June 30, 2021
March 5, 2021

Manes & Tails for the Show Ring

A well-groomed show horse is a beautiful sight to behold. One of the most important aspects of that grooming is the mane and tail.

Audrey Pavia

Perfectly kept manes and tails are an important part of what makes show horses so stunning. Whether your horse is a dressage horse, a cutting horse horse or western pleasure horse, techniques used by professionals can give your horse a visual edge on the competition.

Great Grooming

The most important aspect of keeping manes and tails looking great is proper care of the entire horse. Without this vital, fundamental step, no amount of primping can make manes and tails look good. Your horse should be on a complete and balanced feed program, individualized for his needs. Adding a high-quality coat conditioner supplement to his diet can also help.

Part of your daily horse care routine should be paying close attention to the mane. Keeping it clean is important. Horses kept at pasture or in dirt paddocks have a tendency to accumulate a lot of grime in their manes and tails. It’s vital to keep these manes and tails dirt-free if they are to look good for the show ring or even out on a day’s ride.

Start by protecting your horse’s tail with a daily silicone detangler to help keep it from getting caught on water buckets, fencing, blanket leg straps. Avoid brushing the tail too since brushing breaks the hair. Instead, comb out debris with your fingers. When prepping for a show, use a large, wide-tooth comb to pick through it. Use a good leave-in conditioner whenever you wash it.

Weekly washing and conditioning of manes and tails is vital, especially if you have horse that is being campaigned. Use high-quality shampoo and conditioning products, including whitening shampoos if your horse has a light-colored tail. Thoroughly rinse all traces of dirt and shampoo out, and follow with a leave-in conditioner. If you show frequently, put a leave-in conditioner on every day.

One part of keeping a mane looking good is training it to all fall to one side. Braid the mane over on to one side in fat heavy braids. After a week or so, remove the braids and shorten the mane, using either a clipper blade or thinning scissors or both. If the mane still won’t lay flat, repeat the process now that the braids are shorter.

Banding Manes

Some western performance horses are meant to be show in banded manes.

Before banding, shorten and thin the mane to the appropriate length and thickness so the banding will be even. Some do this by pulling the mane, while others prefer alternate ways of thinning. Thinning manes helps them get them to lay flat evenly across the neck. Waiting until the mane is slightly dirty will make it easier to handle.

Banding methods can help to accentuate what is good about a horse’s conformation, and de-emphasize aspects that are short of ideal.

Adjust the length of the clipped bridle path according to the horse’s neck. On a horse with a thick throatlatch, make the bridle path a little longer. On a thick-necked horse, pull the bands farther over on the side of the neck, and band it tighter in the middle and less tight on the remainder of the mane. Leave the mane a little longer on a horse with a heavier neck and shorter on a horse with a long, thin neck.

For crested necks, make the band level, and trim the mane from short to long to short in certain places to draw the eye away from the rise in the neck. For slightly ewe-necked horses, raise the banding at the top of the neck to create a straighter line in the top of the neck while also pulling the mane down tight just behind the bridle path.

Start with a bathed horse and band the mane while it is wet. When the mane is damp, it’s easier to control all the hairs. When it dries, the mane will stay down.

By employing some or all of these techniques on your own horse, you can change an ordinary appearance to one of considerable glamour. Although a beautiful mane and tail may not change your horse’s performance in the show string, it will certainly add something to his overall appearance—which can’t hurt!

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