Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Grow Out a Mane & Tail

There are many ways to grow a mane and tail out, but your end results will be determined by genetics and nutrition.  It is impossible to have a thick, beautiful mane and tail on a horse that does not have the genetic potential to do so.  On the same note, a horse that has the potential for a great mane and tail will not be able to fulfill that potential without the proper nutrition.  It is a whole lot like the different hair types in humans, you end up with what your mother and father gave you, and your level of nutrition directly affects the quality of hair that you get to make use of.  So, before you begin to work to get that beautifully thick mane and tail, you need to take an honest look at what you have to begin with.  Make sure that all of your horse’s nutritional needs are being met, because no topical concoction will do near as much for the hair health and growth as good as nutrition will.  Now that we have the genetics and nutrition covered, we can move on to a couple of ways to help the hair grow out and to protect it from breakage.
One of the most popular methods for growing out the mane and tail is to braid them to help protect them from breakage.  The downfall of braiding is that if the braids are too wide or too tight, the braids will pull out or break the hairs when the horse lowers it’s head to eat.  That is the opposite of what you are wanting.  Another downfall is, if the braids are left in too long, they can actually become tangles up, and the process of getting them out can break or pull out the hair.  A reasonable time is two weeks maximum, anything longer and you risk them tangling up.  For the purpose of growing out a mane, I like to use braids that are about an inch wide at the top maximum.  I braid them loosely where they can expand some without pulling and breaking the hair.  I want the hair clean, conditioned, and dry.  Do not use anything that has silicone in it, like Show Sheen, on a regular basis.  To remove tangles or for a show, it is ok, but on a daily basis it will dry out and damage the hair.  I like coconut oil worked into the mane sparingly about once a week at most.  It will help moisturize the hair and make it manageable for braiding, but if you use too much it will make the hair too slick to braid.  I use electric tape to tie the braids at the bottom, it does not degrade in the sun and just fall off like the rubber bands and does not pull as much hair out either, when you remove them to take the braids out.  Since I am too lazy to remove the braids weekly for the oil treatment, I will simply work the oil into the mane bed.  When I take the braids out, I will let the hair rest for a day or two before braiding the hair back up.
As for braiding the tail, I do not personally like doing it, but some people do.  So, I will explain how to.  I want the tail clean, either wash it completely or do a vinegar wash, conditioned, and dry.  Work the coconut oil into it, again sparingly, too much will make it too slick to braid.  The braid needs to start at the end of the dock, and be braided loosely to the end.  There are many options when braiding tails; just braiding it without a bag, a braid in bag, a drop in bag, an old tube sock, or wrap the braid up in vet wrap or Sarhan Wrap  If you are doing this during the summer, you do need to provide something for the horse to use as a swatter, even if it is running hay string through the braid to kind of replace their tails while it is braided up.  You will also need to keep the horse sprayed with fly spray, and I also like providing them with a Rabon block as well.  Anything to help with reducing the fly population, right!?!?  The tail braid is easier and less time consuming to take down and put back up, so if I do braid I will do and re-do it weekly.  I will let the tail rest for a day or so between taking it down and putting it back up.
The other option is growing out manes and tails is not braiding them.  This is the easier option.  I have heard to never brush the mane or tail unless it is damp with some kind of conditioner, I have heard that it should only be brushed dry, I have heard to not brush it at all but to pick it out with your fingers.  I’m going to explain how I do my horses’ manes, everyday or every other day.  If I need to use a leave in conditioner, I will mix one part cheap human conditioner with one part water in a spray bottle, shake well and spray on as needed.  **Check the ingredients for silicone or any –cone and try to avoid them completely if possible.  If you can not, make sure that they are closer to the end of the list then the beginning, the farther they are down the list, the less is in the mix.  When I comb the mane or tail, I start at the bottom and work my way up gradually.  In general, I use a wide toothed comb, but I keep a rat tailed comb to help pick out tight knots, or any knots really.  I still do the weekly coconut oil treatments, but have found that after these treatments the hair does not tangle as much.  I have also noticed that damp hair tends to stretch rather than break, but healthy hair will not break as easily as dry hair anyway.
Regardless of what method you use to grow out your horse’s mane and tail, there are factors that will determine your end results.  The first factor is genetics.  Without the right genetics, no amount of nutrition and care will give you a thick, long mane and tail.  The second factor is nutrition.  Even with great genetics, without proper nutrition the hair will never live up to it’s potential.  If you take care of these two factors, you will find that the mane and tail will grow better, with less care required from you.  Proper nutrition can remedy a multitude of problems; the key is getting your horse on a balanced diet that meets your horse’s daily requirements.  Find what works best for you and your horse and stick to it.  I know that I have touched on genetics and nutrition twice in this article, and that is because I want you to keep it in mind as you read the article, and have it refreshed in your mind at the end of it.