Caring for a Long Mane

Ever wonder how some horses like reiners or Friesians have such a beautiful long mane?  There a few reasons.  First is purely genetics; if any horse’s sire or dam has a long mane, then their offspring may have a long mane.  The second is hair maintenance.  Frequent care of any mane will cause it to grow longer and stay tangle free.

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Care of a long mane is simple, although sometimes time consuming.  It consists of washing the mane and putting it into braids at least once every month.  Here are the steps the professionals use to a maintain and grow a beautiful long mane:

First, the hair should be thoroughly washed and conditioned. Take special care to scrub the crest of the neck where the mane grows out of.  This will massage the hair follicles and encourage hair growth.  After washing, be sure to rinse out any remaining soap and conditioner residue.  If there is any soap left on your horse’s skin it will become itchy causing your horse to rub out his mane.

Next, once your horse’s mane is thoroughly rinsed, wait for it to dry.  For a faster dry time you can blow dry your horse’s mane, but be careful that you desensitize your horse to the sound of the blow-dryer beforehand.  Once dry, gently comb through the mane.

Lastly put the mane into braids.  A horse with an average thickness of mane each braid will use four to five inches of mane hair.  This will insure you don’t have a large number of tiny braids to deal with.  When you begin braiding be sure to make the very top of your braids as loose as possible.  If the top of the braid is tight, and your horse puts his head down to graze it will pull a large amount of hair out (this is especially true at the withers).  Once you’ve insured that the top of your braid is loose, the rest of your braid should be tight so that your braids don’t fall out.  Tie off your braids about three inches from the end of the mane hair.

If your horse has very thin hair the product MTG may also be applied to the roots as directed.

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These steps should be repeated ideally once every two weeks, but should be done at least once a month.  The longer the braids are left in the more at risk your horse is to pull out entire braids.

Long manes do not have to be braided like this; however, if they are not, they are at risk of getting wind knots as depicted in the picture below.  Wind knots are very common for long-maned horses and commonly need to be ripped or cut out causingthe mane to be uneven in appearance.

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Clipping Legs

Clipping your horse’s legs is one of the more straightforward grooming practices done on horses.  It only has a few variations, and almost every seat and discipline do it.  It simply adds to the overall picture of your horse, and if he has white on his legs the white becomes brilliantly bright.  Clipping of the legs should be done at least 2 days before the show.

Supplies:

Clipper blades with a size 10 blade and any clipper cleaning supplies necessary

Before you start:

Vigorously wash your horse’s legs to remove any clipper-clogging hair that is present.  Then wait for the legs to dry completely before you begin to clip.  Also, if your horse is nervous about the sound and feel of clippers, take the time to practice desensitizing him a couple of days before you try to clip him.

Note:

To make your clip job look more professional, be sure that your horse is in a summer coat or has been body-clipped.  Horses whose legs are clipped but have a winter coat look awkward. If you have a draft breed do not clip its legs!

Colored legs:

Colored legs do not need to be clipped very much, they only need to be spruced up.  It is the long hairs on the coronary band, and the long fetlock hairs that will need to be trimmed.  Some horses seem to also grow very long hair on the back of the cannons which should be clipped off too.

Start with the coronary band.  When clipping this part of the foot it is important not to completely press the clippers onto the skin and clip.  This will create an odd looking ring of clipped hairs.  The goal is to only clip the tips of the hairs that are covering any part of the hoof or coronet band.  So, one method to achieve this is to line your clippers up with the coronet with the clipper blades being flat on the hoof, trim upwards until you reach the edge of the coronet, and then veer the clippers outwards towards yourself like the arrow shows in the picture below. Veering the clippers out creates a blended look along the coronary instead of a choppy look

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Fetlocks and the back of the cannon should be next.  The goal here is to trim any long looking hairs without creating an unnatural look.  This can only be done through experimentation and blending. It is not crucial that the hairs be cut as short as possible; only that they are tidy and uniform looking.

