How to Train Your Horse's Mane to Lie Flat on One Side

Girl braiding horse's mane, rear view
Chris Windsor / Getty Images

Is your horse's or pony's mane hanging on the wrong side or even on both sides? This is common, especially in horses with pony or draft horse bloodlines that have thick manes. Many horses have a mane that is laying on the 'wrong' side; here's how to tame a frizzy, two-sided mane so it lays neatly on the correct side.

Choosing the Correct Side

Generally, the mane laying on the right or offside is considered correct. If you pleasure ride or show in low-level shows, which side your horse’s mane lies on may not matter. At higher level shows, where good turnout is essential, your horse’s mane should lie smoothly on the right side of its neck. It may also need to be thinned and braided.

Teach your horse’s mane to lie correctly before you thin it, and you’ll have a little easier time getting it neat and even. Folklore suggests that a horse's 'handedness' is indicated by which way the mane lies at the withers. If your horse’s mane lies to the left at the withers, you may find that it works better to the left when ridden. Alternatively, horses with their mane lying to the right may work better to the right when ridden. Changing the sides it lies on won’t likely change your horse’s performance, however.

How to Change the Side Your Horse’s Mane Lies On

Comb out the mane so it is neat, tangle-free, and all laying on one side of the horse's neck. A grooming spray can help work out any tangles and prevent breakage which can make a mane look frizzy. Once the mane is smooth, dampen it slightly (a sponge or spray bottle works well). Divide the mane into sections about 1 to 2 inches wide all the way up the neck.

Braid each section and secure with a strong thread or elastic. You might want to pick up a package of small braiding elastics at your local tack shop. Don't braid the tuft of mane at the withers. It doesn't matter if the braids look nice. They don’t even need to be particularly even in width or length; you just need them to hold all of the mane on the side you choose. The weight of the braids over a short time will encourage the mane to lay on one side.

After a week's time, pull the braids out, comb out the mane, and re-braid if necessary. Some thin manes will lay flat after a week, others can take a few weeks. If the braids start to fall out, start again, smoothing and braiding the mane. If your horse has a particularly thick, untamable mane, the process can take much longer. It can come ‘undone’, so you might have to repeat the process every so often.

This is the only time you will want to leave braids in your horse's mane. Don’t leave the braids in and not take them out occasionally for grooming, or leave your horse out with show braids after the show is over. If braids are left in for a long time the hair will break and tangle, leaving your horse with a frizzy uneven mane. This won’t look nice and will make extra work for you, untangling the snarls.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.