Pulling a Horse's Mane

Follow this step by step guide to become acquainted with pulling a horse's mane. You can hover your cursor over a picture and click it to see a larger view then hit the arrow buttons to view as a slide show.

On the left is a mane and tail comb; on the right is a pulling comb.
On the left is a mane and tail comb; on the right is a pulling comb.

Preparation - The Comb

Pulling the mane may be easier with a pulling comb than a traditional mane and tail comb. The pulling comb has shorter teeth and is made out metal for durability. Some regular mane and tail combs come in plastic. The teeth of these may become bent or broke if they are used for pulling the horses mane. However, a regular comb can be used up until a certain point. Once the mane becomes short enough the thickness of the spine of the regular comb will inhibit further shortening of the mane. This is where a pulling comb comes in very handy.

Comb out the mane so it is tangle free and you can visually indicate the longest hairs.
Comb out the mane so it is tangle free and you can visually indicate the longest hairs.

Preparation - The Horse

It is not necessary but a clean horse may make pulling the mane more pleasant. At minimum the mane should be tangle free and preferably combed to one side. Sometimes this is not possible depending upon how the mane is trained, but that is another subject. Only comb out the mane; do not use de-tangling products. Show Sheen or like conditioners will create slippery strands. You do not want that for the pulling process.

If pulling of the mane is something new to a groom and horse combination it may also be beneficial to exercise or somehow warm the horse before beginning. The heat will assist with opening the pores in order to make pulling easier. Depending upon the horse, exercise may encourage the horse to stand better too.

After you comb your horses mane note the long areas you would like to pull
After you comb your horses mane note the long areas you would like to pull

Getting Started

Once you are settled with your pulling comb and neatly combed mane you can judge the areas to begin pulling by assessing the longer areas of the mane. As you will notice, the hairs of the mane are more abundant at the crest than they are at the end. So, this means not all of the hairs are the same length. This is one reason why cutting a horses mane is not a good idea, besides the fact that thinning will not be established by using scissors either. You should try to keep the horses mane looking as natural as possible. Now that you have figured out the longest section you are ready to start.

Grab onto a small amount of the longest hairs.
Grab onto a small amount of the longest hairs.
While still holding onto the long hairs, fairly tightly, work the shorter hairs away or upward with the mane pulling comb.
While still holding onto the long hairs, fairly tightly, work the shorter hairs away or upward with the mane pulling comb.
While still "ratting" the shorter hairs up and away begin to pull the long hairs away from the neck toward you.
While still "ratting" the shorter hairs up and away begin to pull the long hairs away from the neck toward you.

Using the Comb To Rat The Mane

Grab a small section of the longest hairs that you found with your non-combing hand. You want to have only a few hairs, especially if you and your horse are new to this process. Now work your fingers down to the end of these hairs. Some hairs may have fallen out and that is fine, more are about to be taken out of your fingers soon. Now grip these hairs between your fingers tightly as the next step will pull too many hairs out of your grip if you allow it to. With your other hand hold the pulling comb at nearly a 90 degree angle to the section of mane you are working on and rat the mane upward. Doing this will get all the other hairs up out of the way and continue to leave you with fewer hairs that you are holding. Continue this process until you have a good amount of room because you will be working with the strand of hair you are holding. It may help to pull the mane towards you, away from the neck, to rat the hairs toward the crest.

Once you get a hang of this you will feel how much mane to initially grab and how tightly to hold the end pieces while you rat the mane up. You can allow additional hairs to fall from your grasp while you use the comb if you have too in order to quickly get rid of more hairs. Pulling is much easier with a small amount of hair. Working with very few hairs at a time does not tickle the horse as much and it will not pull the horses neck nor you or your horse off balance. Do mane pulling just a little bit at a time.

Now with all of the short hairs out of the way wrap the long remaining hairs around the mane pulling comb.
Now with all of the short hairs out of the way wrap the long remaining hairs around the mane pulling comb.
After a wrap or two put your thumb and fingers over the hairs on the comb to hold them in place and pull down in a quick motion to pull the long hairs from the roots.
After a wrap or two put your thumb and fingers over the hairs on the comb to hold them in place and pull down in a quick motion to pull the long hairs from the roots.

Wrapping and Pulling

Now with an area ready to work with put the pulling comb on the small section of hair you have narrowed down by the ratting placed fairly close to the crest of the neck. The higher the comb is the more likely you will pull hairs out by the root than stretch them to a breaking point. Wrap the hairs around the spine of the comb once or twice. This is another part of the pulling process you will get a feel for. If you are in doubt, wrap it twice. Try to keep both wraps between the same teeth or close to the same teeth. Then hold the wrap with your thumb. Place your pointer finger on the other side of the hair piece. Doing this will balance the comb during the pull and allow you to keep a good grip with your thumb. With a quick, sharp yank pull down and towards you. If you are still a little unsure, place your other hand up by the crest of the neck at the section you are working on. You can kind of counter act your pull with this hand and your horse may not react as much if you are touching him (or her).

Unwrap the hairs from the mane pulling comb.
Unwrap the hairs from the mane pulling comb.
Comb out the mane and start over again.
Comb out the mane and start over again.

