How to Shorten a Horse's Mane with Scissors
By April D. Ray
I wanted the look of a tidy, short, thin mane, but didn’t want to continue pulling manes… so I got creative. It’s amazing what you can do with the right tools, some patience, and a little imagination. While some traditionalists will argue that the look achieved with scissors isn’t the same as a pulled mane, I was happy to find another way to shorten and thin manes without inflicting pain on the horses I work with.
To get started, you’ll need a pair of sharp scissors, a long plastic mane comb, and some sort of thinning device if thinning is desired. Personally, I’m a fan of the Solo-Comb, but there are many other tools on the market that don’t involve pulling the hair from the root while still achieving a nicely thinned mane (see Figure 1).
First, comb out the mane and ensure that it is lying flat on the neck and all on one side (see Figure 2).
Start at the top and use the plastic mane comb as a guide to get the length you want and keep it even throughout. Once the comb is at the desired spot, take the scissors at a 90-degree angle and cut up into the mane. Doing it this way will avoid the blunt look that results from just cutting across the mane. Don’t be alarmed if it looks jagged at first as it takes some practice to get the hang of this. Making multiple small cuts will help achieve the look of a more natural mane, rather than one that resembles a bowl cut (see Figure 3).
You can also make cuts at a 45-degree angle, both to the left and the right, to further ensure a more natural look. Remember to start small – you can’t put mane back if you cut too short, but you can certainly cut more if it’s not short enough (see Figure 4).
Once you are happy with the first section you can continue to work your way down the mane until you get to the end. Often this will be enough to achieve the look you want, but if your horse’s mane is quite thick you can choose from several tools to help thin the mane without actually pulling it. I use the Solo-Comb, which gives the same result as pulling the mane, but cuts the hair instead. There are also thinning shears and various tools on the market to achieve the desired thickness of mane. Remember that typically the top and bottom of the mane are naturally thinner (see Figure 5).
Once you are done, critique your work and make any corrections needed, or tidy up rogue hairs. A nicely trimmed bridle path also helps complete that neat, well-groomed look. Should you make any dire errors, just remember that it’s only hair and will grow back. Much like everything else in horse management and riding, practice makes perfect!
Related: Clipping 101
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Photos courtesy of April D. Ray