This cute pony best take his lovely locks and run if he sees me coming.

Photo: Photos.com

Here’s some advice: If you see me coming at your horse with a pair of scissors or thinning shears, run. Fast. And take your horse with you.

That’s because I’m pretty sure I’m the world’s worst mane manicurist, but I really don’t know why. While I was never a Pony Clubber with strict instruction, guidelines, and adult oversight in the art of show grooming, I did spend my youth in 4-H where custom dictated my Thoroughbred wear a tidy banded mane. But for some reason I’ve just never developed the skill it takes to create that perfectly thinned mane.

Part of the reason I can’t make a mane look good is that I don’t believe in pulling them. Some of you are shaking your heads as I bristle against traditional wisdom; however, I just don’t buy that horses can’t feel it when you yank their hair out by the root. (Have you ever had your eyebrows waxed? Ouch!) I formed this opinion based on the stare-of-death my Quarter Horse Jack shoots my direction whenever I’ve mistakenly pluck a stray hair. And when I did once approach Marathon with a pulling comb before a horse show, my sweet, sensitive Hanoverian gave me a single sad glance before disassociating and escaping to his mental happy place. I just couldn’t do it. 

Besides the moral imperative to “do no harm” when it comes to horses, the other part of my mane problem is that, when I’m not actively competing and going to clinics with my horses, I vacillate between wanting a long mane on my horses and a short one. That means their manes never get trained to lie flat. What can I say? I love both long flowing locks that blow in the wind as well as a tidy, sculpted mane that flatters a sleekly muscled neck.

Interestingly enough, I do the same with my own hair. A month ago I sported long (for me) blond hair. Today, it’s short and brunette. “Cut it all off, as short as you can go without making me look like a man,” I tell my hairdresser, only to change my mind at my next appointment. “I’m spending the winter growing it out—I must be able to braid my hair up in time for show season!”

It's kind of the same with my horses.

Fortunately, I can braid a mighty fine row of dressage plaits, which is the equine version of the all-forgiving up-do. And, for a braid’s ability to hide the sins of poor daily mane management, I am forever thankful to my sport and its rigid grooming requirements (just don’t look at my poor horses the day after the show—chestnut Marathon ends up looking like Little Orphan Annie).

How about you? Do you prefer a long, natural mane or a tidy one that’s show-ring ready? For those of you who thin and trim manes, what tips do you have?