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Some people clip with the grain of the hair which works decently.  Other people clip against the grain of the hair like normal, but then blend in the clipped parts with the unclipped parts by clipping around the area with the grain of the hair.  Whatever works best for you, keep into account that the less surface area you clip the easier it is to blend the clip job.  So, try to clip only the region where the ergot grows that the back of the pastern like the picture illustrates below.  Then, you can blend the surrounding areas.

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White legs:

Any part of the leg that is white should be clipped; like socks, stockings, coronets, etc.  All the white needs to be clipped even if it goes above the hocks or knees! In my opinion, clipping white legs is easier than clipping colored legs because you need to blend less.

Simply take your ten blades and trim all of the white hair.  Be sure to run the blades against the grain of the hair to ensure shortness.  Also, if your clippers leave lines on the legs you will need to continue running over the same spot until the lines are gone; also your blades are very dull!

Make sure you clip all of the white hair, and that you miss none!  Leaving long leg hair looks sloppy and unprofessional.  If you are worried you will miss hair, simply clip the leg again and again until you are sure nothing was missed.

If you have a Pinto, and their white goes all the way up the leg into the body, you need to clip the entire leg and blend in the hair around the shoulder muscle and elbow on the front legs, or the on the hind legs.   You do not have to stop at these places, but make sure to always stop in a place that can be easily blended the clipping looks natural Below I have outlined where to stop on the front leg if the white continues upwards.

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Preparing a Show Tail for Pasture

So, your horse has a long show tail or you would like to grow out your horse’s tail, but you would want to put your horse out to pasture.   Follow these simple steps for a horse who can enjoy the pasture while still growing a beautiful, thick show tail.

If your horse already has a long show tail it will be easy to put it up for pasture.  However, if your horse’s tail is not already long enough to reach the middle of his cannons, I would suggest waiting for it to grow naturally before you wrap it up.

Supplies:

  • Braiding bands of any color
  • One roll of Vet-Wrap, or equivalent material
  • 15 strands of bailing twine, or equivalent material
  • Scissors

*You must also know how to braid

Step 1)

Make sure your horses tail has been freshly washed and conditioned so you do not wrap dirt in with the tail.  Also, it is crucial that your horse’s tail is completely dry before wrapping.  If it is not dry the tail could mold and fall out.

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Step 2)

Separate all of the protective feathers from the tail.  These feathers are located at the top and middle of the tail bone.  These feathers never grow quite as long as the longest part of the tail, but they may even be long enough to reach the middle of the cannon.  These feathers are a tool to keep bugs and flies away from the body and must be separated from the main tail.

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Step 3)

Braid the rest of the tail.  Although this may seem simple, this is the trickiest step.  Your braid will start 2-3 inches from the tail bone. If the braid starts too far away from the tail bone, the wrap will act like a pendulum and rip out all the hair. If the braid starts too close and is too tight on the tail bone, blood flow will be lost and the hair will FALL OUT!  That is why it is very important to make sure that the beginning of your braid is loose, while the rest of the braid is tight.  These are the reasons that this step is so crucial.  If done incorrectly the tail will either rip out or completely fall out. You must find the perfect balance between looseness and tightness so you neither loose circulation in the tail bone, nor have all the hair rip out while it is in use. This could require practice.

The tail bone is found at the top side of the thumb demonstrating that the braid starts a few inches lower.  Notice how loose the beginning of the braid is, then it becomes tighter.

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Step 3)

At the top of your braid separate the first two braid strands.  Take the braid and wrap it through the top of the braid to create a loop as shown in the photo below.

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Step 4)

Cut about a foot and a half of vet-wrap from your roll and carefully wrap the loop created in the last step; pictured in the photo below.  This step assures that the bailing twine you will use does not rub against the hairs of the tail and wear them off.

