Top 5 Tips for Shortening Your Horse’s Mane

Jul 06, 2009 13 Comments by


I am a perfectionist through and through (I could do a perfect hunter tail braid at the age of 12 due to lots of practice and sheer will power). The perfectionist in me wants to have a heart attack not only if my horse Ace’s mane is getting too long, but when it comes time to make that first cut.

Once you get started trimming your horse’s mane, you’re committed. It’s so difficult to make it even but natural looking, short enough without getting too short, parallel with the slope of of your horse’s neck. From years of practice on lots of different manes, here are my top 5 tips for shortening your horse’s mane.

1. Determine the correct mane length

Horses who generally have shorter manes are those competing in eventing, hunter/jumpers, or dressage who require braided manes as well as in western disciplines who frequently band manes. Breeds like thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses often look better with short manes, while Arabians and gaited horses prefer long.

Optimal length may vary from horse to horse, based on how big he is, how thick his neck is, what looks right with his overall body shape and build.

But a good general rule of thumb is that a shortened mane for braiding and banding purposes should be 6 inches from root to tip.

Don’t have a ruler handy? Use the width of your hand as a general guideline. Lay your hand flat against your horse’s mane just below the crest of his neck, and aim for 1-2 inches below the width of your hand. Here’s Ace’s mane after I shortened it:


2. Start longer than you think you should

One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is to always always make those first few cuts longer than you think you should. I would measure out my perfect 6-inch mane, only to end up with one that was only 4-inches long because I tried too hard to make it perfectly even. You will have to go back and do some clean up. And somehow you’ll always end up shorter than you intended. You can always take more mane off. You can’t put it back on.

3. Use a stripping blade (it’s my favorite shortening tool!)

Here are the tools I use:


Pulling comb: As if it wasn’t difficult enough, Ace has the longest neck and the thickest mane I’ve ever had to deal with. But I’m not a  huge fan of  pulling manes, because even if Ace doesn’t have nerve endings in his roots, he still shows obvious annoyance/discomfort. I also know that if I ever want to braid him for a show, I’m going to have to thin it out. Over the last month I’ve carefully pulled 4-5 chunks out each time I’ve groomed him. But it was just getting too long for my taste, so I knew I had to forgo the pulling for a while and just get it trimmed. (not to mention we have some visitors coming tomorrow and I wanted him to look his best!)

Stripping blade: The stripping blade has sharp teeth and a wooden handle and is used similarly to how a hair stylist uses a razor. All you do is hold a small chunk of hair tight in one hand, and slice downwards with the stripping blade in the other. I like it because it’s very simple to use and leaves a  more natural looking edge. You can also get it for under $5.

4. Only do very very small chunks at a time

If there’s one thing you should take away, it’s that you need to only trim tiny chunks with each swipe of the stripping blade.


The smaller the chunks, the more natural looking and even your horse’s newly-shortened mane will be.

To keep it even, I will grab a short chunk and a neighboring long chunk in my left hand, pull it tight, and slice the long chunk just below the shorter mane.

5. Don’t wait until right before the show to shorten your horse’s mane

If you’ve never shortened your horse’s mane before, the day before the show is not the time to start. I can almost guarantee that it will end up too short on your first try, and you will have a heck of a time trying to get it braided.

I’m not showing this year, so I usually let Ace’s mane get this long before I shorten it:


It took three  months for his mane to grow to this length from a respectable 6-inches. you can see here how much I trimmed off:


If you want to maintain a well-kept, short mane, you’ll need to trim it at least every 2-3 months. If you are showing, it will need done more frequently in order for it to be braid-able.

Moral of the story: practice in the winter when you can afford to mess up and it has time to grow out. (or if you don’t show and just like a short mane, do it whenever you want!)

What other tips, tricks, and tools do you have for keeping your horse’s mane beautifull shortened? Or if you don’t, why do you prefer to keep it long?

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13 Responses to “Top 5 Tips for Shortening Your Horse’s Mane”

  1. OnTheBit says:

    I love a long mane in horses! As soon as my guy retired I let it grow out. I do still try and keep it even, but it is evenly long!

