A Tale of Tails: The Ins and Outs of Tail Extensions
Nothing makes a horse look more put together in the show pen than a full, flowing and beautiful tail. Tail extensions have enhanced the image of show horses for decades. Having a perfect color match and creating the ideal length is essential to forming a pretty picture for the judges.
There are multiple vendors at horse shows to purchase your ideal tail extension from. Have you ever wondered what it takes to put those tails together? We spoke with Kathy Williams and Tanna Suits about the complete process they go through from the production of the tail all the way up to the moment an exhibitor rides into the arena.
A few different routes can be taken in the beginning to purchase a custom tail. You can start by finding and buying them at shows, online or over the phone.
Kathy Williams has owned her business, Kathy Williams Tail Extensions, for about 25 years. She has been through and seen many trends regarding tails. Williams and her son, KC, make most of their sales in person at shows.
“I do most of my sales at shows,” Williams said. “I travel a lot and I know where every post office is whenever I’m at a show. At the shows, we have a mobile trailer. Customers usually walk the horse up and we can match them right there. For online or phone sales, I do mostly pictures. I can pretty well match a tail off of a cell phone picture. I’ve done it forever, but I’m not always right. The sorrels are hard to match and sometimes you have to mail them back and forth.”
Some vendors primarily use online and phone sales. Tanna Suits started her company, Blue Ribbon Tails, in 2002. She has a Facebook page, website and can set up at the Gordyville circuits in Illinois. She shows in the AQHA amateur all-around events.
“It’s hard for me to set up at shows because I work full-time and do this as a side business,” Suits said. “I still try to send flyers out to different shows and stuff, but I always have tails available at Gordyville. A lot of my sales are online. The customer contacts me with what he or she needs. They either know exactly what color they need or, if it is going to be a custom tail, then they send me hair to match it. I contact my supplier and within two to three business days, I have the hair. Once I get it, I put it together either that day or the next day. I do my best to make sure the customer has their tail within one to two weeks.”
Do you want a weighted or non-weighted tail? What kind of attachment is the best for your horse? Should it be natural or dyed? These are essential questions to ask yourself when creating a custom tail. Suits and Williams have multiple options for customers.
“All of my tails are 100% horse hair,” Suits said. “There are loop or tie in attachments. We can do weighted or non-weighted. Any color and length combination can be created. I also have hair swatches that can make custom tails. I do a lot of those especially for the paints because their tails vary so much. If someone isn’t local, they can send me a color swatch of their horse’s hair and then I’ve got the samples to match to it.”
“I have natural and dyed tails,” Williams said. “The only dyed tails I have are black. I do mostly the weighted tails. Probably 98% of my tails are weighted. They are a two-loop system with adjustable and removable weights. We do a sliding tail too with a hole in the middle. We can do anything they request really. Most customers take the two-loop form because it sits and rides better on the tail. I use several suppliers. My tails are all real horse hair. I order it by weight, length and color. I do bulk loads.”
Length and Color
Getting the right length and matching the color are important aspects when buying a tail. Horses are all different heights, so with online sales, it is important to measure correctly. When it comes to color, it can be challenging to match tails with paint horses or roans. Those horses have a lot of white and other colors within their tail.
“We start with the color and get it matched,” Suits said. “To measure, I usually tell people to measure from the tailbone to the fetlock and then add a couple of inches. It’s always customer preference on the length of the tails, so I ultimately let them decide. If they ask my opinion, I tell them. They usually send pictures to me to decide how thick they want it to be. Once we have all that narrowed down, I ask if they want a weight added or not. Within the last couple years, people have wanted the pound to a pound and a half tails.”
“The change over the years has been in color,” Williams said. “We always did lots of blacks, sorrels and anything like that, but now we probably sell more than half of our tails as roans. The stallions have changed, and the offspring are mostly roan colors from those. I still sell a lot of black, but the roans are catching up.”
The Last Steps
Before the tails get put in the trailer to be sold or sent out over the mail, a few little steps are taken to ensure the tail is ready to go.
“After we make every tail, we wash, condition and comb them before they go on to the trailer,” Williams said. “We don’t sell anything that hasn’t been prewashed and combed. We want to be able to shed them out before the customer gets them. It’s imperative to us that the tails look pretty when the customer takes them home.”
“The most important thing is to match it,” Williams said. “We are at enough horse shows that they can walk up and personally match them. If that isn’t possible, then the pictures work too. Outside pictures are the best for lighting and to be able to see the whole tail.”
“Choose local and smaller companies if possible,” Suits said. “I always strive for customer satisfaction. If I do a tail that doesn’t match, I will replace it and make it work. I always try to make the customers happy and make the horses look great. My business also helps to meet people and network. That’s been a huge bonus. One of my tails was on an NSBA World Champion this week, so that’s awesome to see.”
“I love what I do,” Williams said. “This is not a job to me. It is a passion and we love it. Customer service is so important to me, and I try to do everything I can to help my customers.”
Be sure to check out Kathy Williams Tail Extensions and Blue Ribbon Tails to find the perfect tail for you.
About the Author: GoHorseShow writer, Courtney Hall is a graduate student at Missouri State University. She is obtaining a Master of Science in Agriculture degree with research in agricultural communications. She started showing the APHA & AQHA all-around circuit as a youth and continues today as an amateur.