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Step 5)

Carefully tie the bailing twine onto the vet-wrapped loop.  Make sure that the middle of the bundle of twine is tied on the loop so that it is even on both sides.  Tighten the knot as much as possible so it does not loosen later on.

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Step 6)

Unravel the beginning of your vet-wrap about a foot and slip it through the top of the loop where you slipped the braid through.  This will create a makeshift seal for the rest of your wrap and prevent dirt from getting in.  After you have sealed the top simply wrap your vet-wrap up and down the braid loop.  Make sure you wrap every part; from the very bottom of the twine not, to the top of the braid loop.  Do NOT wrap onto the tailbone!  All of your vet-wrap will be used.

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Step 7)

Cut off any access twine that is touching the ground.  Measure this out by pulling the tail straight to the floor and cutting the twine even with the horse’s fetlocks.  Lastly, take down your horse’s feathers and gently comb them out with your fingers.

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Your show horse is now ready for pasture!

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Clipping the Arabian Head

The most defining characteristic of the Arabian horse is its head; no other breed portrays a dished profile with large expressive eyes, and flaring nostrils.  Therefore, clipping the head of an Arabian show horse is not only crucial to the appeal of the face, but it is extremely different than other breed’s standards for clipping.  Although it is not an Arabian Horse Association rule to clip these horses, a well clipped horse offers more eye appeal in the arena, and can mean the difference between a first place horse and a second place horse.

Supplies:

To clip properly you must have a pair of electric clippers with different sets of blades.  You will need size 40, size 30, and size 10 blades.  It is also acceptable to use an adjustable clipper blade such as a 30-15-10 blade.  The higher the number on the blade, the closer to the skin it will cut; so a 40 blade will clip much shorter than a 10, which will leave the hair longer.

Also, you should be prepared with proper cleaning and cooling agents to use periodically while you clip.  This will lengthen the life of your clippers.

Before you start:

Gently remove any excess hair off of your horses face with a soft curry comb or hard bristle brush. It is important that there is no excess dirt or hair on the face because it can make your blades dull, hot, and jammed.

Also, it is important to make sure your horse is not scared of the sound of the clippers.  If your horse has never heard or felt a clipper you must first desensitize your horse before you will be able to clip him properly.

Clipping:

EYES AND MUZZLE

First prepare your clippers with the blades that cut the shortest; preferably a 40, but a 30 may work also.  Clip all of the whiskers and eye feelers first. It is important that you clip against the grain of the hair to ensure closeness.  When clipping the whiskers keep your blade pressed flat against the horse’s skin so you never stab or poke your horse with the blade.  When you clip his whiskers on the muzzle some of his regular coat may be clipped too; this is how you know you are clipping close enough.

Pictured first is an eye that has not been clipped, and below is an eye which has been clipped.

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When clipping the eye feelers it is important to not clip your horses eye lashes instead.  The feelers are located just above and just below the eye and resemble the whiskers on the muzzle.  When clipping the lower feelers move very slowly and gently as to not poke your horse in the eye.  You may need to gently lift your horse’s eye lid to ensure you do not clip any eyelashes.  When clipping the upper eye you will be clipping all of the body hair off of the eye lid as well as the upper feelers.  It is important that only the hair on the eye lid be clipped; it is almost a rectangular section of hair you are clipping above the eye. This area is simply the bulge that is naturally created by the eye. Clipping the hair on the eye lid such as this will create the illusion that your horse’s eye is bigger than it truly is.

THE FACE

Now that you have clipped the eyes and muzzle you may move on to the face.  You will use the 40, or 30 blades; preferably the blade you used on the eyes and muzzle.  You will be clipping the side of their face right in front of the jaw and on the forehead creating a diamond shape.

When clipping around the jaw you must follow the shape of the jaw muscle on the side of the face, and the straightness of the jaw bone underneath the eye.  It is important not to clip any hair on the cheeks with this size blade.

