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Detangling A Matted Tail – Extreme Before & After

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tangled horse tail
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In March of 2008, I acquired a thoroughbred mare. This picture shows how she arrived at my facility. She was a sweet, gentle mare but she had the worst matt in her tail I had ever seen. Her entire tail moved as one piece as she would switch at flies. It was like a giant dreadlock. There was no question I was going to try and detangle this horse’s tail.

knotted horse tail

I knew we needed to save the tail if at all possible. This mare was purchased for resale and even though a short tail has nothing to do with the way a horse rides or how broke it is, whether or not it is sound, etc. a tail adds beauty, that wow factor. A horse with a short tail is just well…bleh.

It took about an hour and a half to de-matt this tail. Now, if she had been an ill-tempered, flighty or fidgety and I thought I would be in danger being behind her I would not have bothered with it. But, I also would not have purchased her if that were the case.

What did I use for this detangle? What was my “secret” product? WD-40 and a wide-toothed comb. that’s it.

Granted I could have used one of the commercially available detangling products but I knew I would need a lot of product on this mare…and I needed to wash her hair afterward anyway.

Starting from the bottom I combed bit by bit, piece by piece and slowly but surely worked my way up to the top. Picking each hair out of the tangled web. Sure I lost some hair but the majority of it was salvaged.


I’ve since detangled lots and lots of very matted manes and tails via my work with mustangs. While WD-40 will work in a pinch, I recommend the following products for detangling manes and tails:

Horse Tail Detanglers

Cowboy Magic Detangler and Shine  – This is my favorite…but it is pricey. Really good stuff to have around the barn!

Pinterest pin - Detangling A Matted Tail - Extreme Before & After

Hair Glosser  – All the stuff I’ve tried smells sooo good! It can also be found at your favorite big box store in the hair section usually near the coconut oil. I like Pink’s brand or Garnier but there are others as well.

Coconut Oil  – All natural and works great. Keep in mind this is usually a solid when it is cold out and liquid when it is hot out.

Detangling Comb

Coastal Pet Safari Dog Single Row Undercoat Rake
  • Safari Undercoat Rake: This deshedding rake deeply penetrates undercoats with precision tapered pins to prevent matting; it’s the perfect addition to your grooming tools for dogs
  • Dematting Comb for Dogs: Our dog undercoat brush maintains a healthy, beautiful coat by removing mats and tangles; this dog detangler brush is gentle but effective
  • Grooming Comb for Dogs: The precision tapered pins penetrate deeply into the coat to remove mats and tangles, making it an effective dog undercoat rake

I like a nice dog undercoat rake…its stiff enough to pick out hairs and with tines small enough to get into little crevices.

Normal horse mane and tail brushes are too flexible to really be useful for detangling.


  1. Generously rub detangler into the horse’s tail.
  2. Start at the very bottom of the tail and use the end of the grooming rake to carefully pick apart hairs. Pay attention to how they intertwine. You are essentially untying knots.
  3. Continue working your way all the way to the top of the tail.
  4. Wash the tail 2-3 times to get out excess product.
  5. Condition and braid!

Here is her tail right after it had been fully detangled and washed.

detangled horse tail

Funny enough once this mare’s tail was detangled she flicked it around a few times and actually spooked herself. She then spent the next 15 min or so kicking out at the now untangled hairs grazing her hind legs.

It was as if she had had the knot for so long, she was no longer desensitized to the feeling of the individual hairs touching her legs. Had this been an Arabian or Andalusian or maybe even a quarter horse we would have kept the length on the tail. She was a thoroughbred English prospect so we banged it to her ankles and braided it.


Exactly 1 month after we took the first picture, this was the horse for her photoshoot. This photo shows why no horse should be discounted based on first impressions. There is a lot to be said for good nutrition, proper grooming, and a good photoshoot.


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