This section is from the book "The Stable Book: Being A Treatise On The Management Of Horses", by John Stewart. Also available from Amazon: The Stable Book.
In England and Scotland this operation appears to be fast and justly getting into disrepute. It is still very common in all parts of Ireland. Its object is to make the horse carry his tail well elevated. Two or three deep incisions are made on the lower surface of the tail; the muscles by which it is depressed are divided, and a portion of them excised. The wounds are kept open for several days, and the tail is kept in elevation by means of pulleys and a weight. It is a surgical operation, but no respectable veterinarian would recommend it. It need not be described here. On the continent, a tail thus mutilated is termed Queue a l'Anglaise, in compliment, I suppose, to the English.
There is a safer and more humane method of obtaining the same object. (See Fig. 8.) If the horse do not carry his tail to his rider's satisfaction, it may be put in the pulleys an. hour or two every day for several successive weeks.
A cord is stretched across the stall, near or between the heel-posts; the hair of the tail is plaited and attached to another cord, which passes upward over a pulley in the transverse line, stretches backward, where it passes through another pulley and descends. To this a weight is secured, a bag containing sand or shot sufficient to keep the tail at the proper elevation. A double pulley on the cross cord permits the horse to move from side to side without twisting the tail. The weight should vary with the strength of the tail. From ore to two pounds is sufficient to begin with. After a few days it may be gradually increased, so as to keep the tail a little more elevated than the horse is wanted to carry it. The time which he stands in the pulleys need not in the first week exceed one hour: on the second week he may stand thus for two or three hours every day, and at last he may be kept up all day or all night, if the horse be at work during the day. Should the tail become hot or tender, or should the hair show any tendency to fall out, the elevating process must be omitted for a day or two till the tail be well again, when it may be resumed and carried on every day, unless the hair again become loose, which is a sign that the weight is too great or too long continued.
From this operation there is no danger of the horse dying of lockjaw, nor of the tail being set awry, nor broken, as sometimes happens after nicking. It requires a much longer period to effect the elevation, but that is of no consequence, since the horse need not be a single day off work. When nicked he must be idle for several weeks.
[The operation of nicking, or more properly pricking, as given by our author, is barbarous in the extreme. As practised in America, it is much more simple, effectual, and less painful. If the tail is to be docked, let that first be done, and then permitted to heal perfectly. Perhaps this operation may make the horse carry his tail so well as to prevent the necessity of pricking. But if it does not, then let him be pricked.
The tail has four cords, two upper and two lower. The upper ones raise the tail, the lower ones depress it, and these last alone are to be cut. Take a sharp penknife with a long slender blade; insert the blade between the bone and under cord, two inches from the body; place the thumb of the hand holding the knife against the under part of the tail, and opposite the blade. Then press the blade toward the thumb against the cord, and cut the cord off, but do not let the knife cut through the skin. The cord is firm and it will easily be known when it is cut off. The thumb will tell when to desist, that the skin may not be cut. Sever the cord twice on each side in the same manner. Let the cuts be two inches apart. The cord is nearly destitute of sensation; yet when the tail is pricked in the old manner, the wound to the skin and flesh is severe, and much fever is induced, and it takes a long time to heal. But with this method, the horse's tail will not bleed, nor will it be sore under ordinary circumstances more than three days; and he will be pulleyed and his tail made in one half of the time required by the old method.]