Can your horse grow long hair?
It’s a myth that doing X Y or Z can magically make your horse’s hair grow any longer. It’s up to genetics and time that determine how long your horse’s mane, tail, and forelock can grow. BUT…. (insert dramatic music here)…. we can take care of the mane, tail, and forelock so that breakage/damage is reduced, health is maximized, then strong and healthy hair grows to the longest potential. Your horse can grow long hair – to a degree.
Here’s why your horse’s mane and tail can only grow to certain lengths, it’s all about the phases of hair growth:
Hair grows in stages. The anagen, catagen, and telogen phases.
- Anagen phase. This is the growing phase of hair. Let’s assume your horse has the best possible nutrition, and he never rubs a single hair out. This means that during the anagen phase of hair growth, his hair is going to be of super quality. But, it’s still limited in how long it can grow – because the anagen phase is related to TIME. A typical anagen phase lasts two to seven years. I guess that Appaloosa horses have a two-year cycle and Saddlebreds have a seven-year cycle. It’s genetics at work!!
- Catagen phase. This is the resting phase of hair. The catagen phase lasts a few weeks, and during this time the hair follicle will chill out as new hair starts to grow in its place.
- Telogen phase. This phase of the hair’s life cycle is when the hair falls out. There’s nothing to do about it, it’s just time for the old hair to be replaced by a new one.
All of the hair on your body and your horse’s body is on this cycle, though not all on the same cycle.
- Otherwise, we would go from wooly to bald. It’s interesting to note that ALL hair is on this cycle – eyelashes to feathers to belly hair to mane to tail. Each region has its own anagen phase length – which is why our scalp hair is long while our eyelashes are not. Interesting, right?
You may consider long, loose braids to keep manes and tails from getting tangled and developing wind knots.
BUT I LOVE PRODUCTS FOR MY HORSE’S MANE AND TAIL!
- We all do! To grow a long mane and tail on our horses, we need to consider genetics above all else. Then we need to consider nutrition, then care of the hair that they have grown which is when you can bust out all of your favorite products. That is how we can optimize our horse’s mane and tail. We need to protect those hairs that the anagen phase has given us.
- Healthy hair – we do this with a proper diet. Work with your veterinarian and equine nutritionist to design a diet that works for your horse’s needs and that is balanced with the right nutrients for skin and hair. This article here has an introduction to basic diet requirements for a healthy mane and tail.
- Safe horse-keeping – are the precious tail hairs getting eaten by a pasture mate, rubbed out on a stall wall, or snagged in fencing that needs repair? There are dozens of reasons for tail rubbing, and it will seem like everything your horse can touch is a possible culprit for hair damage.
- Clean and protected – are you properly cleaning the mane and tail, and protecting it with detanglers, conditioners, and even tail bags? You have lots of options on how to make sure your horse’s tail stays clean and tangle-free. This also helps prevent breakage if the tail is caught on something.
- Your product options are many! Conditioners, detanglers, sheen products, anything to keep the hair soft, healthy, and slippery. I like grooming oils, too. Conditioners are usually rinsed out, while sheen products, detanglers, and grooming oils can be left in. You might need to experiment to find the one you like the best.
Fun facts about horse hair and how it grows
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