Phony, false, counterfeit, spurious, not genuine, sham or fake--that's what I call it.
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) calls it "cosmetic." "We don't allow false tails," says Dorothy Cossabone of AQHA.
"The rules allow hair to hair attachments or groups of hair to be braided in or tied to the tail," says Charlie Hemphill, director of shows for AQHA.
I asked Hemphill how this rule allowing the braiding in of hair came about.
"Well," he said, "it was exhibitor driven." "I think some exhibitors felt some embarrassment at showing horses which might have lost some of their tail due to trauma or injury, or even having been chewed off by another horse while in a pasture or corral."
Great cowboys of the past, can you imagine how devastating such embarrassment must be? I can almost envision some exhibitors contemplating an end to life over something that horrendous.
Hemphill said this year (1997) is the first year of the "braiding in" rule. According to Hemphill an exhibitor was required, in the past, to go before a committee to seek approval for "adding hair" to a tail which had been injured or chewed.
We had a rule allowing "switches" Hemphill said. (A switch is a tress of detached, sometimes false, hair bound at one end and used as part of a coiffure.) The approval for switches was withdrawn due to abuses, Hemphill reported.
I didn't ask about the abuses, I was afraid my constitution was too weak to withstand the shock of hearing about such things.
Quarter Horse tails in many classes of the show ring today, drag the ground, and I've nearly broken into tears on numerous occassions when I saw a horse step on his tail while backing, pulling great strands of hair out.
Maybe I shouldn't have been so sensitive. The hair probably belonged to some great horned sheep anyway.
Having trained both show and running Quarter Horses, and having written about them, and having read about them, I was curious to see if any of the top trainers in the Quarter Horse industry ever mentioned how a "long and luxurious" tail was of benefit in the way the horse moved, carried himself, or performed.
I couldn't find anything written about it. I called some trainers, but none could tell me how a long and luxurious tail enhanced performance. "You're a real pain," one trainer said. "It just looks good."
I got out books on the Quarter Horse, and the painting by Orin Mixer which has been the symbol of the Quarter Horse for years. They have got to add some hair--braided in only--to that horse's tail.
Rex Cauble of Crockett, Texas wrote of the Quarter Horse. He said "He's half a ton of poised and controlled energy, held on an easy rein and a hair trigger.
"He's a workin' man who can earn his keep on the range all week--and be a handsome dandy at the track on Sunday afternoon.
"He's big in the haunches, supple in the withers, stout in the neck and wide across the chest...to hold his great heart.
"He's cow-smart and brave--though sometimes a clown--and to the man with sky in his eye and mud on his boots the Quarter Horse is a faithful hand.. "And a friend!"
Funny, he didn't say a word about his tail.
Whimpy, the first Quarter Horse registered, had a tail which reached just below his hocks. King had a normal length tail, so did Vandy Bar, and Easy Jet, and Sneaky Pete.
What are the chances, do you think, the AQHA would add the word Champion in front of my Quarter Horse's name?
To say the horse is a champion isn't phony, or fake or pretentious, it's just cosmetic.