Roaching manes – it’s easy!
It may be a good idea to roach, AKA hog, your horse’s mane. Or it may not be. First, we should consider some reasons for roaching a mane, and some reasons for leaving the mane long. I’m not a huge fan of “always do it this way”, because as we all know, horses are experts at proving us wrong and sometimes roaching manes just works out to be best for everyone.
Photo by JCAndalusians.com
Why roach a mane?
- A horse’s job will often dictate their mane turnout. Polo ponies and some field hunters are usually roached so that the mane doesn’t interfere with high-speed play and lots of tack and reins.
- A horse’s breeding may also come into play. For example, some saddlebreds have partially roached manes and forelocks. Growing up, I knew some Appys that were roached because their super wispy and pokey manes just looked better after being roached.
- You may also have a horse with medical reasons that necessitate roaching. A skin infection, sweet itch, a surgical site, laceration repair, or even lice infestation may remove all or part of the mane. Roach that baby to bring some continuity to your horse’s top line!
- There may also be a case in which a mane interferes with medication being applied, so roaching the mane can allow for topical medications to be more effective.
- When I was traveling in Central America, the horses there have roached manes to facilitate the finding of ticks – which are everywhere. Gross to think about, but a good reason to roach a mane.
- For those of us who have ever taken a horseback riding lesson, you may recall hearing the phrase “grab mane”. Boy, if I had a nickle… A roached mane won’t allow this, so a bucking strap on the saddle is a good alternative to grabbing mane.
- Polo horses often have a tuft of mane that remains long near the wither. This may be a suitable option to “grab mane.”
Photo by Lisa B.
There are, of course, some other reasons to not roach a mane.
- You are removing some of your horse’s fly control, unless you were one of the many sparsely maned Appys I knew growing up, in which case there was none to start.
- The mane also serves as a means of creating braids, which are traditional in many disciplines in the show ring. Many of us don’t show, so that may not apply. Also, note that it’s RARE for a show organization to require braids in the show ring.
Pick the best clippers or trimmers for the job.
- I like to use smaller clippers, so I have more control, and the chances of a “dig” accidentally into the neck hairs are reduced. This works best for shorter and thinner manes. Trimmers are appropriate here. It’s quite handy to have a cordless version to avoid getting yourself tangled in the cord.
- For thicker manes, opt for a body clipper. You will need more power, with makes getting through that forest of a mane easier. Body clippers do come in cordless versions!
- Make sure you are using sharp blades. A #10 blade is just about right for mane roaching. Anything closer, like a #30 or #40, doesn’t leave any hair.
- You can also use clipper combs or guards to keep the blade a bit off the skin.
- Oil those blades! Before you start, lube up your clippers or trimmers with clipper oil. Reapply every five minutes as you are working!
This horse’s mane is usually roached, here it has grown out a bit. And straight up.
Roaching manes – do the prep work
- It’s just like body clipping! Start with a clean and conditioned mane.
- In the summer, a bath with your favorite horse shampoo does the trick. You can add a conditioner and rinse it if you like.
- In the winter, groom your horse thoroughly. Use your fingers and grooming gloves to lift any dandruff from under the mane.
- Follow up with a no-rinse shampoo on a damp rag to remove any dirt. This takes time and effort – but will save your clipper blades from certain destruction. The cleaner the mane, the nicer the finished product will be.
- Regardless of the season, consider using a grooming oil or sheen product to add extra slickness to the mane. This reduces any tugging, helps the clippers glide, and saves your clipper blades.
Start roaching at the withers
- This is the easy part. I like to leave the forelock (unless it’s a polo pony) and the rest of the mane is gone. As always, having a friend around to help you hold your horse is critical, as you don’t want a spook in the crossties as you are on a stool over his neck.
- Don’t dig in, and keep the blade at a consistent angle as you work your way up the neck.
- You may find that under that mane, your horse has some divets in his neck. You can tempt your horse to lower his neck with a bucket of treats or hay. This lengthens his topline and you can get a smooth roach.
- Use caution as you approach the ears while roaching the mane, and remember – it all grows back!
With some practice, roaching manes enhances your horse’s top line.
- Close to the skin at poll and withers with a bit longer in the middle can enhance a weaker neck. You will also need to notice how many days or weeks after a roaching session your horse looks the best so that you can plan ahead if you do have a clinic or show.
Go shopping here for everything you need for roaching manes. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not cost you a penny more! And I thank you, a thousand times over.
Wahl Professional Animal Bravura Lithium Clipper – this includes the 5 in 1 blade that goes from a #9 to a #40. Perfect for designs!
Professional Animal Stainless Steel Attachment Guide Combs for Wahl’s Bravura, Arco, Chromado, Figura, and Motion Pet Clippers (3379) – these combs match the 5 in 1 blades.
Professional Animal Stainless Steel Attachment Guide Combs for Detachable Blade Clippers (3390-100) – for detachable blades.