11 tips to help you pull your horse’s mane like a pro – Sponsored by Back on Track

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11 tips to help you pull your horse’s mane like a pro – Sponsored by Back on Track

How is it that the horses all look great, and then one day all of a sudden they look like shaggy monsters? Over the last week, I have turned into a mane-pulling fiend, and my horses have gone from looking one step away from a plow, to the respectable former/future/current show animals they are.

Here are a few mane pulling tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the dreaded chore a little easier:

  1. If the mane is already pretty thin (I LOVE those horses!) and just scraggly, use an old, dull body clipper blade to tease, fray, and cut the ends to the desired shorter length. Work in small sections, about a quarter inch at a time down the neck, to avoid an overall blunt chopped look. This is virtually painless for the horse and almost all of them tolerate it well. And, done correctly, it looks perfectly pulled.
  2. Most horses will have a thin section at the withers and just behind the ears: just where you want to use those old clipper blades.
  3. Were you taught to use a short metal pulling comb? Me too. Then I learned (from Thoroughbred racetrackers) it’s easier to use a regular plastic mane comb. Using the big plastic comb, you skip the step of wrapping the hair around the comb – a step which many horses learn to anticipate, shake their heads and dance around, causing you to drop the comb and have to move your step stool. Instead, just tease the mane back to desired length and give a sharp tug with both hands (comb in one hand, hair in the other). It gets the job done faster, which your horse will appreciate.
  4. Use latex gloves, especially on your pulling hand (left hand) to give added grip and it will spare you blistered fingers.
Use a clipper blade to shorten thin sections.

Use a clipper blade to shorten thin sections.

For me, a plastic comb works better than the traditional short, metal mane comb.

For me, a plastic comb works better than the traditional short, metal mane comb.

 


 

Why is it that the horses with the least amount of mane always stand like statues, while the horses who have Yeti hair throw a fit to have their manes pulled?

If you have a really thick mane, this may help you:

  1. If your horse is extra sensitive, sometimes a topical analgesic can help. Try Vicks Chloraseptic throat spray, or Anbesol tooth gel to numb small sections of the mane as you work.
  2. I’m usually alone, and don’t have someone to hold the horse for me. Some horses stand better wearing a twitch: use a small loop of baling twine and a double-end snap to make a quick twitch that snaps to the halter.
  3. Naughty horses can also be distracted with food. To retrain a wiggly, head-slinging rogue, try feeding him treats after each successful pull. I like hay cubes for this, as the extra chewing is a good distraction and I can feed them liberally. Gradually space it out: pull two or three times, and offer him a treat; then reward after every fourth or fifth pull. It takes patience (and a lot of extra time) but positive reinforcement can make the worst horse stand better.
  4. Don’t feel like you have to finish the whole mane in one session. If your fingers get sore, your horse probably is, too. Dividing the chore over several days may make it easier. Start well in advance of a horse show.
  5. On the other hand, sometimes getting it all done at once is preferable to prolonging the misery. Try to pull after you ride, when the horse’s muscles are warm and loose – often the hair comes out a little easier.
  6. Conquering the thick mane is an ongoing process. You won’t make a terrible mane perfect immediately – you can only pull so much before the mane gets too short. However, after two or three pulling cycles, you will see  a marked improvement and have a mane that is much better to braid.
  7. If you’re dealing with a draft mane or a fountain of hair from a Shetland pony, remember that roaching is always an option! With some horses, a half-roach on the underside is an excellent compromise.
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