Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Haircut Time!

While it doesn't feel like it, we really are into March, and March means the start of horse show season! I'll be more excited about it once the weather stops pretending it's still December, but I have started thinking about all the stuff I need to do in order to be ready for our first show on the 16th. The most glaringly obvious thing I need to work on from that list is this:

Scruffy, unkempt, and way too long!
Lilly is nowhere near show ready! I've had her tail bagged, but clearly I've let her mane and bridle path get a little out of control. It was partly because I was hoping it would lay flatter this year if I let it go over the winter, and the other part of it is because I hate how thick her mane is and how quickly it grows, so I decided to give myself a break from constantly trying to maintain it. Now I get to pay the price.

I've been doing a little mane research, hoping to find that one little trick that would work wonders on her yak mane. I refuse to pull it because it clearly makes her uncomfortable. Yeah, yeah, horses don't have nerve endings in there, it doesn't hurt them, blah blah blah. One day, many years ago, when I pulled my gelding's mane, he bled. I haven't pulled a mane since that day. Sorry... I just can't do it. I've tried all kinds of tools, combs, and tricks, and last year I even did a half roach... I clipped the bottom half of her mane so it was half as thick. I might resort to that again this year, but I still have to shorten it, and I find the easiest way to do that is to use my scissors. I cut upwards into her mane and it usually turns out looking pretty good, especially after it has been banded. The problem with that is her mane doesn't actually get thinned (unless I employ my clippers). The ends of her mane are thinner, but it's still really thick up by her crest, so I'm still never really happy with it.

A couple days ago, I was cruising around on YouTube and saw a video posted by Lynn Palm. She was pulling her horse's mane the traditional way, but she was using a different method to actually pull the hair out. She claimed that it wasn't the hair being pulled out that the horses didn't like, it was how we yank and rip. So if we do it her way, the horse doesn't get upset and everyone is happy. She said instead of teasing up the hair, wrapping it around the comb, and yanking, you just apply steady, downward pressure to the comb, along the horse's neck, and the crest will naturally let go of the hair. I watched the video in amazement, thinking I would be absolutely okay with trying that on Lilly. She said the method works best if you do it when it's warm, or after you've exercised the horse for 10 minutes because their pores will open up and it'll be easier to pull out the hair.

So I went to the barn today to give it a try. There was nowhere to exercise Lilly, and it wasn't anywhere close to being warm, but I thought it should still work, although maybe not as well. I wasn't planning to do her entire mane today anyway, so I could start it, and finish it up on warmer days. I did some major chopping with the scissors first, to get rid of some of the length, but I couldn't find my pulling comb. I probably threw it away thinking I'd never use the darn thing. So that might have been part of my problem, but I couldn't get Lilly to "release" any of her mane hair. Not one single strand. Maybe I wasn't pulling down hard enough, maybe it was too cold, maybe my comb was too flexible, or maybe I don't know what the heck I'm doing. It was a major fail, but I haven't given up on the idea yet. I'll find a comb to buy from somewhere and try again when it's warmer.

Determined to still accomplish something, I busted out the clippers, scissors, and thinning shears and worked on her bridle path and a portion of her mane. I always start in the lower middle area and work my way out from there. It seems I'm able to keep a better line that way for some reason. The thinning shears worked fairly well, but it makes more of a mess when the hair grows back in compared to pulling. The pulled hair is removed in a more random pattern. For now, though, it looks pretty good in that one very small spot.

It has to get worse before it can get better...
So much work left!
I'm hoping I have better luck after I have the proper comb. Lynn made it look so easy on her video! Have any of you ever used her method to pull your manes?


  1. I have to be honest, I never in my life thought I would want to groom a horse for a show, but as of late am finding that I need to do just that. I went to a halter clinic and the way they showed me was to just use my fingers grab just a few strands and then slide the surrounding hairs up, then pull. But there were so few pulled at a time it didn't bother Sassy at all. Of course we only did it twice. I'm sure an hour of it would bother her.
    They also told me to clip all of his white. Do you do that?

  2. I'm sorry I meant all of Trax's white. Not Sassy's

    1. The way they showed you to pull the mane is how most people do it. You take a small piece of the mane, use the comb to slide the shorter hairs up (like teasing), and then pull out the ones that remain. Usually you wrap them around the comb and yank so it's easier on your fingers. Most horses are usually good with it for a while, but start shaking their head trying to avoid the pulling as time goes on. Some horses aren't bothered by it at all, and some of them will allow it for short periods of time so you can get their mane done in a couple days by doing a little at a time. Lilly has such a thick mane that it takes forever and her reaction tells me it's uncomfortable for her. So instead of fighting it, I just use my scissors. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones and your horses won't mind. :)

      As far as clipping, you're supposed to clip all the white on their legs. Since Lilly and Trax are both Paints, you can imagine how much fun that would be since their white goes all the way up their legs. I usually clip Lilly up to (and sometimes including) her knees. I usually stop below the knee because it's easier to blend the short hair into the longer hair without it being as noticeable. The knee kind of hides the blending and won't show any mistakes as much. Same with her hind legs... all the way up to her hocks.

      Some of the horses at the shows I go to aren't clipped even a little bit and it doesn't seem to matter. I still clip and band anyway, but it isn't necessary at some shows.

  3. We don't pull manes either. We pretty much use the same method you do - thinning shears and scissors. Even back in my show days I did it this way.

  4. I use Lynn's method and it works really well. Jetta mainly hates the whole "standing-still-for-long-periods-of-time" part, but as long as I don't get impatient and only pull little pieces of hair out, it doesn't bother her.

  5. Wow, Lynn's new method sounds really interesting, I may have to try it! Lilly looks wonderful with a pulled mane :)

  6. Instead of using scissors to shorten, try using a seam ripper. You grab a small section of mane, then sort of saw the seam ripper up and down to cut. Unlike scissors, it makes the ends uneven, and a sharp seam ripper will cut the hairs instead of splitting the ends (don't use a dull one).

    Cash HATED having his mane pulled, but he had a super-thick mane. Every time I'd ride, I'd spend 2-3 minutes pulling before the ride (using fingers only, pulling from the bottom), and another few minutes after the ride. It kept his mane at a place where it was thin enough to braid, and didn't piss him off. Pain in the butt to keep up, though!

  7. I completely agree about pulling the mane. Ill have to try Lynns method!

  8. My masochistic monster-pony actually seems to enjoy having his mane pulled. I can pull out huge chunks at a time and he just stands there patiently.

    Chiming in on the clipping legs conversation: I do what in2paints does. Junior has white up to his knees/stifles so I find the point where there is a natural shadow below the joint and blend it there. I only use a 10 blade on the legs (I don't go for pink legs) and I do it within a week of a show, depending on when in my schedule I'll have enough time to take down all of the sasquach's legs. I also use ShowClean to help whiten the hair the day before a show and when all else fails, the can of white Shapely's Show Touch Up helps a lot, even though it makes me feel like I'm cheating. But spraypaint seems harmless when compared to so many of the things people do to their horses to prep for shows.