Monday, March 31, 2014

Mane Tales

It's a good thing I love grooming. My bay mare shines with the flick of a curry, but Rocket is going to be... a challenge. In a good way.

This is after Mom and I both working hard for thirty minutes
and half a bottle of Cowboy Magic.
The best thing about Rocket as far as grooming goes is that her mane already lies on the correct side of her neck. No training necessary. We won't know for a couple more years how blessed she was by the genetic gods, but at least they got one thing right.

Well, that and extreme cuteness.
Lex was given abundant gifts by the genetic gods.

You better not get sick of this picture. I love it.
But with two big exceptions:

A teeeeeeeeeeny little tail.
Good thing she's not gonna be a hunter because
the tail extensions alone would bankrupt me.

And a crazy thick mane that a) naturally lies on the wrong side of her neck and that b) she will kill you for touching with a pulling comb.

This makes me weep.

As I said in the one-year anniversary post, I had to wait until she had her teeth done to even get near her mane. I'd only had her for a couple days, but I just couldn't take it anymore. I know, I KNOW, I should have trained it before I pulled it. But I didn't have time. The dentist was gonna be there when he was gonna be there and no one else in the barn would have been amenable to me delaying their appointments because I was fussing with my horse's mane. 
Snoozy Lexi!

In addition to her mane being thick and impossible to pull (she WILL kill you and your whole family. I'm very brave and usually tell my horses to suck it up buttercup when it comes to stuff like this, but believe me. Not. Worth. It.), it grows very quickly. This always makes me tempted to shorten it a lot when I finally get my hands on it, but I have to resist that temptation or it'll stand straight up.

So this is what I do:

1. Before I shorten it, I train it. I'm about to do this again next week when it will finally be warm enough for her to go without her blanket during the day and hopefully stop snowing.

These are western pleasure braids. You could use regular braids if you want, but these take way less time. You just take a section of mane, band it, and then loop it through itself. It stays flatter that way. A couple of tips: a) Make them thick chunks of mane and keep them loose. See how far the band is from her crest? If they're thin, tight, and the band is near the crest, the horse is much more likely to rub them out; b) Brush the mane really really well before you do this. The thicker the mane, the more you wanna brush it; c) Quicbraid is your friend. Just do it. Some people use human gel from the dollar store but I think it makes the mane gunky and itchy. Chris advises wetting the mane down three times a day, but for working people without an army of grooms, that's impossible. I also don't like getting my horses wet for no reason. Ask Girlfriend: if I hose off a horse, I towel dry the horse, even if Girlfriend is hungry and wants to go home and it takes forever. Thoroughbred Skin Funk terrifies me and shiny horses make me happy. So: Quicbraid.

I have used this sleazy thing on her before, but in Florida it's often too hot. This will help the braids lie flat, but it's not really that crucial if you did a good job banding.

Ready to rob a bank.

2. Leave the bands in for one week minimum. The more stubborn the horse's mane is, the longer you'll want to leave them in. I often redo them over the course of that week to keep them tidy, because I am a freak about turnout and because it will keep them more comfortable for the horse. If your horse's mane is in these western pleasure bands, maybe it will inspire you to practice long and low work and pretend to have an AQHA circuit horse!

3. You have a beautifully trained mane. Congratulations. Now you have to shorten it.

Praise Ceiling Cat for a right-side mane.
Early in Chris's relationship with Lex, he was freaking out about her mane being on the wrong side. He said, "Do you want her to be a freak and an outcast at shows?" And I was all, "I'M a freak and an outcast!" and he said, "You've got to do something about this vision of yourself."

Just a cute story about how manes can lead to impromptu calls for therapy.

Anyhizzle, here's where the real work starts. Because Lex won't let me pull it, I do the dreaded thing and use scissors. For awhile, she wouldn't even let me tease it. She's better about that now, but teasing and cutting is not ideal with a mane this thick. That works great for really thin manes -- it's preferable, actually, because if the mane is super thin you don't want to lose any hair. With Lex's mane, I'm in a "take the hair... please!" place. Anyway, this step is hard for me to explain well but it's also the most important part. I essentially take scissors and hold them so the point is toward the crest and just kind of cut up, not across. Cutting across gets you the abomination that was her mane when I got her. You want to make it look natural, so you slightly change the angle of the scissors every cut so the hairs are all slightly different lengths. And voila:

Much better, though not as good as pulled.
4. Oh no, you're not done yet! That mane looks pretty good but not great. If you look at the picture above it, with the longer mane, it looks more natural even though it's longer. That mane was also the result of scissors. We got from a mane that still kind of looks cut to a mane that looks pulled in a week, and the secret is simple: brush the shit out of the mane every single day. EVERY day. You know how you're supposed to pick hooves every day? Just grab the brush and deal with the mane after you pick the hooves. With a mane as thick as Lex's, there's no such thing as too much brushing. The more you brush it, the better. It pulls out loose hairs and just keeps the thing looking more natural. This will also help it stay on the right side.

Essentially, if you want to use the Riding Rainbow Mane Management Method, you need to give yourself several weeks before the horse has to look presentable. You need at least one week for mane training and at least one week for brushing the mane out. More is better, especially on the brushing side if your horse has a thick mane. I will probably pull it the next time she gets drugs for her teeth, but it'll be less of a project because it will already be shorter and thinner than it was when I got her. In the meantime, scissors it is.

The tail, though... there's nothing to do about the tail. It's in a pasture braid right now, but her dock is short and thin and that's all there is to it. She isn't gonna ever have a thick beautiful tail. I'll try to love her anyway.


  1. Next time your out at Timber Run you must show me your scissor-cutting technique! I need it... desperately, haha

  2. My horse missed out on the same things that Lex did! At least she has a forelock :)

  3. Stampede used to have to be drugged to have his mane pulled, until I watched a video on how to properly pull a mane (honestly 99% of the people I know did it just like me before, many still do) and now I can pull his mane without issue. Sure he doesn't care for it towards his ears, but a few treats and doing it a different way and it gets done without the drama or the scissors! I've shared the video on my blog previously if you feel like looking for it. :)

  4. I do the jumper mane and pull then even it with scissors. My trainer would not acknowledge me at shows if I didn't show up with a neat tidy mane. Say no to the scissors!

  5. I just found your blog (from Sprinkler Bandit) and I'm excited to learn more about Rocket since I also have a Friesian cross. :D I know this is an old post, but I wanted to suggest something that was suggested to me, but I never actually tried it... did that make sense? My horse has the opposite problem. His mane is pathetically thin and he rubs it out because of his Sweet Itch so I pulled it. Because it's thin, pulling it made it too thin, so someone suggested getting thinning shears (the kind that hair dressers use on us) to cut it instead of pulling it. After you cut her mane you could use the thinning shears to thin it out and make it look more natural. Thinning shears work amazing on my thick hair. I haven't tried it on my horse though because I ended up just roaching him since he was rubbing it out. Anyway it might be worth a shot since it would be easier and quicker I think. Good luck!