Mane pulling is a controversial topic. There are several different ways to tidy a mane, either humanely using thinning rakes, scissors, razors, old clipper blades to name a few, or the traditional way with a metal mane comb.
If I was a horse I would definitely prefer the former if given the choice. Let’s look at both options and then it’s for you and your horse to decide.
Traditional pulling – this is the established way of keeping a mane thinned and at a tidy length to brush and plait when needed. The only tool required is a short metal mane comb. I find the ones with a wooden handle the easiest to use. To start with, brush the mane through so there are no knots. Then begin at the top and work down, or at the bottom and work up. However, either end of the mane is the most sensitive place for the horse, so you may find some resistance, even with the most placid of horses.
To start with take a small section of mane, about half the width of the mane comb and back comb leaving some long strands, these bits you need to twist round the comb and pull out. Repeat this all the way down, or all the way up the mane until you have thinned and shortened it to the level needed.
It’s always best to make sure the horse is warm and exercised before pulling which will then mean the hair should come out more easily and be less harsh for them. If there is a lot of resistance, or the horse has not had this done before, spread it out over a period of days, to make it easier and less traumatic.
Humane tidying – If this is done with care, the result looks the same, and the horse feels no discomfort, so a “win, win” situation in my book. Having used both methods over the years, I now only use this way. Practice will perfect the finish, but it’s easy once you get the knack!
This is how I do it. If you have a very thick mane to deal with, brush it over to the wrong side making sure there are no tangles. Get yourself a Smart Manes thinning rake, or the narrower Smart Tails rake for tails is equally good. Use the medium or medium/coarse grade and literally just brush down as if you were brushing with a brush. Go carefully as they do take out a considerable amount in a very short time. Once you have the mane at the thickness you require, brush back over.
Now the next bit will take some practice, but if you are used to pulling the traditional way you will find that this is virtually the same technique. Backcomb from the top leaving a few long bits like you have when you pull the usual way, and then instead of pulling these out, just get a pair of normal scissors and cut. This may fill you with horror, but I promise it won’t look cut – just refer to our videos to see what I am doing! Continue down the mane and this will create your level finish, leaving the mane thinned and neat and tidy.
If you have a thin, long mane to deal with, ignore the first part of the instructions, as it won’t need thinning, and just do the shortening method. The other tool that could be used with thin manes are the razor combs, again use in the same way, back combing and then razor to cut the length.
Once the mane is tidy, thinned and at an acceptable length, keep it in good condition by regular washing and conditioning. A spray in detangler and conditioner is a quick way to keep in good shape and easy to brush through, “Tame the Mane” is perfect, as it not only conditions allowing the brush to glide through, but it also takes the frizz out too, and keeps it laying down nicely. This is particularly good if you are dealing with the more natural finish that traditional and M&M’s and other native breeds dictate.