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How Can I Make My Horse's Mane And Tail Thicker? - Part 1

By Jeffrey Rolo

The vision of a majestic horse with a flowing mane and tail is one that can take virtually any horseman's breath away, and as such it should come as no surprise that one of the more frequent horse care questions I receive pertains to exactly this topic. Folks want to know how they can thicken their horse's mane and tail. Are there any magical supplements? Do they have to use special horse shampoos? Are they doing something wrong?

Since I come from breeding Mountain Horses this is a topic I'm intimately familiar with. Thick manes and tails are a trademark for the breed, and most breeders will do whatever it takes to keep them long and flowing. So in this article I'll share some detailed tips that may help you promote a thicker mane and tail for your horse.

Note: I'm breaking the recommendations into sections so that you can easily skip ones that you feel don't apply. I recommend reading this article in its entirety, but if you know one or more of the causes doesn't apply to you then feel free to skim over those parts.

Let's Talk About Genetics

Yeah, I know… what a dull way to start off the article, right? We're here to talk about horses, not biology!

Well, although I agree in spirit, ultimately genetics play the largest role in determining how thick your horse's mane and tail can become, so it does bear some brief mention. There are several tips and tricks you can do to promote hair growth on your horse, but if your horse is genetically predisposed to a thin mane and tail then I'm afraid there's little you can do to change that fact. We can't fight nature's design – a fact that countless Appaloosa owners likely lament, since thinner manes and tails are trademarks for that particular breed.

So before undergoing a quest to thicken your horse's mane and tail the first thing I would recommend is trying to determine if the cause for the thinness relates to genetics. Has your horse always struggled to grow a thick mane and tail? Chances are it's a genetic issue, and although the tips soon to come may help make the most of what your horse has to work with, your equine partner will likely never experience a full mane and tail.

On the other hand if your horse has always possessed a thick mane and tail but is losing it over time then chances are it's not a genetic issue, but rather an internal or external cause that can be addressed. So let's look at some of them next.

Stop Brushing Those Manes!

Many of us love to spend hours grooming our equine companions, but when it comes to brushing a horse's mane and tail an old adage comes to mind: there can be too much of a "good" thing.

You ever notice just how much hair can collect on your comb after you have brushed your horse's mane and/or tail? I can almost assure you that a good deal of it was not excess hair, but rather healthy hair that got torn out at the roots. No matter how gentle you comb, chances are high you will accidentally strip away some healthy hair.

My advice is to rarely brush your horse's hair with a comb – do it only before horse shows or special occasions. In fact it was my policy NOT to allow a comb anywhere near my horse's manes and tails unless they were preparing for a demonstration or show.

Does this mean I ignored the inevitable debris and snags that can appear in their thick manes? Heck no! I simply use my hands to untangle their manes and tails and remove shavings and debris. By using my hands to groom their manes and tails I can keep them healthy and flowing while minimizing the amount of hair pulled out.

Ultimately there are times when you will want to use a comb to brush out their manes and tails, and while it's less ideal than using your hands you can help reduce hair loss by practicing good grooming procedure.

You would probably be surprised at how many horse owners will simply run a comb through a mane from top to bottom, allowing the horse's roots to take the burden of the comb's pressure. Big mistake!

When combing your horse's mane or tail, take hold of the length of hair that you're about to comb at the roots with one hand and brush the length of that hair with the other. What you want to do is grip the lengths of hair about to be combed such that there isn't any yanking pressure directly at the strands' roots. The hand holding the hair is acting as a buffer between the comb and the roots, ensuring the portion being yanked stops around the supporting hand as opposed to the roots themselves.

Always support the combed hair with your off-hand. Never just run a comb through a mane or tail and allow the hair to be ripped from the roots (unless, of course, your goal is to thin out the mane or tail some).

We've covered two of the obvious causes for thinner manes and tails, but we've just gotten started. We'll move on to some more causes and remedies in the next part of this article.

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