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How Can I Make My Horse's Mane And Tail Thicker? - Part 4

By Jeffrey Rolo

In the previous parts of this series we took a look at many of the external causes for a horse's hair loss, but sometimes the causes for thinning manes and tails comes from within. So with that in mind, this segment will focus on internal reasons why a horse may experience poor hair growth before wrapping up with a few final thoughts concerning braiding.

Nutrition Does A Body Good

If I stated that good nutrition is as important to a horse as it is to us, most reading this would respond with a "no duh!" So why is it that so many of us inadvertently overlook this vital element? Well, the answer is equally obvious: it's easy to see visible outward signs of trouble, but it's far harder to detect poor nutrition. As long as a horse appears to be happy and healthy, we tend to assume they are.

Try to ensure your horse has a balanced diet and sufficient quantity of food and water. As a rule I don't feel the need to use equine supplements unless a specific case merits it, but supplements when properly used certainly won't hurt, so if you feel better using them, go for it.

My horses' diets consist of grazing, plenty of hay when indoors, sweet feed and salt licks. I've found that to be plenty sufficient for my horses' needs.

Observe a horse's coat, mane and tail to help determine if your horse is receiving sufficient nutrition. A healthy horse should develop a sleek and full coat, whereas horses not receiving enough nutrition will generally produce dull, strained and uneven coats, manes and tails.

What Supplements Should I Use?

Before listing some effective supplements that promote healthier hair I would like to put forward a disclaimer first. If you suspect that your horse isn't receiving enough nutrients and would like to supplement his diet I strongly recommend that you consult with a qualified veterinarian first. A vet can be very helpful in determining where the nutritional needs are falling short or whether the cause of the hair loss might be due to allergies rather than nutrition.

That having been said, here are some safe herbs and supplements that can address various nutritional and hair loss issues:

bulletEchinacea and garlic are commonly used to fight against itching. Less common aids against itching are burdock and red clover.
bulletCider vinegar is extremely beneficial for the internal workings of a horse. Not only does it possess a degree of healing properties as an astringent, it can also combat microorganisms that sap nutrition and cause disease.
bulletFlaxseed and kelp promote healthy cell and hair growth, so both supplements can greatly benefit your horse.
bulletAnd last but not least, biotin. This vitamin is arguably the strongest secret weapon when it comes to supplements. Present in all living cells, biotin is a necessity in the production and growth of cells, tissue and of course hair.

If I could only choose one of the above supplements it would be biotin, though cider vinegar runs a close second. But luckily there's no reason that you only have to choose one, so consider a combination of the above supplements after consulting with your vet. The improvement in your horse's mane and tail may be quite shocking.

Nutrients Are For Your Horse, Not Freeloaders

Parasites are one of the main causes of malnutrition, so be sure to incorporate a consistent and effective de-worming program. As mentioned earlier, supplementing a horse's feed with cider vinegar can also help chase away freeloaders, but by no means is it a replacement for equine de-wormers.

What About Braiding?

It is commonly believed that braiding helps maintain a thick mane and tail. Based on my experience, I disagree. Whereas temporarily braiding a mane can be helpful, more often than not prolonged braiding serves to harm the integrity of the mane and/or tail instead. This is especially true when it comes to the tail; I would recommend never braiding a tail!

I do not braid my horses' manes or tails for preservation purposes any and all braids are temporary.

Is There Anything I Can Do If None Of The Above Helps?

If none of the above helps your horse develop a thicker and healthier mane and tail then the problem is likely genetics, and unfortunately there won't be anything you can do. Before working with Mountain Horses I once owned a Quarter Horse that was doomed to retain a relatively thin mane, and while I would have preferred his genetics allow for a rich and thick mane he was a wonderful horse so I could overlook that small imperfection.

With that said, a "cheat" that you can consider for photo occasions or promotional/competitive purposes is a rendered tail. Rendered tails are basically tail extensions crafted from real horsehair that are attached and weaved into your horse's existing tail, thereby giving the illusion of a single, flowing tail. While less common than rendered tails, mane extensions are also available.

The downsides? They are not designed for regular or overnight use, so you'll need to remove the extensions after the photos have been taken or the demonstration has concluded. In addition quality horsehair rendered tails can be somewhat costly, averaging anywhere from $150.00 to $300+ depending on the length and color coordination required.

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