Is roaching (or hogging) my horse’s mane a good idea?

It may be.  Or it may not be.  First, we should consider some reasons for roaching, and some reasons for leaving the mane long.  I’m not a huge fan of “always do it this way”, because as we all know, horse are experts at proving us wrong.  



photo by

Horses may have roached manes for a myriad of reasons.  A horse’s job will often dictate their mane turnout.  Polo ponies and some field hunters are usually roached so that the mane doesn’t interfere with high speed play and lots of tack and reins.  A horse’s  breeding may also come into play.  For example, some saddlebreds have partially roached manes and forelocks.  Growing up, I knew some Appys that were roached because their super wispy and pokey manes just looked better after being roached.  You may also have a horse with medical reasons that necessitates roaching.  A skin infection, sweet itch, a surgical site, laceration repair, or even lice infestation may remove all or part of the mane, and in an effort to bring some continuity to your horse’s topline, a roaching may be in order.  There many also be a case in which a mane interferes with a medication being applied, so roaching the mane can allow for topical medications to be more effective.  

When I was travelling in Central America, the horses there have roached manes to facilitate the finding of ticks - which are everywhere.  Gross to think about, but a good reason to roach a mane.  




For those of us who have ever taken a horse back riding lesson, you may recall hearing the phrase “grab mane”.  (Boy, if I had a nickle….)  A roached mane won’t allow this, so a bucking strap on the saddle is a good alternative.  



photo by Lisa Beckwith

There are, of course, some other reasons to not roach a mane.  You are removing some of your horse’s fly control, unless you were one of the many sparsely maned Appys I knew growing up, in which case there was none to start.  The mane also serves as a means to creating braids, which are traditional in many disciplines in the show ring.  Many of us don’t show, so that may not apply.  


What’s the best way to roach a mane?  This is the easy part.  I personally like to leave the forelock (unless it’s a polo pony) and the rest of the mane is gone.  As always, having a friend around to help you hold your horse is critical, as you don’t want a spook in the cross ties as you are on a stool over his neck.  


I like to use smaller clippers, so that I have more control, and the chances of a “dig” accidentally into the neck hairs is reduced.  Cordless and quiet are my next tips for a clipper, with a crazy sharpened blade that is properly oiled.  



This horse's mane is usually roached, here it has grown out a bit.  And straight up.  


Starting from the bottom near the withers, you can work your way up with a few stripes at a time.  Don’t dig in, and keep the blade at a consistent angle as you work your way up the neck.  You may find that under that mane, your horse has some divets in his neck.  You can tempt your horse to lower his neck with a bucket of treats or hay.  This lengthens his topline and you can get a smooth roach.  


Use caution as you approach the ears, and remember - it all grows back!!  With some practice, you can roach a mane to enhance your horse’s top line.  Close to the skin at poll and withers with a bit longer in the middle can enhance a weaker neck.  You will also need to notice how many days or weeks after a roaching session you horse looks the best, so that you can plan ahead if you do have a clinic or show.  



What are your ideas about roaching?