When Jax (Arab/Belgian) got a ginormous matted tangle in the middle of his tail, I posted a picture on Facebook and asked if anyone knew of a natural product that could untangle the mess. People told me about ShowSheen (not a natural product) but most told me I may need to just cut it out as they’d never seen one that bad.
Since the mat took up most of the middle section of his tail, I certainly didn’t want to cut it off, or he’d have virtually no fly protection left. So I decided I would turn to the chemicals if I absolutely had to, but I would try a bunch of natural substances first. So I assembled these:
– Olive oil
– 2 different natural hair conditioners
– Hydrogenated canola oil
– Surgical gloves
– 2 different brushes
Here’s what worked the best:
1. Use olive oil only, but really douse it – you should have so much oil inside and around the matted hair that it is dripping onto the ground
2. Use your fingers only – wear surgical gloves if you like, they won’t snag the hair and you can feel everything you need to. You need to use your fingers to work the oil in and gradually loosen and then untangle the mess… bit by bit. I could feel my tension rising as I faced this gargantuan task. And as my stress rose, Jax started to shift away from me.
So I stopped and took a few deep breaths. I knew I had to get myself in hand or there was no way we would both get through this. Aha! I started singing. I sang Jax and I through the next hour of untangling his tail while he munched contentedly on some alfalfa. I had put him in the paddock on his own so we would not be disturbed by the others and he thoroughly enjoyed himself! If you don’t feel comfortable singing or humming, then maybe put on some mellow music to listen to, hum a little, sway a little, whatever keeps you soft and relaxed. And of course, give your horse something to eat – ‘grazing’ is the best way to calm the horse’s nervous system.
3. You can blot the tail with paper towel once it is untangled, but this is not necessary. I already knew olive oil was compatible with horse’s skin (as it is with human skin) since I had used it on my mare Zorra when she was raw from being in heat and squirting sticky fluid on her butt cheeks. The olive oil soaked into and then easily removed the sticky residue – the next day she was already visibly healing. So I left Jax’s tail sodden with olive oil as I wanted to see what would happen. Nothing! The next day his tail looked amazing.
4. What’s the root cause? When I considered why/how Jax had gotten his tail in such a crazy mess in the first place, I realized that he actually had been showing me for some time that his butt was really itchy. So I made sure to be attentive and used a stiff wood brush to itch all the areas he showed me.
The other thing I realized is that Jax really enjoyed having one-on-one time with me in the paddock. As one of the lower guys on the totem pole, he was often driven off by one of the others. But this was his chance to have me all to himself, with lots of alfalfa – how lovely! I received his message and began bringing him – and the others – in for one-on-one time in the paddock with me to be groomed, scratched and eat with no pressure from the herd.
It’s been over a year and Jax has not matted his tail since. When he starts rubbing it in front of us, or gets a little tangle, that’s our cue to pay more attention to him. He’s also returned the favor and removed all of the burrs from Cobra’s tail. Now that’s what I call ‘paying it forward’ 🙂