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Care of Long Manes and Tails

A Friesian horse trainer shares the secrets of maintaining those gorgeous manes and tails.

By Kim Abbott Klimek | January 2012

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Friesian Manes and Tails
Friesians are known for their long, thick manes and tails, but maintaining that look requires some extra steps.

A thick, shiny mane and tail looks glorious on a horse, but it can be elusive to achieve if you’re not careful about properly maintaining the hair.

First, step away from the brush! Most of the time, running a brush through your horse’s hair will only cause breakage and hair loss. That’s why Arnold Warmels of Fryslân Valley Sporthorses in Lexington, Ky., uses the brush only when his horses’ manes and tails are well-conditioned and he can run his fingers through the hair without catching any tangles. Warmels trains and shows Friesians in dressage, driving and conformation. Their long, thick manes and tails are not only admirable, but they’re also a breed standard.

Friesian Manes and Tails
Before washing or brushing, pick through the hair with your fingers until all debris is removed and tangles are gone.

The trick to developing and maintaining beautiful manes and tails, according to Warmels, is doing as little as possible with them on a daily basis. "We do a visual inspection and run our fingers through the manes and tails,” says Warmels of his daily grooming routine. "At least twice a week, the horses will have a full shampoo bath, and once a week a mane and tail wash.”

Warmels washes the mane and tail separately from the body because the process can take about an hour, and rushing can lead to damaged hair. Warmels removes any burrs and all tangles by hand, gently picking through the hair with his fingers before washing.

Friesian Manes and Tails
To wash the mane and tail, soak the hair thoroughly down to the skin.

Friesian Manes and Tails
Work the shampoo in thoroughly. Some shampoos must be diluted while others can be applied directly. Follow label directions.

Determining which products work best in our horse’s hair will take trial and error. Warmels often uses a conditioner rich in vitamin E to keep the skin and hair nourished. He also says a good detangler is crucial and can facilitate the grooming process.

Warmels applies shampoo and lets it sit for three to five minutes before thoroughly rinsing it out; any suds left behind can irritate the skin and cause the horse to rub, damaging the hair. The next step is to condition the mane and rinse it again (sometimes he uses a leave-in conditioner depending on the horse and the state of the hair), and then he blow dries it and picks through it again with his fingers.

Friesian Manes and Tails
Thoroughly rinsing out the shampoo is imperative. Dried soap residue can lead to irritation, causing the horse to rub his mane and tail.

Friesian Manes and Tails
A leave-in conditioner helps keep the hair strong and shiny.

Braiding can help manes and tails grow long and thick by preventing tangles and breakage, but this doesn’t work with every horse.

"Some horses do great with braids and others will just destroy them,” says Warmels. "Ideally, you would like to braid the mane and tail, leave them for a day or two, take out all the braids and condition the hair, and then re-braid. This, however, is very time consuming.”

Friesian Manes and Tails
Braiding the mane can help keep it clean and free of tangles between washings, but should only be done if the horse won't try to rub the braids out.

Friesian Manes and Tails
Tails can also be braided to prevent tangles, but again should only be done if the horse will not rub his tail.

Friesian Manes and Tails
A running braid is an alternate method of keeping a long mane braided up between washings.

No matter how much time and effort you put into your horse’s long, luxurious mane and tail, there are many hazards that threaten to undermine your hard work. "Buckets are the biggest demise of tails,” says Warmels. To prevent hair loss due to your horse’s tail getting caught on the ends of bucket handles, Warmels suggests wrapping them with electrical tape.

By being dedicated to keeping up with these hair care tips, your horse’s mane and tail will be the envy of your barnmates.

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Care of Long Manes and Tails

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Reader Comments

Sslly    Barrington, IL

6/22/2016 6:31:56 PM

I was told never to leave a raid in a tail it could get badly snagged and torn off

Sunny    Cave Creek, AZ

7/3/2015 12:18:55 AM

Hosing a horse off (when it's hot, e.g.) is ok but it is so wrong to shampoo bath a horse twice a week! Their skin dries out and it looses its natural protection.

Emily    Independence, IA

6/30/2015 11:35:36 AM

I would live to know brands of conditioners and detanglers they like. My horse has long course hair and not all products work the best.

Haplesspizza    Calgary, CA

12/13/2012 8:30:07 AM

Helpful!

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