, and a full tailed Hackey horse is more marketable.

                                      About 30 years ago I stopped routinely docking my lambs tails when I realized how stupid and ignorant and horribly painful for those tiny baby lambs that practice was as well. Now all my Dorset ewes are long tailed and I have never had blowfly problems, nor have I found the tail to be "in the way" of the once a year shearing. On the contrary, that tail has come in handy more than a few times to grab a fleeing ewe!
                                      Last edited by 5chestnuts; Jul. 6, 2013, 05:58 AM.

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                                        #20
                                        I ended up with a percheron with a docked tail. His tailbone is maybe 4-5 inches long. His tail grows beyond his hocks but it's not much use for flies as he doesn't have the leverage of a long tail bone. He can just swish around the back of his butt.
                                        The horse flies are bad around here, so during the season he hangs out in the dark barn under the fans. If he's out in the field and gets bombed he dashes for the hanging horsefly net and into the stall. Or, dashes up to me for a well-placed smack on the back.
                                        I wish he didn't have a docked tail.

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