My Mane Problem

The Great Mane Massacre of 2014. Photo by Lindsey Kahn The Great Mane Massacre of 2014. Photo by Lindsey Kahn

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with pulled manes. Sure, there are few things classier than a well-groomed horse with a smooth, even mane and tail trotting by at a jog, but I grew up adoring (and coveting) the long, wildly-flowing manes and tails of fantasy horses. My first horse was follicly-challenged, and I vowed that any subsequent horses in my possession would have manes that put Fabio to shame.

Well, I got my wish. I currently own a Rocky Mountain Horse and a Morgan, two breeds that are largely known for their tumbling tresses. My Rocky gelding has silky, flaxen hair that does a fine job of repelling flies and attracting mud, and my Morgan’s hair is just out of control. It’s like someone keeps slipping Miracle-Gro into his morning grain. And the funny part is that when I bought Onyx five years ago, he was embarrassingly lacking in the mane department.

Onyx, age 2, rocking the mohawk look. Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Onyx, age 2, rocking the mohawk look. Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Onyx, age 7, after a haircut, rocking the "Shaggy Dog" look

Onyx, age 7, after a haircut, rocking the “Shaggy Dog” look

Even with our first recognized combined test coming up, I’d been procrastinating the dreaded Pulling of the Mane. Last summer, I fumbled with reins tangled up in a frizzy mane, used gallons of ShowSheen and Cowboy Magic to manage the mass, and wondered how the heck a 14.2-hand-tall horse could have a bridle path nearly as wide across as my fist. Still, I refused to cut or pull his precious hair, turning instead to the web for tips on mane-taming.

One of the more common “quick” fixes is the French braid, which I tried with varying degrees of success.


French braid (expectation). Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of


Hey, not too shabby! Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Hey, not too shabby! Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Five minutes and three head shakes later:

Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Photo by Lindsey Kahn

My next attempt was the button braid (or, as I prefer to call them, mane nuggets). This is where Onyx’s huge honkin’ mass of a mane really caused trouble, because his buttons were more like boulders.

No comment. Photo by Lindsey Kahn

No comment. Photo by Lindsey Kahn

I found a handy Easi Plait kit at my local tack store, which consists of reusable fabric-covered wire loops that you can use to create a braided look without having to mess around with bands or thread.

Lo and behold, they worked like a charm! The only issue was that Onyx’s mane was so heavy that the Easi Plaits started to sag throughout my ride.

I didn’t want any awkward-looking tendrils during my dressage test, so I finally put on my big girl pants, borrowed a friend’s pulling comb and thinning shears, and took one last longing glance at Onyx’s long, flowing mane, the stuff that fantasies are made of.

Fantasy... or nightmare? Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Fantasies… or nightmares? Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Once I got over the vaguely creepy feeling of yanking Onyx’s hair out by the roots, I soon found myself in the zone; I pulled like a woman on a mission. Really, his mane was just too much, I thought to myself. Keeping his mane long was no longer practical, especially considering how unkempt and downright nasty it was getting (let’s put it this way: it’s easy to pretend that dark horses are cleaner than they actually are).

After Onyx’s first Sweeney Todd treatment, I found myself standing ankle-deep in a pile of ebony hair. I looked like I had killed a small animal. Onyx, on the other hand, was starting to look a little more like a sport horse and less like a woolly mammoth. His mane was still too thick to lie flat on his neck, but at least it was more under control. I could always pull more later.

Wait… what? Did I just think to myself that I could always pull more later? What had I become?

A proud mama, that’s what. A proud mama who could now choose whether or not to grab mane over a jump.

Oh, look. He has a neck! Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Oh, look. He has a neck! Photo by Lindsey Kahn

Go mane pulling. Go Eventing.

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