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While winter weather has many fun moments, such as hot chocolate by the fire, sledding and snowy winter horseback rides or drives, it can make some parts of being a horse owner more challenging. One of these challenges is proper mane and tail care during the cold winter months. If you have a breed prone to long, thick, gorgeous hair, it can be even more difficult! We have a few tips and tricks to make winter hair care easier regardless of the time of year.
We recommend at least one thorough wash before cold weather sets in. Make sure to rinse all of the shampoo and conditioner out to avoid drying and irritation. Leaving the conditioner on the hair for one or two minutes prior to rinsing can help soften and detangle the hair. Once the shampoo and conditioner have been rinsed out, you can use a detangler to help smooth the hair. Using a comb or a brush, gently comb out any tangles and allow to dry. You can also trim the tail at this time to ensure it is not stepped on. There are several waterless shampoo options that can be used if it is too cold for a complete wash. Waterless shampoos allow you to remove stains without needing water!
Now that you are working with clean hair, there are a few different options for protecting the horse’s mane and tail. The hair can be left loose (preferable in the summer), braided, or placed in a tail bag. A tail bag and braids are recommended during the winter months to protect the hair. Hair is exposed to more moisture and mud during cold weather so this will also keep things cleaner. Regardless of your preference, braids and tail bags should be removed and the hair combed once per week.
Putting on a tail bag is simple, takes a few minutes and will save you time whenever you comb or brush out your horse’s tail. Start with a simple, loose three-strand braid beginning at the bottom of the tailbone. Be sure not to make the braid too tight or it can cut off circulation. Place the braid inside the tail bag and secure just below the tailbone. Most bags have a tie for securing the bag quickly and easily. Mud braids are another alternative to tail bags. These take a bit more time and some practice to find the right tension for your horse.
If you choose mane braids during the winter month, we recommend numerous single braids rather than a running braid. These take a bit more time than the tail braid/bag, but are a big time saver later on. To create these braids, section off a 2-3 inch section, depending on the thickness of your horse’s mane. Proceed to braid a loose three-strand braid and secure with an elastic. You will continue with these sections until you have the entire mane braided. We suggest starting at the bridle path and moving towards the withers. Just like the tail braid/bag, these braids should be removed, brushed out and replaced weekly.