Like finding perfect fit breeches or a dirt repellent horse, few things are as appealing and as hard to attain as a well cut mane. UNTIL NOW.
Professional groom Jason McQueen of Boston, Massachusetts shares the secret to a quality cut. He’s so
anal particular about mane cutting, the jumpers he looks after have better haircuts than a lot of people on the circuit. And he’s given them to some pret-ty famous horses—horses ridden by the likes of Eric Lamaze, Kimberly Prince, Amy Millar.
Skeptics, prepare to have your MIND BLOWN.
Step 1: Use the right tools. “I suggest getting a sharp, long bladed pair of scissors at Office Depot—the ones with a big handle. You’ll need these if the tail is very thick,” says McQueen.
“While you’re there, get a matching pair of sharp, short, micro-tip scissors for the mane. Mine are made by Fiskars. All together, they should cost $20. You’ll also need a plastic mane comb and some disposable latex gloves, too.”
Step 2: Prepare the hair. “Bathe the horse the day before, washing the tail, mane and forelock. You want to scrub right down to the tail bone and base of the mane and forelock. Rinse well. Do not condition,” he says.
Step 3: Pull the mane. “Manes can be tricky. Most have to be thinned often. They tend to get thick and bushy and that makes them hard to handle,” he says.
Use a plastic comb, says McQueen. (The metal ones tend to break the hairs.) And work with small sections of mane.
“Put on your latex gloves, they help you hold the hairs. Grab a few hairs with your fingers, push the rest of the hairs up with the comb like you are teasing the hair, hold on tightly to the hairs you’ve separated, use the comb as leverage and pull down quickly and with force. If the hairs don’t come out, try grabbing less hair next time.
“Check after each pull that the hairs are pulling from the root,” he continues. “You will see the roots attached to the hairs.”
Pull section by section until the entire mane is the same thickness. “You usually don’t have to pull near the top or the bottom of the mane where the hair is naturally thinner,” he adds.
Step 4: Trim the mane. Now we’re getting to the secret in the mane cutting sauce. Use the small scissors and start with a well combed mane.
“Comb the mane straight down. If the horse shakes its head, comb again,” says McQueen.
“Start at the top, hold your scissors at a 45 degree angle, pointing them at 10 o’clock. Cut straight into the bottom of the mane. Keep making cuts, one beside another all the way down to the bottom. The mane will look very jagged. You can cut quite far in at this step—up to an inch.”
Comb out the mane and cut all the way down again, this time the cuts a bit shorter. Then comb out and do it again.
“Keep combing out and cutting, each time making the cuts a bit shorter until you are just cleaning up stray hairs.” This technique makes the mane appear straight.
Step 5: Trim the forelock. The forelock is often overlooked in mane maintenance, says McQueen. “I always use Cowboy Magic detangler in the forelock. Apply a small dollop, massage it in, comb it straight down and cut with the long blade scissors. You can do a lot with the forelock. Cut it straight across or get creative,” he says.
“I prefer a blunt bang. However, most people do prefer a natural looking forelock. If you’re not into the blunt cut, you can clean up the forelock with a 10 o’clock cut.”
Step 6: Bang the tail. “Spray Show Sheen in the tail and let it dry. Comb out the tail, ensuring not to break off any hairs. The tail and forelock should never be thinned, in my opinion,” says McQueen.
Once combed, hold the tail up slightly from the underside of the tailbone before cutting. “Most horses hold their tails slightly raised when they move,” he explains.
“Comb out the tail again, then bunch it together and run your hand down the tail to the bottom and cut bluntly. Comb it out again and clean up the blunt cut,” he says. “If the tail is very thick, you can use clippers with a #40 blade instead of scissors.”
[All horse photos by Jason McQueen]
Look good! Go riding!
Carley Sparks covers show jumping and related ridiculousness at getmyfix.org.