Most horses have the tendency to grow a naturally long mane and tail on their own, even without human intervention. Horses kept in stalls for most of the day with constant grooming and attention do not have a notable advantage over pasture kept horses. The secret of growing long manes and tails in horses is a careful balance of diet and technique.
Healthy Horse, Healthy Manes and Tails
The first and most important thing that will help grow a long mane and tail is to make sure the horse is fed an adequate diet complete with all of the nutrients and fats that he needs to maintain basic metabolic processes. This includes a proper amount of roughage combined with a supplemental bagged feed (if the hay quality isnít up to standard) combined with the proper balance of vitamins and minerals.
An owner should be careful not to add excess supplements, fats or oils to the diet if the regular diet already provides the proper amount of nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins and other ingredients are already properly balanced in most commercial horse feeds produced by reputable companies. In fact, over supplementation is not only a waste of money, but can be detrimental to the horseís ability to utilize his feed.
In order for a horse to look healthy on the outside, he must be healthy on the inside. Once a good feeding regime is established and the horse is getting the nutrients he needs, the horseís coat will produce a natural shine, and long healthy manes and tails will follow.
Growing a Long Mane
One of the secrets to growing a long mane is to wash it about two to three times a week. Manes should be washed with a mild soap, conditioned about once a week, and braided. Avoid the regular use of spray on conditioners if possible, and resist using colorizer or whitening shampoos unless specifically needed for a show weekend.
If the mane is long enough to be braided, it should be kept in braids of about one inch width. They should be loose enough that the horse wonít break the hairs at the crest of the neck when grazing. Once the hairs begin to pull free at the crest, it is time to wash and rebraid the mane. Keeping hair braided can help limit UV exposure which causes brittle hair and discoloration.
When washing the mane, the owner can stimulate hair growth by vigorously massaging the root bed with his fingertips. This also loosens up any dead skin and other irritants that inhibit the production of hair from the follicles. The skin at the roots of the mane should always appear clean and flake-free, and the hair should not come out easily when brushing.
Horse hair takes a long time to grow and these tips can help encourage the growth process:
- Avoid regular use of shampoos and conditioners with shine or color enhancers
- Always start brushing from the ends and work up to the roots
- Brush gently to avoid breaking the hair
- Keep hair braided to help avoid UV damage
- Massage the root beds as often as possible to encourage growth
- Protect horses from biting insects
Growing a long tail is not a difficult process, but it does take time. Horses use their tail as their main protection from biting insects, and it can take its toll. Frequent use of fly sprays can help keep the horse from swatting, but exposure of the tail to these chemicals can cause the tail hair to become dry and brittle.
The use of a tail sock during fly season is a great way to protect the tail. Horses living in pastures with shrubs or other types of brush would require frequent rebraiding of the tail sock. Tails should be washed and conditioned like manes, again stimulating the root beds, and left alone. The tail should never be brushed unless resolving a matted area or getting ready for a show.
The key to growing length in the tail and mane is to avoid pulling the hairs when brushing, which causes weak spots that eventually turn into breaks. A healthy diet, regular (but not too frequent) grooming and cleanliness are the trick to beautiful manes and tails.