Manes 101

Caring for a horse's mane
A healthy looking mane helps make a good first impression, is practical as it makes grooming easier but what's the“secret” to it? In Manes 101, you'll find all the answers you need, tips on the do’s and don’ts that’ll help you develop the best tresses your horse can grow.

When does a horse’s mane need to be pulled?

The reason for pulling the mane is often to thin it, not to shorten it. So, if it gets too thick, pull enough hair to actually thin the mane and at the same time it’ll make it even and neat. If the horse already has a thin mane, just pull enough to tidy it up and even the bottom.

When’s the best time to pull the mane?

Mane pulling is easier if it’s done when the horse is still warm, i.e. after riding, because the pores are open. Also, a damp mane is easier to pull than a dry one.

Does pulling a mane hurt a horse?

Horses don't have pain sensors at the roots of their mane hair like humans do. When you pull on a horse's mane, it's not the same as pulling on our hair. So it doesn't actually cause any pain.

How to pull a mane

Gather your equipment first:

* A pulling comb

Lincoln Pulling Comb

* Mane brush

LeMieux Tangle Tidy Plus

* A stool if your horse is too tall for you to reach his mane at the poll.

Using the mane pulling comb:

* Take an inch-wide section of hair in your left hand and hold it toward the ends

* With the pulling comb in your right hand, tease the hair toward your horse’s neck. This will leave the longer strands of hair in the fingers of your left hand

* Wrap the strands of hair in your left hand around the comb a couple times and pull straight down to remove them at the roots. Some horses prefer you to pull straight up and some in between. Play around to find what works best for you and your horse

* Keep checking the length as you go, making the next section match the previous one you’ve just pulled

Take your time and only pull a little bit at a time. If you try to pull out a lot of hair in one go, you may find your horse gets agitated after all none of us would appreciate having substantial sections of our hair yanked out! So, the key is to only pull a few hairs at a time.

Why won’t my horse let me pull his mane?

So, for those horses who won’t allow their mane to be pulled or fidget endlessly, they aren't feeling actual pain, they simply don't like the sensation of having their hair pulled. Regularly comb his mane so that he gets used to different feelings in his mane and this will eventually make the pulling process go more smoothly.

What will happen if I cut my horse’s mane with scissors?

Trimming the mane with scissors tends to cause the mane to thicken. So, if you have a thin patch, e.g. at the base of the mane, frequent trimming should thicken it up.

Lincoln Thinning Scissors

Is Right Right or Left Best?

Traditionally horse’s manes are meant to lay on the offside which is the right side of your horse’s neck. However, a lot of horses do not have the perfect mane plus manes can vary in thickness, in length, by coarseness or in a multitude of other ways. Then if you add into the mix how much horse’s manes vary by breed, it can be almost impossible to make it lay on the right side. Some manes lay flat, some lay half one side and half the other, some lay as if they have a centre parting and some just like the left side better.

Your horse's hair most likely has a side that it naturally falls on and rather than fight Mother Nature, it may be best to simply go with the flow.

Can I change the side my horse’s mane lies on?

If it matters to you that his mane falls on the right side and you’re happy to take on Mother Nature, here’s what you need to do:

* Comb out the mane so it’s neat, tangle free and all laying on one side of the horse's neck

* Once the mane is smooth, dampen it slightly

* Divide the mane into sections about 1 to 2 inches wide all the way up the neck

* Plait each section and secure with a plaiting band.

Don't plait the tuft of mane at the withers and don’t worry if the plaits don’t look great. They don’t even need to be particularly even in width or length as you just need them to hold all the mane on the side you choose. The weight of the plaits over a short time will encourage the mane to lay on one side.

After a week's time, take the plaits out, comb the mane, and re-plait if necessary. A thin mane will probably lay flat after just one week. However, some can take a few weeks.

If the plaits start to fall out, start again, smoothing and plaiting the mane. You might have to repeat the process a few times if your horse has a particularly thick, untameable mane.

Don’t leave the plaits in indefinitely as the hair will break and tangle, leaving your horse with a frizzy uneven mane. 

How quickly does a horse’s mane grow?

The answer to this question is a little unhelpful in that it varies as it depends upon the genetic make up of each horse, their diet, the season along with other factors as well. According to reports, it seems to grow 1” to 1 ½ “per month.

Why does my horse rub his mane?

It's so frustrating, isn't it, when you find that a chunk of his mane is missing!  Though there is no miracle cure for the problem, there are ways to prevent your horse from rubbing his mane. The biggest thing is to keep it clean. 

Fungus and insects are the main reason horses rub their manes, so keeping them free of these bugs will make them less likely to rub and tear out the hair.

Is there anything I can feed my horse to make his mane grow faster?

Just like us, horses all have different coat and hair characteristics. Some variation is normal, but if your horse’s mane is noticeably more brittle than normal, it's possible that he's not receiving the nutrients he needs to manufacture healthy hair.

A balancer will help to provide minerals and vitamins, as certain minerals - such as zinc, sulphur and copper - are involved in the manufacture of healthy hair.

Vitamins, such as biotin, are also essential for producing new cells, including the ones that form hair.

Tips for improving your horse’s mane

Provide proper nutrition: Certain nutrients must be present in the correct amounts in a horse’s diet or his hair will suffer. These include:

  • omega fatty acids
  • trace minerals, such as zinc, copper and iodine
  • essential amino acids, such as lysine and methionine found in high-quality proteins
  • B vitamin biotin.

Don’t over-comb: Avoid combing or brushing a mane every day. Only comb or brush it after bathing or conditioning or if you’re off out to a show: in other words, only when you absolutely need to. This is because a significant amount of hair is lost every time you comb or brush. You’ve only to look at the comb or brush to see the hair that’s come out. On the days when you don’t comb, or brush just pick out any debris in his mane.

Mane combs or brushes with wide teeth seem to remove less hair than others. As always there’s a lot to choose from. Try to choose one doesn’t grab at the hair and easily pull it out.

Use clean tools: Keep your brushes clean and wash them regularly otherwise you will simply be brush back on the dirt that you have brushed off. It’s a good idea too to disinfect them, particularly with new horses or with any noticeable skin issues.

Bathe thoroughly: Wet the mane thoroughly because leaving dry spots will cause you to miss removing some dirt. It’s also important to pay special attention to the base of the mane when shampooing as this are holds extra dirt and dead skin.

Avoid tangling: Try not to tangle the mane while shampooing and be sure to rinse all the shampoo out. To make you shampoo all the mane thoroughly, use your fingers to separate the hair. You don’t need to scrub back and forth if all the hair is reached. The only areas you’ll want to scrub are the base of the mane. To avoid itching and rubbing, it’s important to keep the skin at the base of the mane clean and free of dead skin.

Don’t neglect the ends: Keep the mane conditioned.  When conditioning, pay special attention to the ends of the hair as they’re more brittle and need extra softening. Leave the conditioner on the mane for several minutes to soak in. Be warned though, they can make the reins slippery.

Shop horse grooming products online


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

Leave a comment