I never thought this was a super daunting subject before I started teaching but, to my surprise it is an enigma to most people. It has happened many times since I started teaching almost 5 years ago, where a student who is fairly well adept comes in from catching their lesson horse, only to come to me dismayed.
Saying that their horse has a bunch of burrs, or a large tangle in their mane or tail. In the beginning I would always say « There is detangler spray and a brush hanging in the tack room, knock yourself out! » and every time my comment was met with a blank stare, an « ummm » and the sheepish admittance that they did not know how.
Up until then I never thought it was something that needed teaching, I mean most of my students are girls and women, and most have long hair, surly they know how to untangle a knot. But it occurred to me later on, that you never encounter such horrible knots in human hair unless it goes unbrushed for weeks on end.
A horse’s mane and tail, – because of it’s exposure to the wind, and strength and thickness – is very prone to having large tangles that can seem daunting to un-do. With a little patience, and couple of tricks and hopefully a fairly forgiving horse they can be undone in a jiffy. Same goes for burrs, even if they are completely immersed in the horse’s hair, it can be done without cutting.
If you don’t have time, or if you have a very impatient horse that just will NOT stand still for the process you can just cut the knot out, but just keep in mind a horse’s mane and tail are not just for decoration, they serve a function, and that is protecting the horse from the elements and bugs. It’s ok if they are going to be missing a little chunk for awhile while it grows back, but if your only excuse is not having time, find it. You are a horse owner, and that comes with a fair amount of responsibility.
- Coat in detangler. There are a million and one mane and tail detangles out there, so preference plays a big role. Anything from baby oil, to ShowSheen can work. You just need something that will allow the hairs to slip a little, and allow you to undo the knots.
- Pick apart the knots from the bottom up. Slowly untwist, flip and untie the knots from the bottom with your fingers.
- Finger comb. After the knots are mostly separated, they will still be kinked, a little twisted and prone to tangle. First run your fingers through the hairs, and work a little extra detangler into the area.
- Brush. Finally brush the whole mane or tail out with a hair brush or comb. Making sure there are no more kinked hairs, or pieces of burr left.
Voila! Done. It may have taken you 5 hours, and your fingers are now bleeding but cha did it! Ok I am exaggerating a fair bit, but it could take a fair amount of time, so plan to be out there for a little while!