Monday, February 22, 2021

how to butcher your horse's mane in 5 easy steps!

I once read on a blog (maybe Jen at Cob Jockey?) that the "difference between a good clip and a bad clip was about two weeks."

For whatever reason, that oh-too-true quip really stuck with me. And, I've adopted / adapted it into my own approach to mane care: The difference between a good clip cut and a bad one is about two weeks one month.

you too can achieve this polished refined hairstyle on your own horse --- follow me for tips!
Because, you see. I cut Charlie's mane with scissors. Roughly twice a year, I Go To Town on this poor sweet gelding's mane -- in exactly the way any professional groom will explicitly say not to do

And. Ya know. It works for us haha. So here's how I do it. 

for best results, make sure your horse is basically feral
1) Obviously you start by collecting your materials, including the horse. Timing is clearly important when you set out to absolutely destroy your horse's mane, so it's best to do it a couple months out from whenever you might actually wish to be presentable! 

Thus, it's recommended for mid-winter. Bonus if it's too cold for your fingers to operate properly.

and also filthy <3
Definitely don't clean the horse either. Like, ok, brush the mud out of the mane if you must.... but seriously, no amount of prep work is gonna make this method any smoother so just... have at it! 

try not to die leading said feral beastie around on the ice!
Other materials include..... a mane comb and some scissors. Ideally the scissors should be very sharp and not too too large. Tho, if a barn rat lost your good scissors off the back of a kubota a couple months ago, that rusty pair of pruning shears is probably fine too. 

always a good idea to have the barn manager on hand shoulder
A metal pulling comb is my preferred tool for this method. But, again, if that comb requires literally any effort whatsoever to dig out of your grooming tote, the Tail Tamer paddle brush that's right on top is 100% fine instead. 

much better angle to view all the gnarly cowlicks in your horse's mane
2. Prepare your workspace. Or... Don't? Like, sure, tying your horse in a way to prevent him from moving up and down and all around might help. Or like, having a step stool or ladder or even literally an overturned bucket might conceivably be helpful when you're trying to trim the mane on an actual literal brontosaurus. 

definitely don't bother to tie your horse.... it'll be fiiiiiiine
But, eh. Loose in a stall noshing off various haynets or even hay on the floor is fine too. Probably. Lol....

repeat after me: this is basically even
3. Decide on a length, and stick with it. In this instance, the paddle brush was actually pretty nice bc I just cut to the width of the paddle. Brush and snip, brush and snip, forever and ever and ever down the full friggin five feet of your horse's neck. 

For real tho, my goal with this method is short. Like, mohawk short. And I start from the ears and work my way down. Theoretically this means I get the fussiest section done before my horse loses patience.

yep, just cut straight across. blunt cuts are best cuts!
4. Cut straight across - not vertically or up-and-down. For real, I mean this. A lot of folks like to cut up and down as a way to soften the edges and make it a little less obvious that we used scissors instead of pulling.... But, F that. For real. 

At some point probably in around 3+ months, I'll want to be able to braid this mane. And when I braid, I *do not* want lots of varying length hairs poking out of the bottom half of each braid. I want the whole mane the same length, more or less. So. We blunt cut this bitch, and we like it. 

then flip the whole thing over onto the other side and repeat! or, don't!
5. Flip the mane over to the other side, and repeat the process. Sorta-ish. Having not pulled the mane at all during this iteration, or literally ever at all in like the ~4+ years I've owned this horse, we've got a pretttty thick mane on our hands here haha. 

If you only snip from one side of the mane, you end up with hairs that will be wildly different lengths depending on which side of the neck they originate. Flipping the whole thing over and trimming to the same length helps to address that. But like, eh, don't kill yourself doing it. Maybe dedicate like 1/5th the time you spent on the other side. It'll be fiiine

admire your craft <3
You'll also note --- Charlie's mane falls on the "wrong" side. And, ya know, I braid on the "wrong" side too. Bc dear lord, does literally anybody actually give a fuck??? Real questions, here, folks, LOL!

