Detangling a tangled and matted horse mane and tail can be a frustrating and time-consuming process- too often resulting in excessive loss of hair and thinning of the tail in the process! Below you will find illustrated instructions on how to detangle a mane relatively quickly with the absolute minimum hair loss. This method works equally well to detangle matted and knotted horse tails.
Begin by trying to isolate sections of the mane or tail. On this horse, we select one matted, tangled dreadlock of the mane to detangle first. The hair of the mane or tail should be shampooed prior to detangling if possible and rinsed thoroughly. Dirt is often what binds the tangled hair together.
Next we apply our detangler to the section of the horse’s mane that we are working on. After trying many different products, I use and recommend Cowboy Magic Horse Hair Detangler and Conditioner. If not accessible, most human grade detanglers work sufficiently. Apply very liberally- this is no place to skimp! The more you use, the less horse hair you’ll lose during detangling.
Massage detangler deep into the core of the knot or tangle.
For a tangled mane or tail, try to locate the largest twisted or knotted sections of hair and follow them backwards, untying the knot. For dreadlocks or mats, grasp either side of the mat between thumb and forefinger and spread matt wide. This opens up the matt and allows you to begin finger combing from the bottom up.
Pull individual hairs out of the matt. You’ll find a lot of hair coming loose at this point, but most is already dead hair that has been caught in the tangles.
Work on smaller and smaller sections of hair till you can finger comb through the section of mane or tail you have been working on. When you are able to finger comb entirely, start on another section with the same method.
A note on using scissors:
If you get into mats and tangles that are really impenetrable, the thinning shears are handy. Traditional scissors will leave you with a detangled, but choppy looking mane or tail. thinning shears have jagged teeth so they don’t cut a straight line and will leave a more natural edge. To use, detangle the horse’s hair as much as possible with your fingers, then use the thinning shears parallel with the hair (up and down, not horizontal- very important) to scissor into the mat once or twice- then finger comb- then scissor once or twice, then finger-comb, etc. Thinning shears allow you to break up a matt with much less hair loss.
The only scissors we advise using are thinning shears, pictured here. AS you can see, the blade is designed not to cut straight, but only cut a fraction of the hairs in its grip. To use thinning shears, scissor UP once, finger-comb, scissor again, finger-comb again, etc. To keep the mane natural looking, always use thinning shears vertically, not horizontally, and as little as possible!
When finished, we recommend rinsing or shampooing the mane a final time if large amounts of detangler have been used- especially if used liberally up near the crest of the horse’s mane, or up on the dock of the tail (residue left in these areas can be itchy and cause a horse to rub!) To keep the mane neat, regularly comb or braid in leave-in style braids.
To prevent future tangles you may want to consider various types of leave-in braids that keep manes and tails long and luxurious without tangling.