Do It Again

Unwrap the hairs from the comb and comb the ratted hairs out. Start the process all over again. You can make the pulling of your horse's mane part of your regular grooming. Each time you groom you comb out your horses mane. Just grab a few of the longest strands and pull them. This makes the mane pulling process less of a negative experience for you and your horse. It just becomes a regular every day maintenance. Otherwise, it can be a long tedious prodecure that can sore your horse's crest of neck.

Now with that said, you may not even need a pulling comb when you reach this point in maintaining the mane. You can just grab the very small amount of long hairs and pull them as you comb out the mane. Below are some more tips in the "Questions and Answers" section.

Short Video Showing Pulling of the Mane

Questions and Answers

My horse has a really long mane and I want it short; how do I go about pulling it?
If your horse has a long mane now and you want it short you can still get it there eventually. If this is your goal, just start by pulling the longest hairs. This will keep your horse from looking silly as they would if you started near the poll and worked your way to the withers. Take your time, you will begin to notice a difference. You do not need to pull the entire horse's mane during one period of time.

How short should I pull my horse's mane?
How short you pull your horses mane is your option. The length of the mane pulling comb or just a hair longer (pun) is what I aim for. That is a nice length for braiding and also to show off most horses necks. There may be a particular reason as to why you want to pull your horse's mane. If it is to keep it from flying into your face, pull it short enough to keep it from doing that. If it is to keep it from getting caught up in your rope while you dally, pull it short enough to keep it from doing that. You may show a breed that you will want to have a long mane on but just want to keep it a bit more even. Just pull the longest hairs until you achieve the look you are after and you will still have your long flowing mane.

On the left is a pulling comb; on the right is a thinning knife. The thinning knife does not truly thin a name.
On the left is a pulling comb; on the right is a thinning knife. The thinning knife does not truly thin a name.

My horse's mane is really thinned out but I want to shorten it. How should I go about doing that since if I pull it it will become even thinner leaving my horse without many mane hairs?
In this case pulling the mane may not be the best option. A super thin mane is rare though but may be seen in breeds like Appaloosa or a section of the mane near the withers. Most horses could stand to have a thinning as well. But, in your case, you may consider using a thinning knife. It is called that but it does not truly thin the mane. The knife is used to create a natural look of the hairs while shortening them. Do not use scissors paralleling the crest. This will make your horse look rather silly.

Folding Stripping Comb Wood Handle
Folding Stripping Comb Wood Handle

Thinning Comb (Stripping Comb)

 

How do I use the mane thinning knife?
Still comb out the mane and find your longest section. Grab the small strand of those long hairs and hold them toward the end. With your other hand hold the mane thinning knife on the handle with the blade edge about halfway between the crest and your fingers. Press in toward the mane hairs but not to hard. You do not want to cut the mane in a straight across fashion. Now while pressing the mane hairs with the blade slowly run it toward your fingers. When you reach your fingers you should have cut through the entire section of mane that you were holding. Still do this small amounts at a time. Once again, you will develop a feel, just be careful when you start.

You said not to cut a horse's mane but I have seen some horses without manes and some that have manes that stick up from the crest that look cut. Why is this?
You may have seen a horse that had a hogged mane. This is a mane that has been clipped off completely. Polo is a discipline you may see this in regularly. Others do this to keep items from coming entangled in a mane. Yet, others choose this style because it shows off their horse the best. Issues in certain breeds may be as to why you have seen a mane stick up into the air rather than lay to one side. Breeds like Fjord have a very thick mane that can actually begin to breakdown the crest of the neck if it is allowed to get long. It has become traditional then to clip manes of this breed so that it is short with the light colored hairs on the outside shorter than the black hairs between them. An owner may also be allowing a once hogged mane to grow out. It will stick up for awhile. This mane will be thick after it lays over and can probably use some pulling to thin it out once it does.

Summary

Pulling a mane can become an art-form for the groom that does it regularly, just like grooming itself. It can be incorporated into the everyday hands on routine by taking a small amount of the longest section of mane pulling it with fingers or a comb. Before a new mane puller gets to this point they should follow the step by step guide above using the mane pulling comb. It will also be easier to follow the guide if the mane is really long too until it gets to a point of minimal maintenance.

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Comments 2 comments

amanda5577 profile image

amanda5577 21 months ago from Michigan

Great walk-through for pulling manes! I have pulled quite a few manes!

I remember that we always pulled manes on the horse's right side and the length we used would make the hair even with the base of the horse's ear. The below picture link is not my own, but it is an example of how manes would look the barn I used to work and ride at.

https://ahorseforelinor.files.wordpress.com/2014/0...

Thanks for posting such a detailed article!


EquestrianAcademy profile image

EquestrianAcademy 20 months ago from Roy, Washington Author

Thank you amanda5577 for your comment and link to a photo explanation. Yes, the show day goal is to have a mane on the right side. Usually easier said than done but pulling it from the right will help it to be braided neatly from the right even if it wants to naturally flip to the left side. Your insight is appreciated.

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