A close-up of Sawyer’s dry, breakage-prone mane in winter. Check out those split ends!

My horse, Sawyer, has some challenges in the mane department. He’s a Lippitt Morgan, so a long, full mane is part of his breed type. Unfortunately, his mane hair is just not very resilient. Sawyer’s chestnut mane is extremely prone to sun damage and split ends, and since he lives outside 24/7, this is impossible to avoid. He also tends to be itchy, and causes more hair damage by scratching his neck against solid objects, especially in the summer.

Because of these hairy challenges, I’ve become interested in understanding all the ways we can impact mane and tail growth, resilience, and vibrancy. Today I thought I would share these insights, in case your horse is also in need of a mane and tail makeover!

Factors of Healthy Hair
Many variables impact mane and tail health and luster, including:
• Genetics (some breeds tend to have thicker, more resilient hair than others)
• Color (horses of certain color seem to have hair that’s more easily damaged than others)
• Sun bleaching and damage (how much time does horse spend outside?)
• Hair breakage from rubbing (does the horse rub on fence, stall door, trees, etc.? Is the horse sticking his head through the fence to eat grass?)
• Grooming damage (how carefully are the mane and tail combed out, to avoid breaking hairs?)
• Are there other horses in the herd causing mane/tail damage? (For example, sometimes youngsters will chew eachother’s tails!)
• Diet (adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, quality protein, and healthy fats contribute to healthy hair growth)
• Bathing frequency (baths can dry out the haircoat, mane, and tail, making them more vulnerable to damage)

Good Grooming Practices
• Limit how often you comb through your horse’s mane and tail, only do so after you’ve applied a detangler and have given it time to dry, then comb out small sections gently, working from the bottom, up.
• Since bathing can dry out hair and make it more prone to damage, carefully consider the optimal frequency for bathing your horse. Check out this blog, Bathing: How much is too much?, as well as Tips for Maintaining the Perfect Tail, from professional groom Emma Ford.
• When you do bath, use a moisturizing shampoo such as Warhorse Equine Shampoo & Conditioner (Check out our video review here), and follow it with a post-bath leave-in conditioner like EcoLicious Silky Rinse Out Coat, Mane & Tail Conditioner, which restores hair with natural oils and provides some protection against the sun.
• Do not comb your horse’s mane and tail when it’s wet; apply your conditioning products and allow the hair to dry fully before carefully detangling.
• For day-to-day grooming, I recommend a dual strategy of applying both treatment/conditioning product and a detangling product (or better yet, one that does both) several times per week. If you use separate products, I have found that alternating each one 1-3 times per week works well.
• Choose a comb with wide, forgiving teeth, such as the Tail Tamer’s Rainbow Paddle Brush, or my current favorite, the Epona Wood Curry Brush (Check out our video review here).

Daily grooming products that treat and condition manes and tails:
Mane-ly Long Hair Repair Conditioner (also great post-shampooing) can be mixed with water in the Mane-ly Hydrate 24 Bottle Pack to create a daily mane and tail conditioning spray that horse owners rave about!
Eqyss Mega-Tek Rebuilder is a cream formula that easily soaks in to the hair. I love that it’s petroleum-free, and can also be used on hooves, blanket rubs, and more.
Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Recon Leave-In Conditioner – This brand is new to SmartPak and has quickly become one of my favorites! I have been using this spray several days a week for a couple of months. The apricot oil smells great, and it’s obvious that the formula is soaking in to the hair, conditioning and softening it. For damaged manes and tails like Sawyer’s, this product works even better when followed by the Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Treatment & Detangler! I’ve been using and loving both.

Topical mane and tail products that detangle:
Show Sheen Hair Polish – Tried and true! If long-lasting, tangle-free manes and tails are your priority, you can’t go wrong with this longtime best-seller.
Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine – The makers of this beloved product say that it conditions the hair in addition to detangling, but I’ve used it extensively, and I find that it performs better as a detangler than a conditioner/treatment. The formula is a concentrated, silky gel that creates a nice sheen to the mane and tail, and helps repel dust and dirt.
Canter Silk Mane & Tail Conditioner – This spray is also formulated to condition and detangle, but in my experience, it works best as a detangler. It is a favorite of many horse owners, and has a unique, continuous sprayer that’s really fun to use! (Check out our video review here.)
Stubben Brush On Care – Described as more of a coat product, but I’ve found it works quite well as a mane and tail detangler with light conditioning. The rose and green tea scent is unique and very pleasant. If you’re looking for a product that can double as both a coat spray and a mane and tail spray, I recommend giving this one a try. (Check out our video review here.)
Walnut Power Detangler and Camomile Power Detangler from Leovet – In addition to promoting bouncy, tangle-free manes and tails, these two formulas help bring out color in dark and light-colored manes, tails, and coats respectively.

My favorite approach is topical mane and tail products that condition AND detangle, all-in-one:
Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Treatment & Detangler – As mentioned above, this product is the perfect follow-up step to the Knotty Horse Apricot Oil Recon Leave-In Conditioner. The two-step program is probably not necessary for horses with strong, healthy manes and tails, but it has been working great for Sawyer. This formula is a concentrated, silky consistency like Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine, but the apricot kernel oil soaks into the hair more than coating it. This helps to improve its condition over time, while also do a great job detangling and producing shine. As a bonus, the apricot kernel oil gives the formula a nice smell, without added fragrance, and is a natural UV protectant!
Leovet 5 Star Detangler – This spray is AMAZING and one of my other top recommendations of all time. It, too, soaks in to help promote more resilient hair shafts, yet it also does a great job detangling. The resulting finish to the mane and tail is soft and flowy, but not particularly shiny. I also love this product because it contains ingredients that help combat itchy skin (I rub it in to the base of my horse’s mane and into his tailbone with HandsOn Grooming Gloves) and it is hands-down the best smelling horse grooming product on the planet. Trust me! (Check out our video review here.)
Leovet Silkcare Conditioner – Another great-smelling product from Leovet, this formula helps to condition manes and tails using unique silk proteins that support healthy hair structure. This product also doubles as a coat spray that deters stains and leaves your horse’s whole body soft but not slippery. A great option for greys and horses with a lot of white! (Check out our video review here.)
EcoLicious De-Stress Intensive Restructuring & Conditioning Treatment for Mane & Tails – I love this natural formula that includes coconut oil, organic hemp oil, apricot kernel oil, and olive oil. It also contains rosemary extract to help promote hair growth, and sunflower extract as a natural sun protectant.

Supporting Healthy Hair from the Inside Out
When it comes to growing healthy, resilient hair, diet is another factor to look at. First, make sure your horse is receiving adequate levels of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and quality protein. Need help? Check out our Supplement Wizard.

If, after addressing the nutritional basics, your horse still needs hair help, consider SmartMane & Tail. As part of a well-rounded diet and management program, this supplement is designed to support healthy hair growth, together with the grooming tips discussed above. The formula provides 2,000 mg of collagen, a source of high quality protein, plus added essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein), omega 3 fatty acids from flax seed, 10 mg of biotin, other B vitamins, and a balanced profile of copper and zinc. Of course, because growing healthy manes and tails takes time, be patient when evaluating the results of this formula.

I hope this has given you some helpful take-aways for helping your horse to have the most beautiful mane and tail in the barn! I’m still figuring out what works best for Sawyer, and I’ll keep you all posted. As always, if you need help with your horse’s supplement program or just want to chat with some awesome, knowledgeable horse people while you shop for products, don’t hesitate to contact our wonderful Customer Care Team.

Sawyer’s mane, not looking too bad, after lots of TLC.