How long should my horse's mane be?
By now, you know that there are no hard and fast rules on how your horse should be turned out. However, there are some traditions about mane length that you can pretty much take to the bank. Typically, the mane rests on the right hand side of the horse, although I have know a few that that natural lay is to the left. Mane lengths are based on breed and/or discipline, so here is a place to start! Please keep in mind that many horses fall into more than one category - for example, a Saddlebred horse that does dressage. Or an Arabian that goes in the jumpers. In cases like that, it’s best to have the mane groomed according to the discipline, not the breed.
Dressage - Most dressage horses have a mane that’s about four fingers long. This allows for easy braiding (dressage button braids are pretty easy to make, and four fingers is about right.) If you have a baroque horse, or perhaps and Arabian, it’s perfectly acceptable to keep a long mane if you do a running braid. The bridle path should be just the width of the bridle.
Hunter/Jumpers - Also about 4 fingers long, although I prefer a bit longer here to make the more precise and small braids. You don’t find a lot of baroque breeds here, and I’ve never seen a running braid on a hunter or jumper! The hunters are braided in the classic tiny braids, the jumpers are usually not braided or they have bigger button braids.
Eventers - Kinda a mix between the H/J and dressage - about four fingers long and braided for dressage and sometimes stadium jumping.
Reining and Cutting - the longer, the better! Long manes rule here, and the verdict is still out on bridle paths. Some folks skip the bridle path for these disciplines, others use a bridle path that’s about as long as the ear when you lay the ear back. Manes are left long and loose during competitions, although some competitors braid the forelock.
Saddlebreds - the three gaited variety usually have a roached mane and forelock. How easy is that? The five gaited saddlebreds have a super long mane, with a bridle path that’s usually 8 to 12 inches long. The five gaited saddlebreds also usually braid in a few ribbons to the top part of the mane.
Morgans - Most Morgans sport a long mane with a bridle path that’s three to six inches and show with a long mane, unless the discipline is H/J or dressage. In that case, the mane is kept in accordance with the discipline standard.
Arabians - This is also a breed that has many options, and most depend on what kind of class you are showing in. For breed shows, the traditional long mane with six to eight inch bridle path is standard. For the disciplines of H/J and dressage, the mane can be braided in a running braid for a long mane, or button or H/J braids. If the horse is used exclusively for dressage or H/J, or maybe even eventing, the mane can be pulled to save a little time in the grooming process!
Baroque Breeds - keep that mane long! Some of these horses also have a super thick mane, so a bridle path is a must before you tack up. A running braid is traditional for dressage. For other disciplines, the manes are typically kept long and free.
Friesians - also a breed where the mane is kept long, the longer the better! Again, for dressage, the mane is typically sporting a running braid.
Western pleasure - these horses have a pretty short mane, about three to four inches, and is banded for shows. (As an aside, banding is also a great technique for training a mane to lay to one side.)
Rodeo horses - Can you even tell with all that bucking and running? Just kidding. Leave it long and natural!
Fjord horses, polo ponies, and some Appaloosas - trim them to breed standards (very short for Fjords) or roach those manes!!
How long do you like to keep your mane, and what breed or discipline do you participate in?