Ah, those flowing manes and tails that romanticized videos of horses running along a beach are made of. Who wouldn’t want that? Sigh… Here are some tips on how to get your horse’s mane and tail looking the best possible.
By SmartPaker Jessica Normand
Most horseback riders dream of long, shiny manes and tails, but caring for those flowing locks takes time and the right technique. Some breeds, such as Friesians and Andalusians, are blessed with long, thick manes and tails, while others are more prone to having thin, wispy hair. Knowing how to care for each hair type can help promote healthy hair growth.
My horse, Sawyer, has some challenges in the mane department. He’s a Lippitt Morgan, so a long, full mane is part of his breed type. Unfortunately, his mane hair is not very resilient. Sawyer’s chestnut mane is extremely prone to sun damage and split ends. Since he lives outside 24/7, this is impossible to avoid. He also tends to be itchy and causes more hair damage by scratching his neck against solid objects, especially in the summer.
Because of these hairy challenges, I’ve become interested in understanding how we can impact mane and tail growth, resilience, and vibrancy. I thought I would share these insights if your horse also needs a mane and tail makeover!
Supporting Healthy Horse Hair Growth
Photo courtesy of SmartPak
Diet is the first consideration for growing healthy, resilient hair. First, ensure your horse receives adequate vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and quality protein.
If your horse still needs hair help after addressing nutritional basics, consider SmartMane & Tail. This supplement supports healthy hair growth as part of a well-rounded diet and management program. The formula provides 2,000 mg of collagen, a source of high-quality protein, added essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids from flax seed, 10 mg of biotin, other B vitamins, and a balanced profile of copper and zinc.
Factors of Healthy Horse Hair
Not all horses can grow a mane past their knees. One of the most significant factors in hair growth is genetics. Some breeds tend to have thicker, more resilient hair than others.
Color also impacts growth because specific colors (white and palomino especially) are more prone to sun damage, which causes hair to become dry, brittle, and damaged. Sun exposure, rubbing, and herd-mates chewing manes and tails will also negatively impact your horse’s hair growth. Remember, horse hair needs nutrients and moisture to grow successfully.
Good Grooming Practices for Manes and Tails
Regular maintenance and proper grooming will make a big difference in hair health, thickness, and length. Here are some tips to improve your horse’s mane and tail grooming routine:
- Limit combing: only comb your horse’s mane and tail after applying detangler. Comb in small sections from the bottom to the top. Try taking the tail and combing it against your thigh for more control and less breakage.
- Don’t bathe too frequently: bathing too often can dry the hair and make it more prone to damage.
- Use a moisturizing shampoo and follow it with a post-bath leave-in conditioner, like the fresh-smelling Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Recon Leave-In Conditioner.
- Don’t comb wet hair: wet hair stretches and is easily damaged.
- Finger groom tails in between washes: your fingers are gentler than a comb.
- Apply a detangler and conditioner 1-3 times per week.
- Use a wide-tooth comb.
- Bang tails: I run my hand down the tail length to approximately one inch below the chestnut and then cut straight across the bottom. For some people, this needs to be longer. Tail length is a personal choice. At this length, banged tails give an overall impression of being ‘more full’ and easier to take care of.
Tips for Thin, Wispy Tails
It can take time to improve the look of a horse’s tail; however, it can be done with a bit of TLC. The Shapley’s product MTG is great for improving hair growth.
Apply through the length of the tail and then braid it overnight to prevent tangles. You can repeat this process every night; however, to prevent the tail from getting greasy, doing this every third day is just as effective. Done over a long period, you should see improvement in the length of the tail and hair thickness.
At the end of the show season, I will bang tails extra short. For very thin tails, I will go above the hock. This is not aesthetically pleasing but develops a fuller tail by the time the show season starts again.
Keeping Manes and Tails Healthy
Keeping your horse’s mane and tail clean, free of tangles, and conditioned is one of the most important parts of horse hair care. Some horse owners will use their own hair conditioner and detangler on their horses, but if you want something horse-specific, here are a few of my favorite mane and tail products.
Mane and Tail Conditioners
- Mane-ly Long Hair Repair Conditioner (also great post-shampooing) can be mixed with water in the Mane-ly Hydrate 24 Bottle Pack to create a daily mane and tail conditioning spray that horse owners rave about!
- Eqyss Mega-Tek Rebuilder is a cream formula that quickly soaks into the hair. I love that it’s petroleum-free and can be used on hooves, blanket rubs, and more.
Mane and Tail Detanglers
- ShowSheen Hair Polish – Tried and True! If long-lasting, tangle-free manes and tails are your priority, you can’t go wrong with this longtime best-seller.
- Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine – The makers of this beloved product say that it conditions the hair in addition to detangling it. Still, I’ve used it extensively, and it performs better as a detangler than a conditioner/treatment. The formula is a concentrated, silky gel that creates a nice sheen to the mane and tail and helps repel dust and dirt.
- Canter Silk Mane & Tail Conditioner – This spray is also formulated to condition and detangle, but in my experience, it works best as a detangler. It is a favorite of many horse owners and has a unique, continuous sprayer that’s fun to use!
- Stubben Brush On Care – Described as more of a coat product, but I’ve found it works pretty well as a mane and tail detangler with light conditioning. The rose and green tea scent is unique and very pleasant. I recommend trying this one if you want a product that can double as a coat, mane, and tail spray.
- Camomile Power Detangler from Leovet – Besides promoting bouncy, tangle-free manes and tails, this formula helps bring out the color in dark and light-colored manes, tails, and coats.
Mane and Tail Combination Products
- Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Treatment & Detangler – This product is the perfect follow-up step to the Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Recon Leave-In Conditioner. The two-step program is probably unnecessary for horses with strong, healthy manes and tails, but it has worked great for Sawyer. This formula is a concentrated, silky consistency like Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine, but the apricot kernel oil soaks into the hair more than coating it. This helps to improve its condition over time while also doing a great job detangling and producing shine. As a bonus, the apricot kernel oil gives the formula a pleasant smell without added fragrance and is a natural UV protectant!
- Leovet Silkcare Conditioner – Another great-smelling product from Leovet, this formula helps to condition manes and tails using unique silk proteins that support healthy hair structure. This product also doubles as a coat spray that deters stains and leaves your horse’s whole body soft but not slippery. An excellent option for greys and horses with a lot of white!
- EcoLicious De-Stress Intensive Restructuring & Conditioning Treatment for Mane & Tails – I love this natural formula that includes coconut oil, organic hemp oil, apricot kernel oil, and olive oil. It also contains rosemary extract to help promote hair growth and sunflower extract as a natural sun protectant.
Good luck with your horse hair care journey! As always, if you want to chat with some awesome, knowledgeable horse people, don’t hesitate to contact the wonderful Customer Care Team at SmartPak.
Go SmartPak and go riding!