*I SAID ADMIRE IT!!*
And ya know, that's basically it haha! The mane does, indeed, look janky AF. And 100% looks like it was done bluntly with scissors in about 20min. Which, ahem, it clearly was. 

lol, yes, everybody can tell you used scissors
It's always a good idea to brush it forward and backward and straight down (again the metal pulling comb is best, but also again --- sometimes we too lazy for that) just to catch any hairs that got out of alignment. 

but ya know. the fluffy mohawk look is prettty cool
And obvi you can always go back and clean it up after your first major pass down the neck. Or not. You do you, ya know?

definitely make sure you choose the absolute busiest time to ride so ALL your friends can see your handiwork!
I usually end up doing this twice a year --- once in mid winter, and then again maybe in July when it's crazy gross out. Basically, I try to time the butchery to coincide with months when we're not really out and about. 

Charlie has pretty epic hair that grows fast, tho, so you might need different lead times to ensure your monstrosity has time to grow out a little bit lol. 

watch out, Mikey cat --- you're next!
Or ya know. Perhaps you're one of those who actually takes a bit of pride in your mane grooming skillz. In which case, more power to ya -- really, I mean that! 

I just never really learned how to pull a mane in a way that got it to my desired length without taking me literally hours on end. And, I swear, I've tried. So instead, I've been doing this blunt-cut method for a couple years now and, ya know, it works for us haha. 

Curious what everybody else does. Do you pull? Use scissors? Some combination thereof? Do you cut vertically or horizontally? Or maybe you use thinning shears?? I've had bad luck with those bc of the bristly-braid situation, but maybe there's a better way? I'm all ears! 







49 comments:

  1. The saying, "Two weeks between a bad clip and a good clip" are my words to live by for sure, especially with a grey where the lines are the worstttt. Loving Charlie's new 'do, it actually looks very decent!!

    I appreciate how you do both sides - there are a few people at my barn that just hack straight across with absolutely no thought whatsoever and it makes me cringe every time. My hunter/jumper upbringing requires I spend a little more thought on the mane but pulling is the WORST, especially with a yak whose neck does not release hair.

    Like you, I brush it all down with a mane comb and use a pulling blade instead of actually pulling the hair out - same method, grab a strand, push up the shorter hairs, then chop with the blade (think the kind of blade your hair cutter person uses sometimes) to the required length. It takes a little bit of time, but not as much as pulling and it doesn't make my hands bleed (unless I stab myself with the blade. It's happened). Also like you, I do both sides to get it super short like a mohawk which means I only have to do this 2-3x a year because seriously it's the worst and having a yak makes it even harder.

    You might have inspired me to actually tackle the beast this week now, it seems like a good mud activity.

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    1. the "both sides" thing actually took me a little while to figure out. i'd snip snip snip away, thinking it all looked pretty ok. but then i'd get on and half the mane would flop to the other side (like the "fluffy mohawk" pic above) and one side would be like triple the length of the other. i could never figure it out until my friend was like, "emma, do BOTH sides" lol... duh

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  2. The 2 week clip rule is so true. People who have never clipped before worry SO MUCH. Why? It'll look better in a week and even better in 2. Instead, if it looks like crap they hire a pro to fix their mess and never touch a clipper again. They could have just waited... If you plan on showing, just clip your damn horse 2 weeks prior to the show and he'll look fine.

    I use this thing for manes: https://www.weaverleathersupply.com/catalog/item-detail/65-2175/mane-and-tail-thinning-rake/pr_8515/cp_/shop-now/hardware/specialty/harness-stable

    It's THE BEST THING EVER. Except that it is crazy sharp and you'd better wear gloves or you'll be like be and bleed all over your horse. If you're not lazy, you'll brush your horses mane before. If you are lazy, you won't. Rake straight now to thin, rake and pull to the side to cut. This think is amazing! I can do Nay's make in 10 minutes and I've had people say it looks like I pulled it so... Not complaining. Nay doesn't actually care if I pull so OCCASIONALLY I'll pull parts, but... yeah. Granted, I've done his mane 3 whole times since I've had him. 1x I pulled, 2x with the rake.

