Techniques to Help You Pull and Shorten Horse Manes

Updated September 22, 2023
A palomino horse's mane

Keeping manes tidy and under control is a constant battle for riders and grooms. If you factor in having a horse with a fine, thin mane hair or a young horse that doesn't yet know his manners, pulling the mane can be a challenge. Whether you pull or trim your horse’s mane, practicing the right techniques can make a big difference in the final result. In this article, you’ll learn techniques to help you pull a mane of a fussy horse or trim a thin mane to keep it neat and tidy.

How to Trim Thin Manes

Maintaining a thin mane takes time and practice. Trimming can be a great alternative if your horse has thin hair or you don’t want to use a pulling comb. Several products on the market are designed to trim horse manes instead of pulling them, including the Solocomb or even a bot knife. 

In some seasons, you can vertically snip the long parts of the mane with scissors to keep things tidy, but it won't have the pulled look some riders and trainers prefer. Here are some tips for getting the pulled look when you trim your horse’s mane.

Mane Trimming Tips

  • Don’t try a new technique the night before you need to braid. There is nothing worse than over-shortening the mane and then trying to braid it.
  • Trim off less mane first. You can always go shorter.
  • Always trim a dry mane. Wet hair stretches, and getting the mane to an even length can be difficult.

4 Steps to Trimming Horse Manes 

  1. Comb through the mane.
  2. Using the knife, take a few hairs and back-comb through the strands.
  3. Holding the end of the hair, use the knife to razor the tips off.
  4. Comb through the same section and repeat the process until the mane is at the required length.

Practice makes perfect. If, at first, you fail, try again. Remember, it’s hair and will grow back. Learning from someone with a lot of firsthand experience can also be a great way of mastering mane-trimming and pulling techniques.

step by step how to shorten a thin mane

How to Pull a Mane of a Fussy Horse

Try the pull-and-treat method if you struggle with your horse while trying to pull their mane. Try to use positive associations with the activity. Every time you pull the mane, keep the session short and always positive. Having lots of treats on hand and a calm demeanor will help immensely. 

Start Slow

Comb the mane, and when the horse relaxes, drops his head, takes a breath, or licks give the treat. Repeat this step until the horse associates having his mane handled with a treat. This process could take one session, a week of sessions, or more, depending on the horse’s history with mane handling. Be patient, consistent, and quick with the treat.

Put Pressure on the Mane

Starting in the middle of the mane, where the horse is least sensitive, pull 2-3 hairs, holding the crest of the neck simultaneously with the other hand so the horse feels more pressure on the neck than pulling on the mane. Give the horse a treat. Repeat this step until the horse associates mane pulling with getting a treat.

Reward Head Dropping

Refine by brushing the mane, waiting for the horse’s head to drop, pulling a few times, then treating. Never give a treat when their heads are up. Even if their heads were down during the pull and then came up, always wait until the head dropped before giving a treat.

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.