Horses are fascinating and stunningly beautiful creatures. Their beauty is in part due to the length and grace of their manes. If you’re unfamiliar with horses, you might be asking yourself, why do horses have manes? Skeptics might argue that there’s no reason for horses to have manes. However, we’re here to tell you that manes serve various purposes. Let’s get started.
What Is a Mane?
A mane is the hair that grows from a horse’s neck, coming down to the top of its withers. For reference, a horse’s withers is the equine equivalent to a person’s shoulders. A horse’s mane is noticeably longer than the rest of its hair — often referred to as a coat — and is grown to protect them against rough living conditions. While manes can certainly be styled to boost a horse’s appearance, there are four primary reasons why horses have manes.
Why Do Horses Have Manes?
Adds a Layer of Protection Against Predators
Before horses were domesticated, they had to protect themselves against predators. While their most outstanding defense against the enemy was their speed, their manes have helped them survive thousand of years. Supposedly, the earliest horses looked quite a bit different than the horses we’re familiar with today. In fact, they had little to no mane at all. Like many other species, horses evolved. As a result, they started to naturally grow hair on their necks to protect themselves and their throats from predators.
Protects Them From Insects
If you’re familiar with horses, chances are you’re familiar with horseflies. Deservedly known for their aggressive nature, horseflies are pretty large. Female horseflies will bite animals, primarily horses, to eat their blood. Luckily, horses can defend themselves against horseflies and other bugs by using their tail and mane as a natural fly screen. Horses will move their head or swing their tail to protect their bodies from biting insects. Thus, the mane acts as a natural defense against pests like horseflies, which can cause blood-borne illnesses. Ensure that you regularly maintain and brush your horse’s mane for better efficacy.
Provides an Extra Layer of Warmth
Horses are more well-adapted to cold weather than you could imagine. As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, horses grow a new, thicker coat. Their manes grow heavier and thicker, keeping them warmer by insulating their skin.
You might be surprised to know that horses do not necessarily get as cold as you would think. Though their coats and manes might feel cool to the touch, their mane and hair act as natural insulation. As a result, horses can keep warm all winter long. Additionally, a horse’s mane also allows water to run off the horse’s neck if it cannot find shelter from the rain.
Acts as a Shield From the Sun
Unlike most animals, horses have sweat glands. These glands allow horses’ bodies to cool down during hot summer days. However, sweating is only one way a horse can keep itself cool. A horse’s mane shields its neck and head from the warming effects of the sun, keeping it much cooler than it’d otherwise be. In addition, a horse’s man shields its eyes from the sun, which prevents potential damage to its eyesight.
Given the benefits of a horse’s mane, horse owners must dedicate some time and effort to taking care of their horse’s mane. That includes washing, trimming, and combing it regularly. We’ve shared some fundamental grooming tips below.
How to Groom a Horse’s Mane
Trim When Necessary
Trimming is an amazing way to encourage your horse’s mane to grow healthier. However, you might want to refrain from trimming it during the winter if you plan to have your horse spend a lot of time outside. Not trimming your horse’s mane, in this case, will ensure that it will have an extra layer of warmth during the colder months.
Refrain from braiding the hair tightly and leaving it for a long time. These tight braids can stop the circulation leading to the hair strands, causing breakage. Make sure to take the extra time and effort to remove mane and tail braids after an event.
Choose a Nutrient-Rich Diet
Eating a nutrient-rich diet is not only beneficial for your horse’s overall well-being but also its mane. Achieving a glossy mane is only one effect a diet rich in antioxidants and vitamins can achieve. A well-balanced diet can also benefit your horse’s muscle health, energy levels, and overall immunity. Thus, you must feed your horse foods with plenty of nutrients.
Use a Detangler
When combing out your horse’s mane, many groomers recommend using a detangler and loosening the knots with your fingers. If you’re using a spray-on detangler to detangle your horse’s hair, we recommend giving it some time to soak into the mane before combing it.
Often combs are preferred over brushes as they’re more gentle and easier to work through the hair. If your horse has burrs, groomers recommend spraying detangler on the affected spot before gently combing through it. If you’re not careful, you could risk removing some of your horse’s hair in addition to the burr.
It’s important to note that it is possible to overuse detanglers. Most of them have ingredients that can dry out your horse’s mane, leading to brittleness and breakage. When purchasing a detangler, conditioner, or shampoo, ensure you do your research about the product and its ingredients before using it on your horse’s mane.
What Is Mane-Pulling and Why Is It Necessary?
Mane-pulling is the act of brushing the hair from the root for the sake of thinning and shortening the mane. This is mainly done for the horse’s presentation and to maintain manageable and healthy-looking hair for braiding. Groomers suggest pulling the horse’s mane every few weeks to keep it clean and even. Pulling is preferable to trimming. Your horse’s mane will look more polished and even by pulling the hair rather than trimming it. Due to an unnatural finish, trimmed manes can look rough and unfit for presentation.
How to Pull a Horse’s Mane
Before you start pulling, you will need to comb out your horse’s mane to remove any burrs and tangles. Next, take a section of your horse’s hair and comb backward. Carefully wrap the hair that remains around the comb and carefully pull it to remove it. If done correctly, the horse shouldn’t show any signs of pain or discomfort.
In early spring, horses will usually shed. We recommend pulling your horse’s mane during this time of year, as it will make it easier for the hair to come out.
Additionally, there’s no need to pull your horse’s forelock (the “bangs” on its head). These hairs generally stay short enough that you shouldn’t need to worry about them. You can thoroughly comb this section of hair for a more polished look.
So, why do horses have manes? To summarize, manes offer horses additional warmth and protection. We hope you’ve found the answers to your questions in this article, along with a few new tips you might consider applying. If you have lingering questions regarding the management of your horse, especially in chilly or hot climates, we recommend consulting with your veterinarian for more specific guidance.