How do you help the horse with “holes” in his mane?


And how do you braid a mane with gaps and missing hair?


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  • There are lots of reasons why a horse’s mane might have some “holes”, and there are a few things you can do about it. You also have some options if you are heading to a show and need to braid your horse’s mane.


  • You know the routine by now! Try and figure out why your horse has some missing mane chunks, and then try and work around that. If it’s all a mystery, loop your Vet in for a diagnosis and some meds.


Why horses may end up with holes in their mane.


Your horse’s mane is rubbed out by a blanket, sheet, or fly sheet.


  • Blanket rubs can create patchy skin as well as patchy manes. You will likely need to swap styles, cut, and/or size of the blanket to alleviate this. Higher neck versions may make things worse, or they can help distribute any pressure along the mane.


  • If you suspect it’s the blanket causing your horse’s mane to rub out, also consider the fit. If your horse is moving a lot in his blanket, or he sleeps in it, an improper fit can tighten the neck opening and cause more pressure.


leg quilt used as padding for wither area under blanket

Easy peasy.


  • You can also try using horse underwear to protect the mane. If your horse lives outside and standing in the rain, skip the full hood undies for wet weather. For just the shoulder underwear, you may be ok.


  • If you have a used leg quilt laying around, you can tuck it under the withers of your blanket as some added padding and squish to see if that helps. This can also be a bib for your horse if the blanket neck creates a wave of dented hair across his chest.


The mane is getting eaten by a pasture buddy.


  • It’s more likely that a hungry horse will chew a buddy’s tail, but you never know. Manes are tasty, too? For cases like this, you may want to try coating your horse’s mane with hot sauce. This can lead to stains, and it may not be comfortable against your horse’s skin. Hot sauce is easier to use for tails as you can just spritz the ends, away from any skin. Hot sauce ingredients, like capsaicin, will test positive.


  • Another alternative is to douse the delicious mane with conditioner. It’s a bit messy, but like a mask for your horse’s mane.


conditioner in a horse's tail


Lice and mites and other things can cause a mane to be uneven and full of “holes”.


  • These annoying parasites can actually create a lot of damage to your horse’s hair and skin. Lice can be seen by the naked eye, mites cause mange and can only be seen under the microscope.


  • These types of infections need a Vet for diagnosis and treatment. There’s a risk of secondary infection, as well, when the parasites dig deeper. This may create open wounds that itch, or the scabs themselves are itchy. Either way, your horse’s rubbing makes it all worse and can create a larger problem.

Ringworm may affect the mane.


  • Also, have your Vet check out the possibility of ringworm. This is actually a fungal infection, and can even be picked up by you. It’s usually seen on the body as a smallish bare spot, but could happen over the mane and cause some hair loss.


  • BTW, this is yet another reason for each horse to have his own set of grooming tools.


Did I mention sweet itch?


  • And here we have another skin thing that your Vet needs to diagnose – sweet itch. This allergy to certain species of midges (no-see-ums) usually creates sores and hair loss along your horse’s top side, where the bugs like to congregate. The allergic reaction is over the top, and causes wildly itchy spots.


  • Horses, being horses, will do whatever they can to itch, taking their hair and skin along with it. Sweet itch can be managed with your horse’s Vet, some strategic blanketing and fly protection, as well as selective turnout and shelter with screens at dawn and dusk.


mane rubbed by sweet itch

This was a mane, until sweet itch came calling.


Some horses just rub. If you have eliminated all other causes, there might be some more to think about.


  • How much shampoo are you using, how often are you using it, and is it stripping your horse’s sebum and natural oils away? Dry skin is itchy! Horse grooming lotions and potions shouldn’t replace manual grooming, it should enhance it.


  • And did you happen to rinse every single last drop away? Leftover residue from products may dry your horse’s skin, making it itchy.


  • Is there a lot of hair breakage? Look closely at his diet with a Vet and/or Equine Nutritionist.


  • Is your horse an Appaloosa? OK, that was a cheap shot at a lovely breed that is famous for having wispy manes, at best. My point is that genetics may be part of the bigger picture.


  • I’m sure there are a few other reasons – play detective.


What do you do if you need to braid the mane for a horse show? You have a few options here.


  • You may like to swear, in which case you can say “SCREW THIS” and roach or hog it all off. A roached mane is easy to do, easy to maintain, and much cooler in the summer. Contrary to popular belief, most show organizations do not require braids. Even the hunters. GASP! Braids are tradition, but they don’t work for all horses.


  • You can grow the rest of the mane out longer and do one long running braid, which can cover up any holes. You may be surprised to learn that some manes can easily go into a running braid at about 6-8 inches, depending on how thick the mane is. Thinner manes are often easier to turn into running braids at shorter lengths.


button braids on a dressage horse


  • If the holes in the mane are starting to grow out a bit, you can double up on yarn and try and fake a thicker patch of hair to work with.


  • You can also use false plaits to fill in any blanks for show day. I’ve seen them in rosette styles and this may be a great option for you.


Good luck in the show ring, and if you go fast enough, no one can see your braids anyway.


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