Last Updated on April 2, 2022 by Allison Price
No matter your riding style, every horse knows someone who hates having his mane pulled. This is not the case. Only 3% of horses have problems with professional braiders, mostly because they have had bad experiences in their past. When done properly, pulling does not hurt.
Imagine two wild stallions. One horse wins because he pulls the hair of the other. Horses do not have nerve endings like people do. Horses are taught to dislike having their manes pulled by people. This is because pulling doesn’t work the same way as other training methods. These are some ways to increase confidence in pulling and shortening manes.
1. Shortening vs. Pulling
As a general term, I use “pulling” to describe it. Sometimes, we pull out the hair. Sometimes it is just necessary to cut the hair. Pulling from the roots is the best option if the mane is too thick. There is still a way to trim the mane.
The mane should not be blunted or fall in unnatural looking clumps. So, scissors do not suit our purposes. To cut the hair, I use an Oster 84 AU large clipper blade to comb, tease, and cut it. Even if it has to be sharpened, this tool works better than any other. To make the mane fall, band or braid well, you need to taper it at the bottom. To create a clean, straight bottom, I trim the last few inches of the mane.
To reduce the length of your mane, take a few pieces from a large area and pull the large blade towards the floor. It’s very simple.
2. Keep it simple
To pull a few hairs from the bottom of your mane, hold your hand parallel with the crest. This is the most efficient pulling technique. Encourage people to comb up to the crown. Press your thumb against the spine of the comb to grab the hair. As you pull the hair, keep your thumb on the spine. Your thumb will use the comb to pull the hair from the roots.
Your horse may shake his head when you brush his mane. He resists your idea of what you can do. To build his confidence, you should comb his hair all the time. When he isn’t anticipating trouble, pull one or two hairs out as you groom. It’s not a big deal, just do it once, and you can move on. This will help to desensitize him.
4. It’s not too much
It may be as easy as pulling out less hair. I usually pull 15 hairs across a large area at once. You are making the horse hate the comb by wrapping it around the hair.
5. Spread it
Because pulling one is not an option, I prefer a people’s comb. They can be difficult to hold and cut my fingers. A thicker spine helps you leverage your hair, so it is easier to comb the hair.
I don’t recommend starting at one side. To reduce horse’s anxiety and to keep them from getting into trouble, pull from here and there. You should stop if you are only half done with the task and the horse is tired. If you are pulling in an irregular pattern and the horse is not happy, it’s best to stop.
Sometimes pulling the mane is the best option. This will allow the horse’s skin to open up and reduce its resistance. Sometimes pulling when the horse is tired can be enough to keep him relaxed. You are teaching your horse that pulling too hard can cause the horse to pull more than necessary. Also, braids and loose hair will not sit well on the neck if the half of the hair is shorter than the rest. Short hair will push the rest of the hair out of place. You should pull a small section of your horse’s crest or mane every now and again to ensure it doesn’t grow in all at once.
Pulling should be done at home. Horse shows are stressful enough. You can pull the mane well at home, so that the horse will have less work at the show. It may be better to hire a professional if you are not able to pull the mane well. Do your horse a favor and tell the braider in advance so that he or she can pull the mane well before it is needed.
7. Reduce Anticipation
Your horse will lift his head when you reach up to touch him. He is afraid of what might happen. You are out of sight, but not of mind. Simple blindfolds can help. Use a towel that is larger than a hand towel. Wrap the towel around the halter until it is taut. You might use a longer towel to wrap the halter. It is not a good idea for the horse to let the towel go and then have it come at him in the face. This would be destructive. We want to instill confidence. Make sure you secure the towel.
8. For Success
A horse will usually run backwards first. The best scenario is for the horse to run backwards if he is on crossties. He will then realize that pulling can be a problem.
Better is to place the horse in the corner of the stall. If he asks you questions, it doesn’t snowball. It is possible to avoid any problems by backing your horse into a corner. Sometimes, this is enough to make your horse feel at ease.
If you are working in a stall, please ensure that you have access to the outside. Always be close to the door. The door should be left open, not closed. The horse might think it’s fine to open the door, but it won’t fit if you do. He’ll then hurt himself and charge through doors. This will make it very dangerous. Always keep your safe out.
Another reason why you shouldn’t go near a horse’s back stall is because you could get pinched. Amazing things can happen. You can be crushed by a horse who scoots against the wall and pins you against it. Horses are naturally inclined to respond to pressure. You won’t be capable of getting him to stop panicking and spinning if he does. This is a dangerous way to go. Always find a direct way out.
9. Forget your riding principles
If your horse resists you riding, you can bend, bend, and he will. If your horse resists pulling, stop pulling. Fear is the reason he resists pulling. You are showing the horse that it doesn’t have to be a problem by stopping and returning to it again. You are helping to desensitize the horse by pulling only a small amount every now and again.
Pulling is mostly a matter of handling. You can make it easier for your horse by using careful timing, positioning and technique.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!