Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maybe it's just me?

I tried finding a picture of a wad of hair in a hairbrush for this post. I learned one thing for sure- don't bother trying this online. Just take your own picture or use your imagination. So I'm going with door number two. You all get to use your imagination today...

In my many years of owning and working with horses, I have found that when it comes to manes and tails, some people can be absolute freaks about them. All of us have or will at some point deal with a horse with a long mane and those so not wonderful twisted knots they manage to work themselves into. Attractive? Not hardly.

Being the realist that I am, some of that hair has already worked its way loose from the horses neck and is just wadded up in the knot and stuck there. Some of what is still attached and holding everything else in place, is also going to pull loose from its roots and come with it, as you try to untangle the mess and save what you can. Your horse is going to loose some amount of hair no matter what.

Yet still I have been 'advised' how to rid horses of knots and sacrifice the least amount of hair possible- or my job was on the line. Well since the dead stuff has already fallen out and will be taking some friends with it, what do you do? Sometimes there is nothing you can do.

When faced with these knots, you have a few options. Roach the mane and just say forget it, calling it good and being done with it. Won't be worrying about knots any more for a while that way, now will ya? Get out the ol' scissors and start trimming- going for the short maned 'hunter' or stock horse look... Did everyone hear all of those gasps? Surely someone, somewhere, is just mortified I would even suggest that. Each gasp, just confirmed it.

The method most people choose is to wash the mane, shampoo and conditioner of choice- leave in, rinse out, super expensive, dollar store deals or whatever was on sale... and proceed to pick it out by hand, because a brush or comb at that point is just not your friend. Starting at the bottom, you begin to slowly unwind what you can.

There are probably at least two or three thick sections and several small twisted sections that have worked their ways around and through the big stuff. Take your time, you could be at it a while. Sometime during your untwisting, you may run a single hair or two across a sensitive part of your skin. Feel free to grumble with discontent, we all have before. You aren't the first, won't be the last.

When you finally get the knots removed and a substantial pile of hair lays at your feet, rest assured you just may have wasted a good amount of time and half a bottle of 'brand name knot remover' as the horse shakes their head and it all twists and wads back up. You have had that happen before too? If so you are shaking your head and laughing, because it does. So you whip out the rest of the bottle of knot remover and soak it all down. "Twists be gone!" is your war cry. Sometimes that works. Other times, the scissors are looking pretty darn shiny and appealing over there and ol' Blaze may be able to pull off looking like a hunter for a while.

So why do people freak out over a few lost hairs, whether they come from the mane or tail? You don't see them panicking at all of the hair coming off their entire body from using the curry comb. I mean our own hair falls out to some degree too. Ask JR and he'll tell you nearly everything at our place has at least one of my long red hairs attached to it.


  1. My nieces filly Bug , has oe of those manes that left alone forms what can only be described as dreadlocks . I tried ,I swear .then I just cut out the mess and walked away. Sometimes that is really all you can do . It seems once it has formed that ropy(?) mess it falls back very easily . Sometimes I think you just have to cut your losses and start over. For a show horse? I wonder if braiding would be a prevention?

  2. OK and just to be an ass

  3. FV- see, the thing is with those knots, a lot of the hair has already fallen out or been pulled loose. Depending of course on how long the twised mess has been there.

    Why do people freak out over it? Brushing your own hair removes the hair that has also worked its way loose, it just hasn't yet come off your head.

  4. OMG - just for the heck of it I typed in 'dirty hairbrush' to see if I could find a pic. Wow! The things you learn.

    Anyhow, about a year ago I picked up a TWH rescue. I tried for hours to save his tangled up mess of a tail. To no avail. I managed to sort out enough so that he had a few long wisps to swat the flies - the rest got whacked off just below the tail bone. The cut-off section of his tail was almost as stiff as a baseball bat - and about the same size.


  5. We used to call those "fairy braids" because they DO resemble intentional hairstyles....

    I've used dog "mat combs" - tne kind with a razor blade - before, but usually one of the cheap oblong plastic combs you get at the tack store turned 90 degrees so that it resembles a pick can be helpful if it's not too far gone.

    Lots of conditioner, or Aussie Detangler... and you still might just have to start over.

    I mostly did the huntseat thing, so I dealt mainly with short-maned horses. In fact I got overzealous pulling mane a few times and ended up with wispiness.

    Arab people are as hair obsessed as it gets, yup... actually I bet Gypsy Vanner people are the worst.

    My hairdresser told me that a healthy adult human loses 70-90 hairs a day.

  6. OH, no kidding on the long red hairs thing. I shed more than a dang cat. My poor puppy used to..
    Never mind.

    I should cut it off, but (whispers) it's still red.

