How do I get the tanged mess of burrs and stickers out of the mane and tail of my very clever horse?
Put the scissors down. You can do this. Breathe deeply. Add oil. This process will have many benefits: untangled mane and/or tail, deep conditioning of the mane and/or tail, and a mini spa treatment for your hands, too.
This is really a new style of hat.
The name of the game is to remove the burrs and keep most of the mane and tail intact. So, you need to create some slimy and slick hair. Your best bet is to use conditioner or a grooming oil. STAY AWAY FROM WD-40. I’m not kidding - the stuff is toxic as heck. And no, it does NOT contain all natural fish oil. For more on the horrible-ness that is WD-40 and horse, learn more here.
Now the fun part. Rather than dousing your horse with the conditioner or oil, apply a little bit at a time. You may need to work it in, or let your conditioner marinate a bit. Applying too much too soon leads to drips.
Start at the bottom or edge of the mat and slowly work the burrs and stickers out. As you work into the mass, or up the mane, or uncover more dry hair and burrs, add a bit more conditioner or oil. The bonus of using a horse conditioner or horse grooming oil is that you likely won’t need to wash it out. If you do find your horse with way too much oil in his hair, a quick shampoo will do the trick.
Sometimes a wide tooth comb is better, but use your fingers and what you have.
You can use your hands or a mane comb (pick your fave) to help you work out the hairy mess of burrs and mane. A generic mane comb can be angled so that only one or two tines works the little stickers out of there.
Keeping the mane and tail brushed or picked daily helps prevent massive burr balls. Also making sure the mane and tail are slickery and conditioned will help. I often find that a dirty tail is a sticky tail, and shavings and burrs and hay bits are harder to remove.
Grooming oil is great for burr removal, saddle oil is NOT. Saddle oil is for saddles.
Fun times! And don’t think you will get all smart and do a pasture check and find the offending bushes then vaporize them. You horse will just find another source. It’s their special skill.