Mane (horse)

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Horse with long mane. The mane runs from the poll to the withers.

The mane is the hair that grows from the top of the neck of a horse or other equine, reaching from the poll to the withers, and includes the forelock or foretop. It is thicker and coarser than the rest of the horse's coat, and naturally grows to roughly cover the neck. Heredity plays a role, giving some horses a longer, thicker mane, and others a shorter, thinner one.

Some horses, such as those used in circuses or in mounted displays such as Cavalia, have manes allowed to grow down to their knees. Others have their manes deliberately shaved completely off for style or practical purposes. When ungroomed, however, the mane usually grows no longer than the width of the horse's neck, as natural wear and tear limit its potential length.

The mane is thought to keep the neck warm, and possibly to help water run off the neck if the animal cannot obtain shelter from the rain. It also provides some fly protection to the front of the horse, although the tail is usually the first defense against flies.

Ponies usually have the thickest manes, with horse breeds having tremendous variation in thickness and length. Other equids such as the donkey often have very sparse, thin manes.


A horse with a "natural" mane. Though some thick manes have a natural wave, a mane grown out this long is kept in long braids when the horse is not being shown in order to protect it from breaking off.

All domesticated horses benefit from having their manes and tails untangled regularly to remove dirt, tangles and debris. Horses with short manes usually have their manes combed, while horses with longer manes are usually groomed with a human hair brush or a stiff dandy brush. Horses with extraordinarily long manes may have their manes hand picked to remove tangles.

For a horse show, the horse is generally bathed, and this includes the mane. However, in addition to a shampoo bath, many grooms of long-maned horses also use a conditioner or cream rinse on the mane to improve shine and manageability, though for horses with braided manes, the mane may be left alone or have gels that increase stiffness and body added instead.

To make a short mane grow long and lie flat, or to make a naturally full mane grow beyond the length it might normally reach in nature, the mane can be placed into six or seven thick, moderately loose braids to prevent breaking. Many horse show exhibitors of long-maned horses also like the wavy look of a mane that has been kept braided until just before a show and may loosely braid a naturally long mane the night before a show just to obtain a fuller, wavy appearance.

Beyond basic care, the mane is styled in various ways, depending on the breed of horse, part of the world, and the equestrian discipline of the rider.

The basic ways to style the mane include:

Regardless of style, many manes that are not roached have a bit of mane at the poll, the area immediately behind the ears, shaved in order to help the crownpiece of the bridle lie more neatly on the head. This area is called a 'bridle path'. It may vary in length from one inch to over a foot. The length of the bridle path is dependent on the discipline or breed of the horse, and is important to consider when grooming a horse for competition.


Hunter braids.
A banded mane. Note that mane also has been pulled and thinned prior to banding


Button braids

Certain breeds are often expected to have a specific styling to their manes. Common styles for the United States are as follows


A shortened or "pulled" mane.

The mane is often pulled to shorten and thin it. It gives a much neater appearance than simply trimming it with scissors, which does not thin the mane enough to braid and creates an unnatural line. Pulling also makes the mane more manageable, as a pulled mane is less likely to get tangled than a natural one.

Most horses do not object to mane pulling, and willingly stand for the process. To make it more comfortable for the horse, a groom should pull the mane out of the crest in an upwards direction, rather than sideways or down. An application of Orajel on the roots of the mane can help desensitize the area during the pulling process. Alternatively clove oil applied at the base of the mane may help to desensitize the area. It is also recommended that pulling is performed right after exercise, when it is thought that the mane comes out more easily because the pores are open. Using a mane pulling device such as the ManePuller may also be considered because it tends to be quicker and therefore less stressful for the horse (and groom).

In some cases, a horse is very sensitive and may constantly toss its head or try to bite if the groom attempts to pull the mane. In this case, only a few hairs should be taken out at a time, with the pulling process spanning over several days, and the groom should try to keep up with the process so that the horse will not have to endure a long session right before competition.

Competitors in a hurry sometime use thinning shears to trim the mane and give the appearance of having been pulled. However, the effect only lasts a couple of weeks at most before the cut hairs begin to grow out and stick up straight into the air. Thus, this method is not advised. Pulled manes also grow out, but take longer and when the hair begins to grow, it is less stiff and tends to blend more easily with the existing mane.

Roaching (USA) or Hogging (UK)[edit]

Roached mane and forelock

Roaching or hogging is when the mane, and sometimes forelock, is completely shaven. This is usually done if a horse's mane is quite ragged, or for certain disciplines such as polo, polocrosse, and calf roping, to keep the mane out of the way. Cobs can be shown with a roached mane and it is also common to roach the mane for certain breeds. In Spain, breeders commonly roach the mane of mares and foals. The same applies to the Swiss "Freiberger" horses. The American Saddlebred "3-Gaited" horse is often shown with a roached mane, while the "5-Gaited" Saddlebred is shown with a full mane.

If a mane is roached, it will take about 6–8 months for it to stop sticking straight up in the air and lie over onto the neck, and a year or more to return to a natural length. For this reason, manes that are roached usually need to be kept that way, though occasionally roaching a damaged mane and allowing it to grow out evenly is effective as a last resort for a mane that has been partly torn out, badly tangled or otherwise cannot be restored to a smooth condition.

Braiding (USA) or Plaiting (UK)[edit]

Horse with a French braided mane, also sometimes called an "Andalusian" braid
"Continental" or "macrame" braid

Today, braiding is performed to show off the neck, accentuating the top line when the horse is moving or jumping. Braiding may be used to hide conformation faults of the neck (for example, a relatively short neck can be braided with a greater number of smaller braids, making it look longer). Braiding can be used to train the mane to lie on one side of the neck, if half falls on one side and half falls on the other.

Traditionally, the mane is braided on the right side of the neck. This is still the standard for show hunters in the United States and eventers, although dressage horses are commonly braided on either side. It was also traditional in the USA that male horses would have an odd number of braids, and even number for mares.[1] However, this rule is rarely, if ever, followed by modern braiders.

Types of Braids[edit]

An "Andalusian" or French braided mane on an Andalusian horse.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Disston,Harry. All About Horses Bramhall House U.S., 1961 ASIN: B001EO322E