    A dear friend of mine used to spend literally hours on his horse's tail.
    Never saw the point, myself, but to each his own:)
    I like a banged tail.
    OH, and I'm still trying to find a link for mud tails.
    I think they are covered in many grooming books, though..
    I love the look of mud tails on polo-ponies, and on hunters during a rainy show. Really shows off their butts.

    I wonder if it's a man thing, freaking out about losing hair?
    (kidding, of course it is)

    Braiding without pulling up the sections is great, but needs to be done loose, so that the horse doesn't rub the heck out of it.

    The worst are the drafties, for sure, thick crest, thick mane, LOTS of work.

    Sorry I'm late, had to take my meds;)

    That was a joke.
    never mind...

  7. I roached my horses very thick, very long mane this summer and I was really surprised by how cute he looks now. He's so much cooler, and he looks like a little trojan horse with his stickey-up mohawk. I think I'm going to keep it that way.

  8. I think banged tails look odd for the most part, but then it was beaten into me at an early age that it was NOT CORRECT.

    I do think a black tail can look pretty neat if it's all shiny & banged....

    For informal open shows, I'd braid a wet tail into several braids the night before to get the wavy look the next day.

  9. I did that to my own hair once - 27 braids. When I took 'em out, my hair stood out almost horizontally!

    I was thinking of mat cutters, too. The dog kind. Another thing I've done on dogs was use a pair of bandage scissors, in the direction of growth. It worked pretty well to get the mats off and leave some fuzz. I wonder if it would work on my fatties.

    My horses have ringlets. (Remember, I've just started grooming them again after several years of neglect.) They can be brushed out from the bottom, working upward by inches. What a PITA. I'm definitely thinking about the old-fashioned stock horse cut; that'd save me a foot or two of brushing. But, who knows, maybe a good wash would help...

    Lazily, Ruthie

  10. GL- I always hear that I shed worse than the damned dogs.

    Considering we have three huskies and a mutt with some collie in her??? Figuring by that and CP's numbers, I should be bald!

    Which I have considered, and threatened to get close to. We have horse clippers and it would be pretty easy and quick, after all. Besides it would save on shampoo.

    When he was hauling horses, JR could go into a hotel room for the night and find at least one long red hair that had made the trip across the country and out of the truck with him.

  11. GL:

    You got that right about drafties. Buck has a really thick mane and tail, lots if work and he hates pulling. Sweet itty bitty baby.

    I always thought banged tails were for dressage and 3-dayers.

    In my area, doing hunters, no one bangs a tail. Ya know, it just isn't the thing to do. LOL!

    I think some tails would look better that way, no matter what the discipline.

  12. I just HAD to google "Dirty Hair brush" images. Now I wish I hadn't. I don't need/want to know somethings.
    We called the knots "elf locks". They are a pain to untangle. But I will say my teacher can undo any tangle (without pulling or cutting) in a few minutes. She must have magic fingers.
    One thing that I don't get is why do school horses (I'm talking saddleseat here) need to have long flowing manes. Academy horses aren't judged, the riders are judged. Why not keep the mane short? It would be easier to groom.

  13. Is Academy judged on presentation? That might be why.


  14. To my knowledge only the rider is judged in Academy classes.
    Of course the trainer/instructor is going to do their very best to have well turned out horses and riders. Everyone of us is a walking advertisement for their services.

  15. I worked for an Arabian farm when I was a kid. All the horses had their tails up and if a hair fell off, there was such an uproar, I swear they would of surgically reattach it if they could! Manes, well. I learned to drench it in Show Sheen and comb it out from the bottom up. Let's just say, I like my horse's short mane.

    Banged tails (banged at the fetock, not the hock), pulled on top- my favorite. I just don't know how to get the pulled look without actually pulling. Any ideas?

  16. A razor, joanna, and a REAL steady hand. Not for the faint of heart, I would think, although pulling tails isn't a horse's idea of fun either.

  17. Ha, I'm old enough to remember 'bang tailed' as a training level term. The old cowboys I rode with started a lot of wild horses, and when you could get them to the point where you could cut the tail even with their hocks without getting killed the horse was worth more. Kinda like the term 'green broke' is used. Usually meant the horse could be ridden without tOO much bucking...I loved riding the bang tailed horses. They had a rough but good start, and usually learned incredibly fast. They were all going to be used for ranch horses, so were started on their jobs and not tweaked to death, just worked straight and for a purpose. And usually at least 4 to 5, mostly 6 year olds.

  18. Oh, and manes were roached because most of the horses had to be roped off of, and more than one cowboy has lost fingers tangled between the rope and a long mane. Tails were banged at the hock to keep them from picking up balls of mud...

  19. For Western horses, I used to just hold the tailbone straight out, then cut straight across the bottom. (I'm afraid I don't remember how I picked the level to cut at.) It made a nice rounded tail end.

    But it would probably need two people to do it for hock length. One to hold and one to cut.