    Subi hates all things mane so I usually use the rake but even that he hates (he hates me brushing his mane). I took the clipper to his mane this summer and while it looked like utter crap, he preferred that method.

    Jiminy? He's a disaster. Let's move on. I rake his mane and he doesn't care. But nothing will EVER make it less thick and I could pull for years and he'd still have too much mane. Right now it's crazy long and staying that way. But it's so lovely. He does need a bridle path but again, I'm lazy...

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    1. ooooh that rake looks fascinating but also kiiiiinda dangerous for my clumsy ham-handed approach LOL. and honestly i'd keep jiminy's mane long too. all the shetlands at my farm seem to do just fine with their long luscious natural locks -- plus they're SO CUTE!

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  3. I definitely pull Ernie's mane since he's my riding/showing horse and goes in hunter braids. I like to do a little at a time just to keep it in check as opposed to the pull it all at once method. I also don't rip the hair out but pull gently until it's released. It drives me nuts when people rip it out then get mad at their horse for moving around. Duh.
    P has a thin mane so I cut his across then go back cutting up and down for a more natural look. Vinny goes natural and long.

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    1. hunter braids intimidate the ever loving f*ck out of me, not gonna lie hahaha. for eventing i can get away with big bulky button braids (the fewer, the better!) so.... luckily longer thicker manes suit that style of braid pretty well

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  4. Hahaha. My mane care for Cessa has ended up being "mess with it through spring and summer, because it looks so pretty long, but once she rubs out a 6-inch-wide strip on the fence and it's now maybe 3 inches long, give up and chop it all off again." And chopping it all off is really the laziest roaching ever - me, scissors (which 50-50 it'll be "the actual hair scissors I bought for like $15 on Amazon" or "hey, hand me those bandage scissors?"), and a bunch of cutting to get it roughly half an inch long at most. And a lot of hair, omg so much hair. And plans to fix it later when inevitably I've given her a bit of a mohawk-crest-thing in the middle, lol.

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    1. ugh yea, we see a lot of horses at my farm with the "6 inch wide bald spot" bc of how some of our hay rings are designed.... it's a sad badge of honor, i guess. and yea there's really not a whole heckuva lot that you can do about repairing it once it's done... charlie once rubbed out like half of his forelock --- it was the saddest thing ever and took a solid year to grow back in

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  5. This is why having an Andalusian pays off- I don't cut at all. However, I do bang her tail pretty darn short- once in the fall and then before March because of mud. Her tail grow super fast though.

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    1. dude for real, charlie's tail gets the "short bang" treatment twice (or more) yearly too --- tho i do try to at least get it fairly cleaned and brushed out first. so i haven't done it yet this season (other than just taking off a couple inches that were already mud dreads). needs to happen soon, tho!

      and honestly sometimes i miss the natural simple beauty of isabel's long mane. the running braid looked so nice and was so easy.... tho, honestly, day to day care of a short mane is simpler imo

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  6. 100% same method, even including wrong-side mane. Pony Club kids totally shamed me about it and I was like, "whatevs. just you wait until you're an AA!"

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    1. dude for real tho, haha, i think we've all grown up in this environment where if you do something "wrong" everyone is gonna shame you or make fun of you. but --- actually, turns out, it REALLY doesn't matter haha. esp if you're in a discipline not judged on style or appearances!

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  7. I blunt cut it. Maybe 3-4 times a year. I DO, however, go back and cut vertically into the ends to make it less blunt. We don't braid in our line of work. I used to wet his mane and pull it straight up and cut it so when it fell it wouldn't be so blunt, but I have since switched to the 7 minute blunt cut + fringe.

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    1. 7min, i'm impressed!!! even being kinda rough and messy about it, i still take like 20min to get through the whole thing lol....

