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How Can I Make My Horse's Mane And Tail Thicker? - Part 3

By Jeffrey Rolo

In the previous installments of this article we covered some of the common causes for horse mane and/or tail loss. While they might seem obvious at first glance, you might be surprised at how many horsemen can overlook the obvious. Sometimes we tend to look so hard for mysterious or complicated causes that we gloss right on over the basics.

At any rate, in this installment I'd like to focus on horse grooming products that we all use. When used properly or responsibly, they can be of great benefit. When used incorrectly, these seemingly safe equine products can actually cause the deterioration of a full and lengthy mane and tail.

Detangler The Benefit That Hurts

It's a safe bet that most of us are great fans of detangler products. Not only can they help reduce tangling and the introduction of debris into the mane and tail, but they give our horse's a sleek, glowing shine. Few can resist running our hands through a thick, silky mane that's recently been detangled.

But try to.

Why? Because most equine detangler products are silicone-based, and while they are very effective at promoting glossy, untangled manes and tails they pack a dirty little secret: silicone will dry out your horse's mane and tail out at a surprisingly fast rate.

In the long run the detangler will do more harm to your horse's mane and tail than any amount of tangles and debris you have to manually remove. So try to resist the temptation to take the easy way out with detanglers and store the containers away until you're ready for photo sessions or special occasions. A little bit of dirt will do far less harm than drying the hair out.

Shampoo And Conditioners: Getting To The Root Of The Problem

In part one of this article I mentioned how many people accidentally comb a horse's mane and tail improperly, thus leading to hair loss. The same holds true for shampooing and conditioning; while the cleaning process can promote a fuller and healthier mane and tail, unfortunately too many horsemen do it improperly.

Instead of shampooing and stroking the length of the mane and tail, as too many of us do, try applying the shampoo to the roots instead. The reason for this is twofold:

First, one of the major causes of hair loss and/or itching is dirt, grease and grime that naturally collect at the base of the mane and tail. Dirt along the length won't really inhibit hair growth (outside of potentially tangling the mane, which can just as easily be untangled), but dirt in the roots can. So don't focus on the "irrelevant" portion of the mane and tail; instead focus on the area that actually needs the extra care.

Second, when you scrub the roots you aren't nearly as likely to tug on the hair, so there will be a lot less breakage and loss. When you scrub the length of the mane and tail instead of the roots, not only are you targeting the wrong areas, you're also "working" the horse's hair in an unsupported state, and that additional pressure will lead to hair being pulled from the roots.

Conditioner, on the other hand, plays by a completely opposite set of rules. While it does help fight against drying and tangling, conditioner is also a magnet for dust and debris. Do not apply conditioner to the roots of your horse's mane or tail, because it will attract dirt to the area and ultimately create a greasy mess exactly the opposite of what we're trying to achieve!

Instead gently work the conditioner into the length of the mane and tail. That's the area that needs protection against tangles, and it's also the area that is prone to drying out the quickest.

Consider A Betadine Bath

Another trick that knowledgeable horsemen have up their sleeve to help promote healthier horse manes and tails is betadine. It doesn't hurt to occasionally give the roots of the mane and tail a bath with a diluted betadine solution.

If it's winter and you cannot give your horse an actual bath, or your horse is itching and rubbing, then apply a full-strength dose of betadine to the base of the mane and tail. Apply it to the areas that are itching and leave it be. Doing this once a day should cease the itchiness within 3-7 days.

Are There Any Magical Hair Growth Shampoos?

There are some shampoos that allegedly promote better hair growth, but I can't speak for or against them because I haven't personally tried any. I would personally consider these types of products as a last-ditch attempt since most cases of thin manes and tails will be due to genetics or the various other factors being covered in this series.

That having been said, one of the more popular shampoos that allegedly promote healthier manes and tails is a brand called Mane 'n Tail Shampoo which is produced by the Straight Arrow company. This product can be found in many tack stores.

So far we've covered several causes of hair loss and corrective actions and we're heading towards the final stretch, but we're not quite done yet. In the next article in this series we will take a closer look at horse nutrition, and whether there are any equine supplements that can promote fuller and stronger hair.

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