Before any show, you will want to get a head start on certain types of preparation because of the amount of time that may be involved. Some of the prep work can be done in advance, but on the day of the show, last minute adjustments are to be expected.
Gather all the necessary materials–shampoo, a sponge, a bucket, and a sweat scraper. Wet the mane thoroughly using a sponge and warm water. Be careful not to get water into the eyes. While working on the mane, don’t forget the forelock; bring it back behind the ears to join the mane. Be thorough, so that the water penetrates down to the skin at the roots of the hairs. Use a mild soap or shampoo and lather the mane, don’t use a detergent. Work the soap well into the base of the hairs, to remove any buildup from the skin. Let the lather sit in place for a few minutes. Rinse the mane thoroughly with clean water, and then wring it out by hand. Be sure to remove excess water from the neck with a sweat scraper so it doesn’t chill the horse. Once you’ve finished the mane, you can wash the tail in a similar fashion. You can wet the bottom of the tail by placing it in a bucket, but will need a sponge to get the top of the tail. It is important to remove all the shampoo, so you may need to use several buckets while rinsing.
Pulling and Braiding
To thin or shorten a mane, pull any long hairs out. Take a few from the underside of the mane, wind them around a comb, and then pull with a sharp, strong tug. If you have to pull a tail, take underneath hairs and do only a few in each session. Tail pulling can be painful for the horse so it is important to take care while performing this, and also to stay clear of kicking legs should the horse become annoyed. This should be done well in advance of the date of a show.
Braiding the mane consists of three basic steps. Before you begin, you will need a needle and thread, scissors and elastic bands.
1) Divide the mane into bunches; separate bunches with the elastic bands. Braid each one, joining in a 12" thread, doubled, a third of the way down. Cut the thread, leaving a 3" end. Make an uneven number of braids.
2) Thread the needle, then wind the thread around the braid and sew the end under. Follow the same procedure with the remaining braids.
3) Sew through the top of the braid from underneath, folding it in half, and then in half again. Pull the thread tight, wind it around the braid, and then sew through several times to secure it.
Tail braiding also consists of three steps. You will need a needle and thread and scissors.
1) When braiding the tail, you cannot just divide the hairs into three groups and braid. This is because the hairs grow around the dock. Instead, take a small group of hairs from the center and each side of the tail at the top.
2) Braid down the tail. Bring in successive groups of hairs from each side and join them into the braid as you continue your way down.
3) Braid two-thirds of the way down the tail bone, and then continue without adding any new hairs. Loop the end under and secure it with thread.
By following these mane care steps, your horse will look great at any show!
Please Note: These are suggestions. If you have any questions, please contact your veterinarian or local horse professional.