There are a lot of reasons why you might need to shorten your horse’s mane. Some horses need their mane shortened before a horse show. Some breeds and disciplines keep the mane short to honor tradition. Or you might just prefer it that way.
Historically, manes have been shortened by “mane pulling” – pulling the long hair out from the root until only short hair remains. Many horses do not tolerate this well so you may choose to use scissors instead. Before you begin, make sure you understand how to pull a mane with scissors. Lucky for you, I am here to help!
How to Pull a Mane With Scissors
Before you begin, look at pictures of horses that are the same breed or do the same discipline as your horse. You can also look at the other horses in your barn for inspiration and to determine how short you want your horse’s mane to be. Most pulled manes are 4 to 6 inches long. You want the mane to look as even and natural as possible.
- Gather all of your tools and properly secure your horse. Your horse should be relaxed before you begin.
- Start with a mane that is clean but not washed. Pick out any pieces of hay, sticker burrs, or clumps of mud.
- Brush the mane through on the side that you want it to lie.
- Starting at either the base of the neck or the poll, pinch off the longest strands of hair and tease the shorter hair up.
- Using the scissors, cut the longer hairs at an angle to the desired length. Do this all the way across the mane, cutting the length evenly.
- Brush the mane back down, and repeat the steps until the entire mane is even and the length you want.
- If the mane is thicker in some places, hold the scissors vertically and thin the mane in the thick area (this is usually towards the middle of the mane). You want the mane to be even throughout.
- Finally, brush the mane out and tidy up any loose or uneven pieces that you may have missed.
Tips for Using Scissors
- Do not trim the mane while it is wet. If you trim the mane when it is wet, you may end up with a mane that is too short once the hair dries.
- If possible, shampoo the horse’s mane the day before you pull it. This will help remove any excess grime without making the mane too slick.
- Do not use any conditioner or hair products on the mane before you trim it. If the mane is too slippery it will be difficult to get a good grip of the hairs.
- Remember to neatly trim up your horse’s bridle path. The desired length of the bridle path will depend on your horse’s breed and discipline.
- If you are having a hard time grasping the hairs, wear a pair of latex or nitrile gloves.
- Use a sturdy stool to help keep your arms from getting tired, if your horse is tall.
- If your horse’s mane is thicker in the middle and you wish to have a more uniform look, you may need to use thinning shears on the thicker part of the mane.
- If you horse’s mane lies on the left side and you need it to lie on the right side for horse shows, you may need to purchase a mane tamer. You can use a mane tamer for several days prior to the show to help the mane lie on the proper side before you braid it.
What to Be Careful of When Using Scissors
- When using scissors, be careful not to cut straight across. If you make straight, blunt cuts into the mane you may end up with a “bowl-cut” look. It will also be very difficult to neatly braid the blunt ends into button braids or hunter braids for horse shows. Never cut your horse’s forelock straight across. As a general rule you should leave their forelock uncut in any way.
- Make sure you do not accidentally cut your horse. The scissors you use should be sharp enough that they easily cut through the mane. Before you start you should tie your horse up or have a friend hold your horse still.
- Never point the scissors directly at your horse or yourself. When making cuts, make sure the tip does not accidentally nick your horse’s coat. When trimming the bridle path, pull the mane straight up, then feel where the hair and skin meet. Give yourself enough buffer that you do not cut into their skin.
Great Mane Pulling Scissors
You can choose to use traditional scissors that a hairdresser or pet groomer would use, or there are specific horse mane scissors. Either way, you shouldn’t have any issues. Keep in mind that daily household scissors are not a great tool, since they are typically not sharp enough to accurately cut through hair. There are several tools designed specifically for cutting a horse’s mane. Here are five mane pulling scissors and tools you can get from Amazon:
Solocomb by Dh Animal Products
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, with 138 ratings
Review: “This is by far the best mane “pulling” comb I have ever used. The blades are high quality and the comb itself is very comfortable to use. My horse used to get very fussy when I pulled her mane, so this product was a great choice! She actually enjoys having her mane shortened and thinned now. I was worried that this comb wouldn’t thin her mane enough (she has a thick mane), but it does a great job and the finished product looks just as good as old school pulling makes her mane look.”
Laazar Pro Shears
Rating: 4.6 out of 5 starts, with 31 ratings
Review: “I’m a professional groomer and these scissors are amazing for everyday use! They cut so smooth! Will be buying more”
Horse Care Tool 7” ProRider Steel Thinning Shears
Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars, with 5 ratings
Review: “Much better alternative to “pulling” the mane. Looks natural and my horse appreciates it!”
Sweetsweet Pet Grooming Scissors
Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars, with 203 ratings
Review: “I love that this comes in such a complete set for the pet owner! All of the scissors have comfort grips in the finger holes, which make them very comfortable to use. A bargain at this price!” – Susan Plouff 10/11/2019
Smart Tails Professional Mane & Tail Thinning Comb
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, with 15 ratings
Review: “It is magic! I read the previous reviews, decided to take a chance on this. Wish I had known about this thinning comb years ago! I have a warmblood with a very thick mane. He hates to have even the thinnest section of mane pulled. In about 10 minutes, his mane is show ring ready! Worth every penny, beats all the other products I have tried.” – Shelley Griffitts 4/1/2018
When researching how to pull a mane with scissors, make sure you have a good idea of what you want to do before you start. Being well prepared is the key to success. A little confidence helps too! If the mane ends up a little short or uneven, just give it some time to grow back and try again. If you happen to end up with a badly pulled mane before a horse show, stay calm and call a professional braider for advice. Many braiders can work miracles on manes. Remember hair grows back and it takes practice to learn how to pull a mane with scissors properly.
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