Be Flexible With Manes And Tails

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You'll often hear horsemen state that you should only brush your horse's mane and tail when absolutely necessary. But that would be similar to you only brushing your own hair when you have a special event to attend.

The secret to a long, flowing tail is to care for it the way you do your own hair. Don?t yank tangles out. Gently pull them apart, using a good detangler and a flexible brush. And, of course, brush the hair every day to stop it from getting in that shape in the first place.

We tried 13 different mane-and-tail tools, ranging from rakes to brushes to everyday combs.

We tried 13 different mane-and-tail tools, ranging from rakes to brushes to everyday combs.

We?d guess you don't think anything of seeing a few strands of hair in the brush when you finish your own hair. Well, horses experience a normal slight hair loss just like we do. Those few strands on the brush are nothing to panic about.

Our favorite all-around brush was the Oster and the virtually identical Equestria.

Our favorite all-around brush was the Oster and the virtually identical Equestria.

You do want to avoid broken hairs. That means you want to use proper untangling ? start from the top of the tangle and gently tug it apart ? and proper regular care.

You also want to keep your horse's mane and tail clean. You won?t shampoo them as often as you do your own hair, but regular daily brushing will stimulate circulation and growth. When you do wash the tail, be especially sure you clean down to the skin on the dock of the tail and rinse thoroughly.

The Best Tools.

Finding the right tail brush is somewhat a matter of what's comfortable to you. No matter how good it is, if it's awkward for you to use, you're going to reach for something else.

Regular body brushes can be used to put a finishing, shiny look on a mane or tail, but they aren?t designed to separate the strands. And that's what you need for a long, silky, flowing look.

The traditional plastic-tooth combs worked fine on a short mane, but they aren?t handy with tails. We find they tend to get stuck when you brush through (in fact we broke two comb-tooth brushes during the trial while working on tangles). Width is an issue, too. Any brush less than two inches wide across the head simply took too long to use, especially in a long tail. And we found products wider than four inches were rather awkward.

This tail-protection method helps avoid snagged strands and prevents tangles.

This tail-protection method helps avoid snagged strands and prevents tangles.

We really liked brushes with pin bristles. Plastic or metal wasn?t an issue, but the pins needed to be flexible. The flexion of the pins allowed us to gently work through the strands, while pulling out the fewest number of hairs. The brushes from Oster, Equestria, Tail Tamer and the Tail Wrap Tail Brush all did an excellent, efficient job for everyday care.

The combination brushes from Grooma and Equistar were great ideas. They initially looked awkward and heavy, but they weren?t. We found them comfortable to use, and both did a wonderful job. Use the pin side to separate the strands, then flip it over and brush in glossy, finished look. All with one tool ? no bending down to switch, which is especially great at shows.

While flexible-pin brushes did the best job on everyday tangles, we found they couldn?t hold a candle to the Tangle Wrangler when it came to the worst messes.

It looks like a human hair brush with flexible plastic teeth, but the head is split into seven flexible, separate rows, and the double flexibility certainly made getting through tangles the easiest we?ve seen. We even used it on the barn cat and long-haired dogs.

Bottom Line.

The pin-bristle brushes from Equestria (far left) and Oster (third from left) were our top picks.

The pin-bristle brushes from Equestria (far left) and Oster (third from left) were our top picks.

We were hard-pressed to find a significant difference between the Oster brush and the one from Equestria (our test-product Equestria had a round head like the Oster; the current model appears to have a more square head). Although they?re both the most expensive tools in the trial, they?re built to last. And they?re the two our testers reached for most often, finishing in a dead-heat for favorite tool.

The more difficult decision was the call for Best Buy. The Equistar dual-sided brush and the Tail Wrap Tail Brush are both wooden, quality tools at great prices. We?ll give the nod to Equistar, though, due to its dual-side advantage.

Finally, we're going to keep the Tangle Wrangler on hand for getting out the worst tangles.

Article by Lee Foley, Contributing Editor

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