Is your horse’s mane looking just a little bushier than you’d like lately? A tad ragged? Or perhaps your best bud simply needs a touch of TLC. A question no doubt on many new horse owners’ or potential owners’ minds is “Can you cut a horse’s mane?”.
You may also be wondering — as any loving horse parent would — how to deal with and maintain your horse’s mane without causing any pain, discomfort, or excess stress to her (or to you). Some owners may worry about going wrong somewhere and ruining their horse’s beautiful mane.
So, before you run for a pair of scissors, let’s saddle up and explore this in a bit more depth!
Can You Cut a Horse’s Mane?: The Short Answer
Yes but really, taking a pair of scissors and cutting your horse’s mane in a straight line is usually not the best option, especially if you’re going for a nice, sleek look. Cutting in this way can result in bluntness and bushyness, especially for thicker manes — in fact, just imagine doing this to a human’s hair and you’ll get the picture.
So, How Can I Cut My Horse’s Mane?
There are lots of techniques that you can use. With the right tools, a bit of research and some practice, dealing with your horse’s mane shouldn’t cause either of you unnecessary stress. Let’s take a look at some of the methods used by the horse community.
Tip: It’s also a good idea to do a bit of research on the best length of mane for your horse’s particular breed. Some, like the traditional cob, are known for having longer manes, whereas others are known for shorter manes. It mostly comes down to personal preference and what is best for you and your horse, mind you.
“Mane-pulling is the act of removing individual hairs of the mane from the root with the purpose of thinning and shortening it.” – Liv Gude, practicalhorsemanmag.com.
The pulling process involves backcombing a small section of the mane, wrapping the hairs in your hand around the comb and simply pulling the hair off at the end. This method helps to avoid that dreadful “block” effect that a straight cut gives by thinning out the mane and shortening it to the desired length.
The act itself sounds a tad scary — as this method requires pulling the hair out at the root, it is somewhat controversial in the horse community. Some are staunch opponents of it, whereas others say they’ve never had any issues doing it on their horses. Some even report that their horses enjoy pulling.
According to Carmela Abel from equinehelper.com, the best time to pull a horse’s mane is in Spring when the hair is already loose. She also recommends pulling straight after exercising. This is because the horse’s pores will be opened up. Thus,making the whole process a lot easier.
Some horses take to it very well and others… not so well. The best way to determine if pulling is right is to consider how your horse reacts to it. If he expresses distress, it might be worth trying out a different method.
Pulling can also take a little more time to complete as you are going to be taking away small sections one at a time. If you don’t have the patience or find it too time-consuming, pulling might not be for you.
If you decide to try pulling, it’s best to see a pro in action first, and where can we find plenty of pros? YouTube, of course! A quick search will show you plenty of experienced horse owners pulling manes. Even better, if you have a friend whose horse is accustomed to pulling. You could ask them to show you how it’s done in real-time.
For more sensitive horses, trimming may be a better option. It’s also super simple — after brushing out your horse’s mane (a little extra TLC never goes unappreciated!) to smooth it down, you can either:
- Leave the mane where it is and trim in an upwards motion (not straight across — this is what gets the “block” or “bushy” effect).
- Lift individual sections of the mane and trim downwards. Imagine how your hairdresser does it — it’s something like that.
The biggest benefit of trimming is that it’s easy and your horse is much more likely to just stand and accept the minor restyle. It’s also much less time-consuming than pulling. You can use a pair of trimming scissors or a special tool that can be used for trimming/thinning.
The length is entirely up to you, though as mentioned, in the world of horse fashion, some styles and lengths are recommended depending on the breed.
Hogging, also known as “roaching” basically means shaving the mane off entirely. Hogging is a good option. This is for horses with skin infections that need checking for ticks.
It goes without saying that hogging is probably not the best option for show horses that need to be braided. The forelock and mane are also the horse’s natural defense against flies and other creepy crawlies. So it’s a good idea to take all of this into consideration when decided whether or not to hog.
Hogging is a great way for some horse owners to keep their horse looking neat. It may need to be done often depends on how quickly your horse’s mane grows back.
A quick Google search brought up lots of results for special horse clippers, but they can be pretty pricey. It’s not generally recommended to use human clippers on your horse, mind you, purely because the type of hair is very different. Human hair clippers are likely to struggle along on a horse mane, especially on thicker-maned breeds.
How Can I Calm My Horse When He/She is Getting a Haircut?
Each horse has its own distinctive personality — some are super chill and others are a bit more nervous or easily startled. If your horse panics or shows nervousness at pulling or the sound of clippers, there are some relaxation techniques that you can try to make the experience a little less stressful for all involved.
- Stay as calm as possible. It’s completely normal to be stressed about your horse being stressed, but as we all know, horses pick up on our moods and emotions.
- Talk to the horse in a soothing tone.
- If your horse is a fan of brushing, give the mane a good brush down before starting with the cutting/pulling/trimming. This way, they may learn to associate the procedure with something pleasant. Brushing can be extremely enjoyable and relaxing for some horses.
- Let him/her check out the equipment you’re going to be using. Inquisitive horses will appreciate the heads-up.
- Ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior (like standing still for the entire event for the first time) with treats, pats or caresses — whatever works for you.
Sometimes, horses can get used to things when they start to realize that there’s nothing to worry about. That being said, if your horse seems consistently stressed out, it might be time to try out another method.
- There are several ways to shorten your horse’s mane or forelock without ending up with a “bowl-cut” look or blunt edges. Common methods include pulling, trimming and hogging/roaching.
- Every horse and owner is different. One horse may take beautifully to one method but not another. Pulling, for example, won’t work for every horse, especially sensitive ones.
- You might want to check out information about your horse’s particular breed in case you want to adhere to a specific style guide.
- Use proper trimming, hogging and pulling tools designed for horses for the best results.
So, there we have it! You can, indeed, cut your horse’s mane but there are ways and means of doing it to achieve the best results. There really is no wrong or right way to maintain your horse’s mane as long as it isn’t causing pain or severe stress to him/her (or to you!).
Again, it’s always a great idea to get some expert help, whether that’s reading up on all of the possible methods for cutting your horse’s mane or reaching out to your own horse community. If you’re in regular contact with a trained horse veterinarian or friends with lots of experience with horses, they could be your go-to people.
Which method do you use when taming your horse’s mane? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments. If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading, and best of luck with “mane-training” your horse!