Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Mane Dilemma

Harley and I will be riding in a Dressage show on Sunday.  I do not show very often, so I stick to local schooling shows.  Competition is not my cup of tea, but I feel that it is good to get yourself out there once in a while.  Harley usually enjoys the excitement and I enjoy the opportunity to ride for the judge and hopefully gain some valuable insight.  We are going out for First Level, of which our debut was in May.

There are many things that I should be concerned with right now, like the fact that the barn owners just bought a step-up trailer and Harley did not seem too pleased with this or that I am entering a show sans trainer and my jacket is still sporting horse hairs and dust from our last event.  Or how about the fact that all my tack needs to be cleaned, including my boots, which are totally crusted with dirt, and Harley needs his fetlocks and jaw trimmed.  Oh yes, and it will probably be too cool for a bath before the show.  Can you imagine going in a show without giving your horse a bath?  Thankfully, "cream" seems to wear dirt pretty well.  Maybe, I will pick up some dry shampoo!

I am not really worrying about any of these things.  I am worrying about the same thing that I always worry about when I think about entering the infrequent horse show.  What am I going to do with Harley's mane?  I want to be respectful to the judge, but I do not want to cut his lovely mane, which has taken over a year to grow and many, many hours of combing, primping, and smoothing.  I will probably use a French braid in his forelock and down his neck, but the trouble is that he has a short section just in front of his withers.  Since we finally put up some fencing to prevent him from eating grass through the vinyl slats, his mane is starting to fill in for the first time since the spring of 2007.  I have been waiting with bated breath for his mane to fill in for years.  I just cannot justify cutting or pulling his mane for something as rare in our schedule as a horse show.  Sometimes I wish that he was of a breed who was permitted to go with a long, natural mane.  Western quarter horses show in long manes, some of them reaching the ground.  I really do like braiding, I just wish the entire mane was grown in so that I could run the braid all the way to his withers and knot it up like a prized exhibition horse whose mane was as an essential part of the picture.

The Many Manes of Harley: A Photo Essay

December 2006: The Beginning (Proof that he can grow mane in front of his withers!  If only the grass was not so tempting on the other side of the fence, he might have a full mane again.  Some fence upgrades this summer should do the trick for next year.  My fingers are crossed.  One can never have too much mane.)

May 2007: The Pampered Mane (Harley gets the grooming of his lifetime.  Every bit of my new horse is precious; I am not ready to cut or pull any mane!)

August 2007: The Running Braid left...

...and right.  This must have been a magical camera, because Harley looks like a Baroque horse.

October 2007: The Chop (I attempt "mane cuttery" for our first show and I learn that my horse can reach very far through the fence to eat grass.  Sigh.)

May 2008: The Punk Rocker (I went a little crazy with the pulling comb in my attempt to even out his haphazard locks.)...

...sporting the brown Stubben.  He is a youthful ten-year-old.

July 2008: The Buttons (I was proud of these, because I used yarn and a latch hook.)

September 2008: The Punk is growing out.

January 2009: Still growing, but the mane in front of his withers never catches up!

June 2009: The Hunter Braids...

...looked very silly, because I refused to cut or pull his mane this time, but still decided to buzz the grass-mohawk.  I think Harley was mistaken for a mare at this show.  Sorry, Boy.  This lovely magenta halter mysteriously broke a few days later and had to be replaced.  It was lying on the ground next to the gate of his paddock with a busted throatlatch clip.  Oddly, the tack store was completely out of magenta halters, so I had to settle for blue, which he has been wearing without mishap for two years and counting.  True story. 

April 2010: I institute a ban on scissors and pulling combs (and apparently lose my camera, because I have a shockingly small number of photos from 2010!).  Harley continues to mow grass outside his fence.

May 2011: Back to the running braid...

...and still no interest in scissors, although many dollars are spent on conditioner and detangler (August 2011).

October 2011: Wind Blown and Tousled (I guess that I just like the wild look, even though it is contrary to all things prim and proper like black coats, polished boots, and white gloves.  I still love dressage, though.)

My Romantic Harley: Give me a long forelock that hangs in front of the horse's eyes and sweeps around his graceful ears.  My version of beauty has come full circle.


  1. If you're not going to show very often, muddle through with a running braid. When I do Speedy's, I take the long length that's left over and tuck it under the running braid and use yarn to tie it up. If you're just doing a schooling show, don't worry about what kind of braid it is. I think judges understand that schooling shows are for, well, schooling. It's just for practice. In my experience, they know you're out there for experience for either you or your horse.

