What should my horse’s mane and tail look like?


This past week, my business partner and friend Mark came out from Germany with some of his family for a visit.

We have been working together for over 5 years and talk weekly on the phone and on Skype but there was still a kind of “disconnect” as we had never actually met each other in person.

But when he arrived it was like we had known each other all our lives and we just started chatting and laughing like long time friends.

The “disconnect” that I felt because we are normally so far apart and had never met, just dissolved in seconds.

Even more than that…

After 3 days of being together, working with my horses together, getting to know each other, and talking (a lot), something else happened… naturally and organically.

We became “family”.

In other words, we became a herd just by hanging out and spending time together.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the benefits and magic of this process and it won’t be the last, so if you haven’t taken the time to do this, you really should. Ask Mark!

Actually, I’ve got an even better story to share with you about this next week so stay tuned for that as it’s the perfect illustration of what I mean by the magic of this process.

Now back to the advice I started last week on the subject of grooming…

To remind you, last week I answered a question from one of my readers about the standard way to groom a horse and the steps I take when I groom.

And another inquisitive reader had sent in this question…

  1. Is there a universal grooming standard for all horses (mane and tails)?

The simple answer – NO!

There is not one universal standard for all breeds of horses when it comes to the mane and tail length and style. However, there are a lot of standards.

It not only depends on the breed, but also the discipline and if you are showing your horse or not.

Each breed does have sites online that can tell you what the requirements are for shows, what the “norm” is for certain disciplines, and also preferred standards for particular ages.

This is what we said last week when it came to grooming your horse’s mane and tail…

  • Grooming the mane and tail differs according to the breed and the use of your horse. For most horses you can use a mane and tail comb/brush.
    • A horse with fine, thin hair that falls out easily should have its mane and tail groomed frequently with nothing more severe than a soft brush and the knots separated with your fingers to limit hair loss.
    • Burrs and knots should not be combed out. Rather pull hairs away from the burr or knot until it is free. This method prevents excessive hair loss.
    • When brushing the tail, always stand to the side of your horse. Do not stand directly behind your horse.
    • A pulling comb is used to shorten and thin a mane and forelock.
      • Never use scissors to shorten the mane or tail (which is what happened to my lovely, new Arabian stallion Kit before he came into my care).

And here are a few “standards” to show how different they can be…


Traditionally, you DO NOT cut an Arabian’s mane or tail. For hunter, you leave the mane long and do either a running braid or a plait braid. You can do button braids too, depending on the length of your horse’s mane, in which case you’ll need yarn and a needle to “sew” them into place.

For the tail, many people leave the tail untouched, but some people choose to do the top of the tail braid, which is basically a French braid to the end of the tailbone.

Part of the Arabian breed standard is to have a horse with a natural and flowing mane and tail. Always remember to take out the braids after your classes and don’t leave them in overnight.

4H Ponies in Show:

Your horse should either have a 2 inch mane, properly banded, or if you rein and do cow horse events, it is appropriate in 4H to leave your horse’s mane long and natural. Though it doesn’t hurt to band it either. For your tail it should be conditioned, brushed, and clean looking. Nothing special needs to be done to it (i.e. braiding or cutting it). If your horse’s tail drags on the ground it should be cut to the bottom of their hind fetlock, if it’s shorter, don’t worry about it.

Andalusians and Lusitanos:

Famous for their romantic, flowing locks, they have a rich history, dating back to 15th century Spain. They have been meticulously preserved over the years, and many owners still adhere to the historic mane and tail standards. Keeping these voluminous, lush manes and tails up to par is a considerable task, requiring a consistent and thorough grooming regimen that can help promote strong, healthy hair in horses.


A thoroughbred’s mane should be pulled by hand with the aid of a very thin mane comb, round which you can wind the hairs you choose to pull, a few at a time. This is the best method, thinning the mane at the same time. You must not cut it! Leave a gap behind the ears, which you clip out or cut with scissors. You should pull the mane to about 5/6 inches long, slightly shorter near the ears and again near the wither. You can also comb it onto the other side to thin underneath, if necessary. In this way you will maintain a very smart mane that will lie down and stay down. When you go to a show you can easily plat it and put it into neat bobbles.

A thoroughbred horse in racing generally has a full Swish tail. Out of racing, a Bang Tail is appropriate, for which you pull the hairs at the top, making a nice slim shape and then full at the bottom. Be careful not to brush or comb your horse’s tail too much, or you will lose hair and the fullness at the bottom. Use your fingers; if in a tangle wash first and put Show Shine or whatever brand to stop the hairs sticking. After pulling the top, wash the tail and bandage it to keep the short hairs lying flat. The tail should be trimmed at the bottom in a soft shape with scissors, so that the bottom of the tail looks level when held up, as in action, coming to the hocks. When relaxed the tail should be 5/6 inches below the hocks.

These are just some of the “normal” standards for these breeds.

However, you always have the right and the choice to do what you and your horse are happy with, what is safe depending where you are housing your horse, and what looks good and is appropriate for your horse, but…

Always follow your heart!

Till next time, Happy Horses!


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