Let’s face it, summer is tough on manes and tails. Washing, braiding, brushing, and more time out in the sun mean dry, brittle, and broken hair. Luckily there’s plenty you can do to prevent the damage. Here are six ways to help keep your horse’s mane and tail looking healthy all summer long.
- Detangle by hand. Dragging a comb through snarls will break and damage mane and tail hair. Saturate large tangles with a detangling grooming spray and work the knots out carefully by hand. Be patient with tough tangles and remove burs and debris carefully. Take a break if you need to and go back to work with more grooming spray later.
- Choose a detangler that repels dirt and dust. Equine sprays formulated to repel dirt and dust are your best bet when it comes to preventing stains, or at least making them easier to remove. These sprays may or may not be made with silicone, and are most useful against grass, manure, wood shavings, hay or dirt stains. This may also help you wash your horse’s mane and tail less, ultimately leading to less hair breakage.
- Don’t brush a wet tail. Soaked strands will stretch and break, leaving a tail looking ragged. After washing a tail, use a leave-in conditioner or detangler and allow it to dry completely. Then use a wide-toothed comb on the tail, working from the bottom up with extreme patience. If you can skip washing your horse’s mane and tail, consider doing it. Excess washing can easily dry out the hair and make it more prone to damage from braiding, brushing, or the sun.
- Investigate if you see signs of rubbing. Check the underside of the tail for ticks, skin crusting and general griminess. A good cleaning of that area might relieve the itchiness. Some mares will rub their tails if their udders are dirty, so carefully check there as well. Parasites, particularly pinworms, are also a possible cause of itching. Call your veterinarian if you suspect that might be the case.
- Remove braids carefully. If you braid your horse’s mane, remember to remove the braids carefully. Cutting out yarn or elastics too hastily could cause you to miss and cut out a braid! Remember to wash your horse's mane before braiding to prevent excessive itching. Wetting your horse’s mane after the braids are removed will help relax the waviness leftover from the braids.
- Use the right tools. Though it can be tempting to use any brush on your horse’s mane and tail when you’re in a rush, using the wrong brush can also damage your horse’s hair. Make sure you are always using a mane and tail brush with a detangling spray. If you don’t have a proper mane and tail brush handy, using your hands to remove shavings, hay, or debris is always a safe bet.