Do I really need to PULL my horse's mane?
Pulling manes is always a hot topic in the world of Grooming!! As a Professional Groom, your job is to make the show horse look his best while honoring breed and discipline standards. It is also your job to make it comfortable for your horse if you need to pull the mane. As a horse owner, it's your job to do the same if you choose to go to show or want to practice some great grooming techniques. BUT - you can always do what you want to make your horse more comfortable and healthy. Pulling is certainly not required, and for many horse owners the preference is not to pull.
The back combing part of pulling. I would even back comb a little further to thin the number of hairs you are holding in the left hand.
Most jumpers, dressage, event, and some western horses sport a shorter, tidy, and thinned mane. This helps tremendously when braiding or banding! Baroque horses and some western horses, as well as some Arabs, will sport longer manes that are typically not pulled.
The vast majority of horses do not mind having their mane pulled, and in fact, some of them quite like it. (One of mine will take a nap during his pulling sessions!) Other horses are more irritated by a pulling session, no worry, lots of ideas to help.
Some horses do not need their mane pulled, only shortened. The purpose of pulling is to thin the hair, and shortening it is a secondary consequence of pulling. If your horse's mane is quite thin to start, you can probably get away with just shortening it with a blade. You want to thin the mane if you will need to be braiding it for a show, or if you want your horse's mane to lay flat and even. Some horses have thin manes for the most part, but the middle portion is thick. You may just need to pull the mane in the middle to even it out. The main reason for pulling is to create an even thickness of the mane for consistent braids. If you never braid, you may never need to pull!
Steps for pulling:
- Back comb a small section of mane so that only a few hairs are in one hand.
- Wrap the few hairs around your comb.
- Pull firmly and consistently. Some people like to pull down, some like to pull out, some like to pull up. You pick what works for you!
- Carry on to the next section.
- You will need to go back and comb out all of the back comed sections, then go again.
A shorter mane on a dressage horse, getting ready to be braided.
If your horse's mane is thick, and you need to pull it, there are some things to do to make it easier for both of you.
- Pull the mane after exercise when the pores and follicles are opened.
- Pull only a few hairs at the same time.
- Use a topical cream with some lidocaine on the mane base if your horse is very sensitive.
- Pull the mane in sections, doing this over a few days will help also. Don't spend tons of time on one section.
- You could also pull the mane by going up and down the mane like a harmonica only pulling a few hairs before moving on to a new section.
- Use a hay net to distract your horse while you pull.
- Reward! Even if your horse doesn't even bat an eye, he deserves a reward anyway.
If pulling the mane is such an ordeal, you may consider doing this only if your horse is sleepy from a veterinary treatment. Or skipping it all together.
This mane blade will shorten the mane without pulling the hairs from the root. It will not thin the mane to make it uniform for braiding.
What's your best tip for pulling the mane? You may also want to check out PART two about pulling manes!
You can also learn how to shorten the mane without pulling here (with videos!)