How to Pull a Mane
While a long, flowing mane is beautiful, for many riders it is more of a hassle that it is worth. Often showing a horse requires a pulled mane. Others prefer the look of a trim, tidy mane. Even a natural mane can use some pulling to keep it neat. Whatever your reason, it is a smart idea to learn how to pull your horse’s mane.
Most horses don’t mind having their manes pulled. Horses do not have nerve endings at the roots of their hairs, so unlike humans, they do not feel pain when the hair is pulled out. Most horses who react to having their manes pulled are uncomfortable with the feeling of having the mane teased up as a part of the process, or don’t like having their neck pulled on. If your horse does not like having his mane pulled, it would be a good idea to discuss using a tranquilizer with your vet before attempting to pull his mane.
Depending on your purpose, a mane can be pulled into various lengths and styles. Horses showing in the english disciplines generally have their manes pulled to 4”-6” in length for braiding purposes. Some western disciplines also require manes to be pulled to similar lengths to make them easier to band. Breed shows often require natural manes, but expect that mane to be “shaped” into the classic “natural” shape. Pulling can be used to maintain that shape without an unnatural cut appearance. Often horses who are not showing are kept with manes pulled to keep them tidy with lengths varying from 6”-16” long.
To pull your horse’s mane, you will need a pulling comb. This is a 4” long metal comb with short teeth. Some pulling combs have handles, while others only have the comb. It is purely a matter or personal preference which type you use.
Before you begin, comb the hair so that it is flat and tangle free. Don’t fret if you pull out some hair – this will only thin the mane and make it easier to manage. Starting from the top of the mane take sections around 2” wide and grasp the longest hairs at the bottom. Tease up the remaining hair until you have only a few hairs left in your grasp.
Wrap the hairs around the comb so that they make a full rotation around the spine of the comb. You should still grip the ends of the hair in your fingers. Now pull the hairs with the comb, using the back of the spine as leverage. Most of the hairs will pull out from the root, but some will break. This is fine – the hairs removed from the root will thin the mane, while the ones that break will help keep some body.
Be sure to only take a few hairs at a time. Too many hairs will be hard to pull, and will only irritate your horse. It is better to take your time than to rush by trying to pull too many hairs at a time.
Repeat this process all the way down the mane. Generally it is best to only pull 2-3” at a time as any more can cause irritation to your horse. To keep the mane even it is helpful to comb the mane smooth on a regular basis, holding the hair flat to the horse’s neck to check on your progress.
It may take several sessions to get the mane to the proper length. Be patient and make sure that you start the process well before you need to have it fully pulled. Even the most experienced mane pullers often find that the mane needs touching up after being left for a day or two. As with all skills, practice makes perfect. Keep working on it, and soon you will be able to maintain your horse’s mane at the perfect length for your discipline.