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  8. I'm on the same program lol. I do go back with thinning shears on the bottom edge though to make it a little less obvious. I also leave it a little longer because mohawk length is basically 6" or so when their pony manes are hedge width. Also, if you're clipping a hairy yak pony, 2 weeks out is not enough - I'm at two months and there are still some very obvious lines and 'mistakes' lol

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    1. i honestly really loved the idea and functionality of thinning shears, right up until i had to braid a mane that was cut with them. i'm a bad enough braider as it is, dealing with the frizzy braid ends really complicated things. tho.... with those thick pony manes there really might not be any other choice!

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  9. "This is basically even." I'm dead.

    I'm a mane pulling champ. I learned on racehorses so I learned to go fast, usually while a groom was twitching them and yelling at me to go even faster lol. One of my friends is a wizard with scissors but I think they look harder than pulling!

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    1. lol i'm definitely jealous of getting that sort of background education. tho... i'm also like the opposite of "fast" in just about everything i do so... i'd probably still suck at it HAHA!

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  10. ha i board where they do it for me :) and for 20 bucks or whatever a quarter it is so worth it for me. Remus is great at pulling but I am not into that. I cant cut a piece of paper straight soooo

    You are braver than me :) I am also rocking a nonhairdo that has not been cut since October 2019. bangs I aint got them no more. :) ha

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    1. tbh i've 100% considered hiring out the mane work many times... but, eh, this method is easy enough for me so we carry on.

      also re: our own hair cuts.... mine hasn't been touched in over a year at this point and i've actually started trimming it myself.... #pray4me

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  11. "we blunt cut this bitch and we like it" LOL

    Reasons I hog all of my horses manes! I'm too lazy and it's easy and I like the look of it a lot.

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    1. lolol i crack myself up.... also tho, for real the roached look definitely has an attractive sharpness to it. but.... to be perfectly honest, i like having a mane to grab onto!

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  12. Haha! I don't use scissors, but I do let Cupid's mane stay on the "wrong" side and braid it there. In fact, I tried braiding it on the "correct" side once but my fingers have gotten too used to the "wrong" side and it felt really awkward!
    I lean the other way - Cupid's mane is much longer than most other people would prefer. I do a combination of pulling, cutting vertically with scissors, and using a solo comb to keep it from going totally out of control, usually in short sessions starting a few weeks before I need to braid it.

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    1. i kinda like charlie's mane the most when it's a couple inches longer than what you see in the pics above -- probably similar to cupid's. but i find that if i cut it real short in this kinda messy way, by the time it reaches the length i actually like -- it looks much smoother and neater than if i tried to cut to that exact length in the first place.

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  13. L doesn't do pulled manes, like at all. He's so sensitive if you catch a single hair between your fingers while riding he does a full body shiver/shake. His breed is known for their long thick manes, but it was always a pain, and with how sensitive he was, we roached it almost 2 years ago and haven't looked back, plus he looks like a bad ass.

    I hack (thickest mane in the free world too) the thickest parts with scissors to try and make a curve, leave the middle longer and shorten to his withers and poll on one side, then try to match on the other and roll. We're trying dino spikes when I get the courage and it gets a little longer. Best part of cutting a roached mane is you can just shave it all off if you mess up and start over!

    When I have to cut non roached manes, I use thinning shears and just cut sorta at an angle and work my way slowly up the neck and it comes out okay. Trim any stray long pieces with regular scissors once you reach the desired length and boom, done. I've actually never pulled manes before, learned it at an away camp, hated it and never did it again.

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    1. oh man, charlie is so massively tolerant to being poked, prodded, pushed around and pulled on. he's basically lived through it all at this point, from his years on the track, his multiple surgeries, and now having a decidedly amateur owner who has used him to learn IM injections etc, LOL. the poor suffering beastie... maybe it's like by not pulling his mane i'm trying to spare him in some small degree?

      and yea that's a nice method with the trimming shears, maybe i'll try that sometime. tho, again, anything that makes braiding fussier is a big NO from me LOL

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  14. hahha omg this is sooo the method I subscribe to for manes! Copper wants you to tell Charlie that he feels his pain on the bad haircuts! I gave him a bad bowl cut one year!

    I've tried thinning combs and shears and all kinds of stuff, but I'm just not good with hair, so I wing it!