    Braid it up the best you can, let us know how you do, but most of all, go out and have fun! :0)

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence. We will definitely try to have some fun!

  3. I like the looks of the running braid. If you have to do it, I guess that would be my choice. Like Speey G said. If you don't mind what little deduction that might entail, I wouldn't sweat it too much. IMO. I personally like the Fabio look :-O Good luck getting everyting together. Don't worry about the trailer until you have too. I am excited for you.

  4. When I first started showing Willie, he still had a long mane from his harness racing days. I didn't want to cut it so I used a running braid, but from far away you couldn't even tell!

    At a schooling show, all that matters is neat. If it's too much mane for regular hunter/button braids, you could try scallops. You could also get away with a continental/lattice braid, or if he doesn't have quite enough hair for that, you could try this western crossover (with black bands, so as not to pop so much!):

    A friend of mine toned it down a bit: It's a bit western-y, but should be just fine for a schooling show, and done neatly, would present a better picture than a completely loose mane that flops around everywhere.

    Good luck! And like Speedy said, make sure you have fun! :)

  5. I'm with you on shows. We usually stick to schooling shows since you get a judge's feedback without all the hoopla of a big event.
    Jackson's mane is thin so it looks best short. Flash has a beautiful long mane and tail. We used to try keeping his mane short but, like you, stopped. He looks so handsome with his long mane - French braids all the way.

  6. Kudos to you for being able to ride with a long mane. Izzy had one for a while, and it was forever tangled up in my hands, the reins, the saddle pad, and anything else I could find. Especially since we gallop and jump, a long mane is actually more of a hazard than anything.

    That is a very impressive mane rub. Yikes. Glad you have it sorted out.

  7. Good luck at the show. !!
    I have just grown out Poppy's mane and it looks so gorgeous. in November we have a show and I need to plait her. I'm not going to cut it.

    I'd just plait it the best you can and that will be fine.

  8. Mary- Thanks, Mary. I do like the running braid quite a lot, too. He has never been in a step-up before. He followed me on, but you should have seen his face when he stepped backward off the trailer. Where did the world go?

    Now That's A Trot- Wow! You had some great suggestions. The scallops are really beautiful. I have never seen them done with the little button at the top. That one might be fun to try. I also like the western banding. If I bought black bands that could be really neat, too. Willie's braid looks amazing! The braid was so neat and even that it really does look like his mane is short and lying flat. Thanks for the photos!

    Annette- I like riding in the warm up with nice folks who do not mind talking a little and helping each other out. I would not be happy at a big, serious-faced competition. I admire a neat, short mane, too. I think that I am just not diligent enough to keep up with it. You get to have it both ways with Jackson and Flash!

    SprinklerBandit- His mane does get tangled in the reins sometimes. I need to cut the section near his withers, because some hairs get pulled out under the saddle pad. The rub actually makes a nice place for the reins to lay, so maybe I should be careful what I wish for!

    All that mane is good for deterring flies. He seems to purposely flop mane on either side of his neck to deter flies in the summer. The forelock also makes a nice "fly bonnet".

    Ruffles- Thanks for the well wishes. I will do my best. Poppy's mane IS gorgeous!

  9. Harley is so gorgeous! I think a running braid looks great on him. Even though he's a quarter horse, he has enough of a baroque look to carry it off beautifully. I've seen warm bloods at international events with a loose forelock, if it's a nice think one like Harley's. I think he'd be stunning with his forelock free, and the rest in a running braid. I like shows because they 'crystalize' where I am in my training, high light training needs and give me goals, with a date to work towards. I always end up having fun, but show nerves are a down side. I think schooling shows a couple of times a year would be perfect. Good for you guys. I'm looking forward to your show report :)

  10. Personally I like to keep my Quarter's manes shortish. Coriander has a really thick mane that would make handling the reins difficult, plus I like the look. I only trim once a year though, in the fall, I let them grow out so they'll have more protection from the flies in the summer.

    Now if I had an arabian I wouldn't trim the mane at all- that just doesn't fit with my aesthetics of how they should look.

  11. Carol- Are you tempting me to leave his forelock loose? Hmmmm. I like the way that looks, too. Do you think I should leave the forelock tucked under the browband?

    smaz- I totally agree. If I had an Arab, the mane would never be cut. On the quarter horse, a neat, short mane really does look nice. I guess my horse is mirroring me. I "strongly dislike" getting my own hair cut. ;)


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