These days, choosing to buy a single, complete detangler and coat polish product is a challenging task. Products are becoming more specialized, not only in what they do, but also where and how they can be used. New concentrates are extremely effective for detangling the mane and tail but can’t be used on the horse’s coat, and some of the best shine producers on the market are great for shows and repelling stains but not the most beneficial choice for long-term coat health.
When it comes to shine, of course, there will never be a substitute for good, old-fashioned elbow grease. That said, we wouldn’t mind some help. We want one complete product that detangles and polishes effectively while still offering ingredients that provide some extended benefit to the horse’s coat, mane and tail. Added conditioning ingredients like vitamin E, sunscreen, and natural oils encourage shine in the coat and promote growth, while strengthening and protecting the mane and tail from some of life’s extremes: the sun’s rays, inclement weather and breakage caused by over-brushing. Of course, choosing a product that can multitask is also something your wallet will appreciate.
The best polishes and detanglers we found are lightweight, non-greasy and leave no sticky residue on the coat. Products need to be versatile as well and should be at least relatively effective on both wet and dry hair (we found some that were better on one than the other). They also need to work in small amounts if they are applied on a towel or soft brush, instead of requiring multiple, sweeping applications with a spray bottle, which is not as cost-effective for detangling.
Once applied, we expect products to last upwards of at least three days — especially when it comes to repelling stains. In terms of shine, products should only enhance the coat’s color and natural bloom, not replace it with its own synthetic shininess, which we think almost always appears greasy. Finally, we don’t want a potent scent that attracts attention from the opposite end of the barn.
For our trial we’ve divided products into three categories and determined for which category we found that each product was best suited. The categories include: concentrated detanglers, which are typically gels applied by hand to only the mane and tail; stain repelling/ shine products, which make ideal horse show products; and long-term conditioners, which repair hair and promote growth but may not detangle as effectively. Note: While the categorization of products was done based on our field-trial results, most of these products do bill themselves as multiple-purpose products.
These products are a relatively new addition to the market but are so good at mane-and-tail detangling that many lines are developing at least one concentrated detangler of their own. Most are applied in nickel-sized amounts to the hands and then rubbed into either a wet or dry mane or tail, although testers found they worked most effectively when applied to dry hair.
The most-effective products we found worked instantly on hair and left it looking shiny and smooth. These included Farnam’s Vetrolin Detangler, Absorbine Santa Fe Instant Detangler, EQyss Survivor and Straight Arrow Mane 'n Tail Concentrated Detangler and Shine. Almost all of the products we tried were surprisingly effective, especially when it came to working on intense tangles or for removing burrs and debris. However, we faulted some for being overly slippery, heavy on the hair or for having an unpleasant smell.
If you’re planning on using your concentrated detangler on a daily basis, you may want to look for a product that contains vitamin E — which encourages hair growth and health — like Absorbine Santa Fe or EQyss Survivor. EQyss Survivor also uses natural ingredients like white willow, sweet clover and sage.
Stain Repelling/ Shine
Unlike concentrated detanglers, stain-repelling/shine products can be used on the horse’s coat as well as its mane and tail, although on the whole we found they aren’t as effective as concentrates at instant detangling.
Many of these polishes — especially those containing silicon — can be quite slippery when applied directly to the coat, so it is best to avoid the saddle area or to apply on a damp towel or soft brush. Most work best when they are applied to wet hair directly after bathing and are then allowed to dry on the hair before brushing.
The best products we found could do a little of everything: They could detangle a mane and tail and add a natural-looking sheen to the horse’s coat while helping to repel stains for at least three days after application. As a complete product, the best polishes we found also contain sunscreen, since most horses, especially those who show, spend considerable time in the sun.
Xtreme Sheen Hair Polish and Cowboy Magic Super Body Shine And Dust Control both created lasting shine, contain sunscreen and use natural ingredients like aloe and chamomile. Xtreme Sheen also contains natural oils and vitamins for conditioning.
For pure effectiveness, Absorbine Show Sheen Hair Polish And Detangler is the ultimate horse-show formula. It repels stains and leaves manes and tails tangle-free for up to five days while imparting a show-worthy shine. Another Absorbine product, Santa Fe Conditioner (which differs from the Santa Fe detangler concentrate) is a spray product that works well for creating a show ring shine while protecting the coat with SPF 8 sunscreen and vitamin E. Like the Absorbine products, most of the stain-repelling/ polishes we tried, along with most of the detangler concentrates, contain silicon or synthetic polymers, which some people consider to be controversial ingredients.
When it comes to daily grooming, choosing a natural conditioner to use on the coat, mane and tail is a great way to improve your horse’s hair quality for the long term. Many of these products are effective at coating and bringing moisture to the hair and make a great finishing touch to your grooming routine.
Unlike pure detangler and polish products, conditioners can come in all different forms: from creams and spray-mists to salt-scrub exfoliants. Some take a longer time to work on the hair than polishes and detanglers, and results may require cumulative applications. Overall, they tend to be heavier than the polish p roducts we’ve discussed and are often only mildly effective at detangling, but their softening effects are dramatic.
The EQyss Avocado Mist and Carr & Day & Martin’s Canter Coat Conditioner formulas are both extremely light and easy to apply in a spray bottle, either on their own or on a soft brush. They leave the coat, mane and tail feeling soft and smooth, and both smell great. We also appreciated Schneiders Ultra Mane & Tail Conditioner’s thick, rich cream formula, which can be rubbed into the mane and tail with the hands and left in without rinsing to help repair breakage and split ends.
One of the more unusual products we tried was Aloe Advantage’s Big And Sexy Tail Scrub. Though it can’t be used as a detangler or polish, as a mane and tail conditioner, Big And Sexy tail acts as exfoliant. Its salt scrub is rubbed into the mane and tail and rinsed away, taking with it stubborn dirt and dead skin cells and leaving fresh, soft-feeling hair in its place. It also uses natural ingredients like edamame, lavender and patchouli oil and has a pleasant lemongrass scent.
With so many polish and detangler products on the market, your grooming tote may benefit from picking up a product from each category. For mane and tail detangling, it’s a toss-up between EQyss Survivor and Straight Arrow’s Mane 'n Tail Concentrated Detangler & Shine. Both worked well quickly and had long-lasting effects.
If you want to create the ultimate show-worthy shine, it’s got to be Absorbine Show Sheen Hair Polish & Detangler. ’Nuff said.
For daily conditioning of your horse’s coat, EQyss Avocado Mist was our favorite, closely followed by Carr & Day & Martin’s Canter Coat from Toklat Originals.
Now, if you’re looking to downsize rather than expand your grooming box, you can pick one product that’s versatile, which is what we really like. While not all of these products topped the charts in each specific area, on the whole they could be used all over the horse’s body, on wet and dry hair and most contained added ingredients that were beneficial for long-term hair health.
Our top picks for the ability to detangle, polish, shine and encourage coat health were: Absorbine Santa Fe Spray Conditioner, Absorbine Show Sheen, Farnam Laser Sheen, EQyss Avocado Mist, Cowboy Magic Super Body Shine & Dust Control, and Xtreme Sheen Hair Polish, with Show Sheen taking the overall championship ribbon. And, at about $10 a quart, Show Sheen also earns our Best Buy.
Farnam’s Laser Sheen was a close second to Show Sheen. It’s a lightly scented, all-around product that creates one of the best shines we found and detangles as well as the top sprays on the market. As a horse show product, it’s the complete package.
-Horse Journal staff report.