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    1. lololol i like to tell charlie that he's so beautiful, nobody would notice the bad haircut anyway! plus, he's so tall it's generally above eye level....

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  15. As a braider, this post causes me physical pain... But it was entertaining... between the sobs.

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    1. LOL! probably should have put some sort of warning at the top, like 'contains graphic content'! lol

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  16. Mane trimming is hard. I have given up completely... being a Canadian, if is acceptable for Tanta to show with a long mane in a running braid lol. So much easier to braid also! And Rasty is retired now so I haven’t cut his mane in years 🤣

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    1. dude the running braid is so easy --- i used to do that with my arabian...

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  17. So, I am totally weird, but I love to pull manes. I had it down to a science when I worked at the track. So if you ever want to skip the scissors, I'm your girl ;)

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    1. lol i'm legit jealous of your mane pulling skills.... as a somewhat crafty person, it kinda pains me to feel like this one particular method is apparently beyond my ability.... but, eh, oh well!

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  18. Hahahaha love it!! I don't cut Amber's mane, but my mom does Whisper's, and she cuts it with scissors too. Wait about 2 weeks and it evens out LOL

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    1. yup! that's the great thing about hair -- it grows back!

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  19. This is hilarious and amazing. I use the faux-pull method where I come the short hair back and then cut with scissors instead of yanking the hair out when I care. When I don't care, I just roach the whole thing and wait for it to grow to a respectable length. But also, 75% of my horses have long, thick manes and don't show.

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    1. lol yea.... mane care is definitely one of the things i hold off on until i feel 'inspired / motivated' enough to dedicate like, at least 20min to it. one of these days tho i'm 100% not ruling out that i just go and roach it too. except... well, eh, i DO love having a mane to hold onto....

      also. omg. i like to think of myself as a reasonably literate individual but damn, homonyms get me Every.Time.Ugh. lol...

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    2. ahem, cough cough. *homoPHONES

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    3. Just leave an oh-shit handle at the withers lol (says the rider who doesn't jump much at all)

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  20. I blunt cut with scissors. I NEVER thought I would do that. I now own a horse with a VERY thick mane and ZERO tolerance for pulling, and if you do try and pull the hairs break off instead of pull out. So I tried the rake. It thinned it great but when I went to braid it there were lots of staggered spiky hairs sticking out. I then found a video of someone that braids for the upper level dressage and she always blunt cuts tick manes to about 7" long and braids that. And I gave it a try and will never look back. He braids well, the blunt cut actually works for him and everyone is happy.

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    1. lolol YUP, sounds like basically exactly the process i went through (minus the uber-sensitive horse) to arrive at this current process. esp the part about seeing upper level professionals kinda do the same thing ---- i think even Beezie had a video out where she included blunt cutting some manes??? it's def wayyyy more common than i've been led to believe by the purists LOL

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  21. There is something so satisfying to traditionally pulling a thick and overgrown mane.. but for my horses that I'm not showing I have reverted to doing something similar.

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  22. I have a feral horse with a long, fairytale mane. I'm OK with this. It looks... feral and romantic? His forelock hangs down to his nostrils, too. (You'd think the extra-long forelock would reduce visibility and cut down on spooking, like hair blinders. No. It does not work like that. He still can see everything at all times.) There is nothing I can do with his hair to disguise the fact that he's a 14.3hh Scare-ab so he might as well have fairytale hair. Also, despite his head-n-neck hair, his tail is kinda lame. How does that even work? How can I have lame tail hair and awesome head-n-neck hair? I cna't even.

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  23. The rules are simple at my yard: either you put the mane in braids permanently and try to grow it as long as possible, or you cut it off at 3-4 inches long. I don't pull because it's not the 19th century, lol. My mongrel gets a little trim every two months or so, and yes, I hack it off disgustingly (you are a hairdresser compared to me). My Arab lives with his mane in braids and it's down to the point of his shoulder now, which is a lot of work, but sooooo pretty. Mostly, though, I'm not super bothered. I'm a dressage queen - my horse is too covered in bling for anyone to notice how scruffy his hair is!

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