United States Equestrian Federation : Halt Equine Tail Alteration NOW!

United States Equestrian Federation : Halt Equine Tail Alteration NOW!

September 27, 2016
Petition to
United States Equestrian Federation President Murray Kessler and
Petition Closed
This petition had 2,494 supporters

Why this petition matters

This petition is asking the United States Equestrian Federation to ban tail alteration in all horse breeds that they govern. Whether you own a horse that has been affected by the practice of tail alteration, or simply are a person who cares deeply for the welfare of all horses, this practice is something that you can help to do away with, and promote welfare and quality lives for these horses.


Part of the USEF’s mission statement says,

“The USEF contributes to the greater good of horses by assisting with their protection and welfare in crisis situations and natural disasters, as well as in daily competition. As part of this pledge to protect equine welfare, the USEF continues to help support federal and state governments and works closely with other national equine organizations.”


The American Association of Equine Practitioners  (AAEP) published the following position statement:

          “Position on Tail Alteration in Horses 

The American Association of Equine Practitioners condemns the alteration of the tail of the horse for cosmetic or competitive purposes. This includes, but is not limited to, docking, nicking (i.e., cutting) and blocking. When performed for cosmetic purposes, these procedures do not contribute to the health or welfare of the horse and are primarily used for gain in the show ring (nicking/cutting, blocking and docking) or because of historical custom (docking). If a horse’s tail becomes injured or diseased and requires medical or surgical intervention such care should be provided by a licensed veterinarian. 

The AAEP urges all breed associations and disciplines to establish and enforce guidelines to eliminate these practices and to educate their membership on the horse health risks they may create. Members of the AAEP should educate their clients about the potential health risks, welfare concerns, legal and/or regulatory ramifications regarding these procedures based on the relevant jurisdiction and/or association rules."

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a policy on Tail Alteration in Horses as follows,

  “Tail Alteration in Horses, the AVMA endorses the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) policy on "Tail Alteration in Horses."


Generally, it is the horse trainers who perform the act of “cutting” a horses tail. While this act is clearly surgical, it is traditional for horse trainers to cut the tails of the horses in their care.

 Tail alteration is when a person purposefully, surgically alters the carriage of a horse’s tail for purposes of human vanity for the show ring. TAIL ALTERATION SERVES NO THERAPEUTIC PURPOSE! It is done strictly because the humans involved like a specific artificial “look”. The practice permanently alters the function of the tail muscles, and the tail bone. It can also mutilate the horses tail.

Horses are herd animals and their tails serve very important functions. Their tails are used for communication, for balance, and the most import function is for swishing away noxious insects from the hind legs and back half of the body.

One of the most common forms of tail alteration is the practice of “cutting and setting” a horse’s tail,  also called “nicking”. “Nicking” is a misnomer and is deliberately used to make the procedure sound minor.  It isn’t. The tail is surgically cut by severing completely the sacrocaudal muscles under the tail and then placing the tail in a large metal crupper (this device holds the tail at a 45 degree angle from the croup, and is approximately 7” long) to make the tail stand straight up. The crupper is attached to a harness called a tail set that goes from the chest to the tail with many straps. The horse lives in this tail set for the show season and sometimes all year depending on the trainer.  While wearing the tail set the horse cannot be turned outside to pasture and must be confined to his stall. The horses entire life revolves around keeping this altered tail in a condition that show ring vanity requires.

Besides the obvious issue of the horse having decreased downward swishing ability since the depressor muscle has been severed, there are many complications with tail setting. These include infections, pressure sores, loss of parts of the tail, crooked tails necessitating “re-cutting” are some.

The breeds most associated with tail cutting are the American Saddlebred, Hackney Horse and Pony, Morgans, and Tennessee Walking Horses.  Morgans are specifically precluded from having their tails cut by the USEF rules, however, it still persists. Tennessee Walking Horses are no longer under the purview of the USEF. There are two types of classes where cut and set tailed horses are shown. The Performance classes and the Pleasure classes. The Performance classes are more formal and the horses surgically altered tail is put in a metal brace that forces the horse’s tail to stick straight up or even past vertical pointing towards the saddle. This is also the point where the horse many times will have a caustic ginger salve inserted into the anus to cause a burning sensation and cause them to want to keep the tail raised and not fight the brace. Again, this is LEGAL and condoned by the USEF! You will not see the scars, twisted tail bones, and pressure sores that may be lurking under the brace and the hair.

 The Pleasure horses must be shown without the tail brace. This allows full view of the horse’s tail. You can see tails laying over to one side, twisted tails, scarring, tails with dysfunctional movement due to the twisted tailbones, hair loss, and even raw weeping pressure sores from the tail set. Again, this is LEGAL and condoned by the USEF!

Please see the picture above. This practice has been BANNED in most modern Countries and even in some States in America, yet it is still allowed and condoned by the USEF.  The horses have suffered enough. It is time this outdated, barbaric, an abusive practice is outlawed! Please tell the USEF that the horses have suffered enough! If the WELFARE and PROTECTION of the horse is in the USEF’s mission statement, cutting muscles, pressure sores, twisted, mutilated tails, and wearing a tail set have NO PLACE in the United States of America.

Please consider signing this petition, and referring it to your animal loving friends. YOU can play a role in stopping this hideous practice, and promote the welfare of these horses. Thank You!

For more information, please visit:

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