    Ace looks great with a short mane! And you poor thing when you have to braid him…his hair is so thick!

  2. RhondaL says:

    Great article! And I’m very impressed with how flat his mane is. Another article, if you don’t mind me suggesting one, would be to show how to keep a mane flat like that. Especially a thick mane like Ace’s.

  3. Deanna says:

    Excellent post! I like to have my students practice banding and braiding months ahead of show season. They may get bored, but that’s life right! A properly banded or braided mane is a beautiful thing.

  4. Jackie says:

    OTB – It’s a good thing I actually like braiding. I like it enough that I might even be silly and do it for the little Pegasus show this fall, just for fun!

    Rhonda – Don’t let this picture deceive you; it’s only laying flat because it was recently combed and Ace didn’t have any food to eat. When he puts his head down to graze, the top third of his mane ends up on the top of his neck. I do have some tricks up my sleeve for getting manes to stay on one side though, and I have been intending to use them on Ace sometime soon. I’ll have to take pictures and blog it!

    Deanna – practicing lots ahead of time is how I learned to braid, and actually had semi-decent looking ones the first time I did it for a show. I always thought it was kind of fun, so that helped. I may be able to braid nicely, but I can’t band to save my life! Sounds like a ‘how to’ post for you…

  5. Shae says:

    I read your article and today was the first time I decided
    to cut my horses mane. It came out pretty good but, I cut
    upward and toward her head is much shorter. Oh Well, It will grow back.. I did better on the second horse.

  6. Lisa-Marie Stock says:

    This post is great! How to post are really useful. I cut my horses mane it sticks up like a Mohawk! any suggestions?

  7. Mickey says:

    I just read your article and it is going to be a BIG help to me. I don’t currently own a horse (someday :P) but I do ride at a lesson place. During show season the owners get a bunch of us to shorten manes, but I’ve always hated pulling them. So I was looking for other ways to do it and a stripping blade seems like a good idea. Could you tell me where I could fine one? The local tack store doesn’t have one.
    By the way, I know what it’s like to shorten a thick mane. The horse I’m usually stuck with is a Canadian, very drafty and has a VERY thick mane, so you have my sympathy

  8. Stephaine says:

    hey i just read over this and this helps me so much … usually for show season i have someone come and cut my ponys mane cause when i do it it just dosent seem naturel….but now i an gonna try to attempty to do it on my own :) thanks sooo much it really helped 😀

  9. Bella says:

    When should your horses mane and how long do you reccomend ?

  10. Bella says:

    Ha Ha oops I meant to say when should you cut your horses mane and how long do you reccomend ? oops sorry

  11. horse riding lessons says:

    Greay tips. In addition. HOW TO KEEP A MANE LAYING THE CORRECT SIDE. Traditionally horses manes are to lay on the off (right) side of a horses neck. Most common suggestion is to plait it over to the right, but this only trains the mane in different directions, instead of straight down the neck! Instead of plaiting, bunch the mane in one inch sections with bands making sure the band is at the bottom of the hairline, otherwise you will be training it to stick up! You will have to re-do each bunch regularly as if they rub their mane and the bunches get moved it’ll be training the mane the wrong way again. You will probably have about 30 little bunches along the neck and usually it’ll only take about 3 days to work! If your horses mane lays completely on the wrong side, by bunching it this way it will always lay on the correct side! It is more difficult if your horse has a very wide maneline on his crest as it will fall on both sides, and by pulling it to thin it and then bunching it, will help!

  12. Lynn says:

    I am trying to find a stripping blade as pictured but I have not been able to – please let me know where to buy them. Thanks so much!

  13. Max says:

    His mane is so perfect! If only I could get my mare’s like that. Unfortunately, she’s missing a patch, and has too short hairs where someone tried to thin it a long time ago.

    How do you deal with braiding such a think mane? I event on a percheron cross with sooo much hair its unbelievable. She sweats underneath her mane so I’ll probably be pulling it a ton this summer. Any tips with dealing with this kind of mane?

    Finally,if your horse has a short, thick/cresty but pretty well muscled neck, how short do you recommend cutting it? I’ve never heard of different lengths to flatter the neck, but I’d love to try it out

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