Pictured first is the side of the face before clipping, on the bottom is how it should look after clipping.  Notice how there is an obvious difference in the color of the hair where it is clipped and where it is not clipped.

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Creating the tell-tale diamond shape on the forehead is the most distinctive part of the Arabian head, and it is much easier to create than expected.  If you look closely, there is already a diamond shape on the forehead created by the muscles holding it together.  Carefully line the edges of the blades along this diamond and clip downward against the grain of the hair.  Then repeat this until the diamond is formed.  Then, you may finish clipping rest of the designated area of the face with the clippers until all excess hair is removed.  Always make sure that you are clipping against the grain; so you will be clipping upwards along the bridge if the nose, upwards on the side of the face, and downwards on the diamond.

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For a more natural look, take a 10 blade and clip the  forehead around the diamond.  Clip the temples, in the divots above the eyes, and the top of the head around the forelock.  Make sure not to clip too far down the side of the face on the cheek; if you do, you may need to clip the rest of the cheek because it is hard to blend.

WHITE MARKINGS

Any white markings found on the face can be clipped with a 10 blade if you wish the white to be more prominent. If not, it can be clipped with the appropriate blade for the area of face you are clipping.

CHEEKS

Your ten blades are used to clip any long hairs found underneath the jaw on the bottom of the head.* When clipping the long hairs of the throatlatch DO NOT press the blades flush with the skin.  It is important to clip away the long hairs without removing body hair in this area to create a natural look.  These hairs may also appear on the cheek and the same technique can be used.

*If you have recently body clipped your horse, your 10 blade will be used to clip all the hair on the cheek and upper head with the blades pressed flush on the skin in order to match the body clip.

BRIDLE PATH

The bridle path is next to be clipped.  A 40 blade should be used in order to clip as close to the skin as possible.  A shorter cut of hair will create the illusion of a more slender throatlatch,and you will need to clip the bridal path less because the hair is shorter.  For the Arabian, the bridle path should be twice the length of the ear.  To measure this, flatten the ear back on the neck to measure one ear-length, then eyeball a second ear-length back; this is where you should start.  Remember to protect any mane and forelock hair that will not be clipped with your hand.  Make sure to press the blade firmly on the skin to ensure shortness, and that every hair is trimmed equally.

Pictured below is how to protect the mane while the bridle path is being clipped.

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EARS

Before you start the ears you must make sure your horse is used to having his ears handled.  If he is uncooperative you may need to make use of a twitch, or chain, yet personal experience lends me to suggest that earplugs will be your biggest asset when clipping the ears.

Start with either 10 or 30 blades and clip the outside of the ear; this is the only instance in which you clip WITH the grain of the hair.  Once the long hairs on the outside of the ear have been trimmed evenly, then switch to your 40 blades.  Take the ear in your palm and close it so that the long sides of the ears are touching.  Clip only the edges of the ears making sure you don’t clip the very tip of the ear.  After the edges are uniform then clip the inner hairs of the ear.  These hairs are the trickiest to trim however you must make sure to bend the ear as little as possible!  The cartilage of the ear is not bendable like a dog or cat’s ear, and to avoid discomfort it must not be bent.  Lastly, concentrate on the tip of the ear; there will be only a small section of unclipped hair on the tip.  Clip around this tip in a diamond shape to finish the ear.   It is to be noted that the ears should only be clipped one to two days before the show!

After you clip:

Brush all the hair off of your horse’s face with a very soft brush.  Additionally, if your horse lives in a pasture they must be given a fly-mask with ear attachments.  If they don’t have a fly-mask they must not go outside if there are any biting or annoying bugs where they are housed.

Notes:

This clip job should be done two weeks prior to the horse show.

A few days before the show, touch up the muzzle, eyes, and bridle path, and clip the ears.

The face can be touched up with the next longest cut of blade you used.  So, if you originally used a 40 blade the face can be touched up with a 30.

