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3 Key Tips for Grooming Mane and Tail

beautiful horse tail

Your Horse’s Mane and Tail is Your Pride and Joy!

Or at least, that is the goal for every horse owner, who enjoys grooming. But why do some horses lose mane and tail hair in spite of diligent and regular mane and tail care? Find out what to do and which habits to avoid when brushing your horse and grooming mane and tail.

Not all Manes and Tails are Created Equal…

different horse tailsAll horses come naturally endowed with manes and tails of varying fullness. Just like in humans, there are differences in thickness and consistency of individual hair and in fullness – meaning how many individual hairs populate one square inch.

But are you making the most of your horse’s mane & tail?

Or do you (unknowingly) contribute to a thin, dry, and brittle appearance?

3 Don’ts and 3 Do’s of Mane and Tail Care:

DO NOT shampoo too often!

Even high quality horse shampoo can dry out the horse’s natural hair conditioning oils that are secreted from a little gland at the root of each hair. Shampoo only if you plan to show or – if not showing – no more than once per month during the warmer season. Be sure to use a gentle, conditioning shampoo for horses or an equine wash and rinse out thoroughly, especially the dock of the tail, where soap residue can lead to dandruff and itching.

DO NOT use a mane comb on the tail!

dandy brush horse tailYou can use a mane comb on short manes without problem. But never, ever use a (smaller, fine-toothed) mane comb on the tail. It takes about 2 years for a tail hair to grow out! There are special mane and tail combs that have wide teeth, which are fine to use. Most combs – like those many use for pulling a mane – tend to pull out hair unnecessarily. To be safe, use a high-quality, durable horse mane and tail brush – only AFTER using detangler! To give the final polished look, use a dandy brush on the tail.

If you prefer the slower, old-school method then part the hair with your fingers only. See the video on how to finger groom your horse’s tail here.

DO NOT brush mane and tail without detangler

horse mane and tail detanglerOld-school grooming guidelines say: “NEVER use a brush or comb on the tail. Separate the hair with your fingers only.” This was the rule before mane and tail detangler products were available and is still good advice, if you’d rather not use a detangler.

If you want to brush your horse’s tail, spray on a good conditioning detangler, such as FoxFire Mane & Tail Detangler and Conditioner for thicker hair or Espana Silk Detangler for finer hair, let it dry completely. You do not have to brush mane and tail whenever you are brushing your horse, just once or twice per week at the most.

how to groom a tailThen carefully brush the tail from the bottom up, always holding the tail hair firmly above the section that you are brushing (see image). This way, you will not unintentionally thin out your horse’s tail every time you groom your horse’s tail.

DO (Yes!) soak mane & tail before washing

  • Dilute a gentle mane & tail shampoo in a bucket of warm water.
  • Lift the bucket to the tail and put all of the tail into the bucket to cover the tail with suds.
  • Use a sponge to thoroughly soak the dock of the tail.
    Remove the bucket without squeezing out the suds.
  • Do the same with the mane.
  • Wait about 3-5 minutes.
  • Then thoroughly rinse mane & tail.
  • This will give the shampoo some time to do it’s magic without rubbing and damaging the hair!

DO rinse (very) thoroughly

washing a horse's maneThe number one cause of dry and brittle manes and tails is use of shampoos containing harsh chemicals, followed by not rinsing thoroughly! The shampoo residue remains in the mane or tail, where it dries out the hair. The hair gets brittle and breaks off. Using a gentle shampoo and rinsing thoroughly prevents damage.

Rinse until all water runs off clear!

DO use mane and tail conditioner after every wash

The surface of the individual hair can either be rough or smooth, as there are scale-like shapes visible under the microscope. Making these little scales smooth with conditioner makes the tail good-looking, shiny, resilient tail – but also protects the hair from breakage and staining! Meaning, if you use a good mane & tail conditioner, you do not have to shampoo as often…

More mane and tail care TIPS in a nut shell:

  • Never pull when brushing! If you have to pull, you are using the wrong tool or you did not use detangler!
  • Use a flick or dandy brush after hand combing your horse’s clean, washed and dry tail. It will look fantastic!
  • Avoid frequent shampooing and even combing/brushing the tail! Instead, hand-pick hay and debris out of mane and tail, massage dock and crest for good blood circulation and shampoo and brush less often, but always gently and thoroughly!

Questions? Ideas? We would love to hear from you.

Enjoy your horse!

Equine Wellness Magazine – Tips on Growing Your Horse’s Mane and Tail

USEF – Pro Tips on Mane and Tail Care


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