If you are new to clipping, you may need to practice this clip multiple times before the show.

Now, your horse’s head is ready for for the show!Image

Sanding Hooves

What is sanding hooves?

Sanding hooves is the process of carefully scrubbing and sanding away dirt and the outermost layer of the hoof in order to obtain a cleaned and polished hoof.

Why do we sand hooves?

Hooves that are sanded add an extra element of eye appeal in the arena.  People who have never sanded hoove often ask ” why does it matter if their hooves are sanded? They’re standing in the arena dirt anyway!”  Although this is true, sanding hooves matters because it is what the judges expect to see.  It is expected that every horse’s hooves be sanded and polished; if they are not they cause a huge distraction in the performance arena.

In the halter arena is where sanding hooves is the most crucial.  As the hoof grows the wall is impacted by environmental conditions and health issues.  So, the hoof wall will grow differently at different times creating a hoof that has “rings” or lines across the hoof wall.  If a halter horse shows with these rings across their hooves, the judge may suspect health concerns. These rings can be easily sanded off.

Supplies:

  • A hose with a spray nozzle with a “jet” setting
  • SOS pads (easily found in department stores in the cleaning section)
  • A small electric sander
  • Course-grain sandpaper, and fine-grain sandpaper that fit the size and shape of your sander
  • A sanding block
  • Clear hoof polish for white hooves, black hoof polish for black hooves.*

*Make sure to check with your specific horse association rules pertaining to hoof black.  Some breeds are not allowed to use hoof black for certain events.

Getting Started:

It is important that before you start the actual sanding process, all excess dirt and grime be scrubbed from the feet.  First you will need to spray all of the excess dirt off of your horses feet with your spray nozzle.  The “jet” setting works the best for this.

Before spraying

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After spraying

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Next, take your SOS pads and vigorously scrub as much dirt off of the hoof as possible.  You may need to use more than one SOS pad for multiple hooves.  Below is the same hoof after being scrubbed.

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Now it is time for the electric sander.  It is important to realize that the hoof cannot be sanded when wet so you must wait until the hooves are completely dry before you start.  If your horse is not used to the sound the sander makes you will need to spend extra time desensitizing him to it before you can start.

First you will start with your course-grained sandpaper and sand away as much of the rings of the hoof and dirt as possible.  You must hold to hoof like a farrier would, with the hoof lifted towards the front of the horse and the leg resting on your leg.  If this is too hard for you to achieve invest in hoof stand so you don’t need to hold the leg up.  It is important to realize that if your horse wears shoes, the nails of the shoe will easily tear apart the sandpaper.  Therefore, it is important to avoid sanding any areas with nails sticking out.

Below is the hoof after sanding with course grain. Because of the obvious rings still apparent you can tell that this hoof is not yet finnnished.

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Once you have sanded away all of the rings and dirt from the hoof repeat the process with your fine grained sandpaper.  The fine grain will create a smooth, polished look that the course grain cannot achieve.

At the Show:

Every time you bathe your horse at the show use an SOS pad on the hoofs so they are always clean.  At least an hour before you go into the ring take your horse into an aisle that is free of dirt and clutter, and preferably concrete.  First pick out the hoof like any other day and sweep away the dirt that comes out.  Next, take your sanding block and touch up your hooves sanding away any left over or new dirt.  Take your hoof polish that matches the color hoof you are working with, and carefully wipe the sponge applicator across the coronary band.  Excess polish will drip down the hoof but that is all right.  Continue wiping back and fourth across the hoof until you reach the bottom; make sure not to touch the applicator on the ground or it will become dirty.  Also make sure to view the hoof on the other side to check for any missed spots.  The most common missed spot is the heel.  Now, your horse must stand in the aisle until the hoof is completely dry!  If the hoof is even a little sticky dirt and shavings will stick to it and ruin all of your hard work.

Now your hooves and sanded, polished and show-ring ready!