It’s difficult enough to keep your horse’s mane and tail clean, but keeping them conditioned and detangled is a task unto itself. However, a strong and shiny mane and tail definitely finishes any horse’s show-ring-perfect look. We expect horses’ manes and tails to be shining but not slick, and thick without too much weight dragging them down. Well-conditioned manes and tails should gleam with health, not oily, slippery products.
Most detanglers do what they are supposed to, so many riders use the same subjective criteria they use to choose their own grooming products, such as fragrance and “feel.” In fact, many of these products are safe for humans, and some testers reported using them themselves.
Good grooming and proper nutrition are absolute musts when it comes to making your horse’s mane and tail look healthy and thick. But a good detangler will go a long way to enhance the tail hair and make it noticeably shiny. And it’s an absolute must if your long-mane horse goes out on a windy day or into some nasty burrs.
Actually, a detangler is an incredible preventative product. We’ve found that regular use will definitely decrease the number of burrs, seeds and mats that pastured horses bring back to the barn. We find this preventative factor so important for pastured horses that you may even decide to spray on a detangler, then finish with a product that’s more of a conditioner to give the mane and tail the heft and sheen you like.
We tested these detanglers on all kinds on horses with long and short manes and with thick and thin tails. We also used them on manes and tails full of burrs and tangles, because we like products that allow us to comb out snarled hair with relative ease and minimum hair loss.
You absolutely must read the directions when using these products. Some are applied when the horse’s hair is wet from shampooing and then rinsed out. Others can be applied dry or wet, and still others are applied only to dry hair. You may be disappointed if you slather a leave-in detangler all over your horse’s mane and then rinse it out.
Keep in mind that braiding can be tough if the hair is too slippery, so be judicious when applying detanglers before braiding. (For braiding, we suggest you opt for Quic Braid instead — www.exhibitorlabs.com or 800/377-7963.)
Many of these products contain silicone or some kind of silicone emulsification. Silicone, a mineral that is said to promote hair health, is common in detanglers and conditioners. Silicone typically imparts a high, albeit sometimes slippery, shine. It is an effective ingredient.
Contrary to common beliefs, we haven’t experienced the drying problems with our horses’ coats, manes and tails that silicone is often criticized for. This is probably because the product doesn’t normally reach the horse’s skin, staying mostly on the hair surface.
Some products also contain alcohol, which certainly can be drying, especially at the base of the tail where hairs are shorter. Sensitive horses may rub their tails to relieve the itch from that drying, which is why some horsemen routinely rinse these products out even if the directions don’t call for it. If you have a sensitive horse, we recommend you test a product on a small area first. You can also opt to use the actual detangling product on the lower portion of the horse’s tail only and use witch hazel instead on the tail-bone area.
Many owners prefer “natural” products — which we define as products touting themselves as natural — simply because they like the idea of using non-chemical products. However, since “natural” is definitely not synonymous with “safe,” the jury is still out on whether “natural” products are really better for horses.
Some products’ ingredient lists are proprietary, which means they were not made available to us or listed on the label. While we won’t accept proprietary information in feed supplements, and we’re leery when it comes to shampoos and other products that actually get into our horse’s skin, we’re more lenient with products like coat conditioners and detanglers that simply coat the hair. That said, we believe all products should at least list a phone number so we can contact the company if our horse happens to have a reaction.
Overall, we aren’t as happy with products that take extra work or effort with bathing, mixing, rinsing out and so on — when the results are similar to other products. We want to be able to apply the product quickly, effortlessly comb through it and end up with results that last for at least a couple of days.
Finally, we insist on products that don’t weigh down the mane or tail or leave it greasy or oily, which makes them dirt magnets. We want the horse’s hair to end up soft, silky and light with a natural-appearing shine. A conditioning effect is a bonus, but we realize this is only temporary as true hair conditioning must come from proper nutrition.
We found a large number of these products had satisfactory, long-lasting detangling effects with simple applications. This group of products was an extremely competitive field trial, and many are good choices. That said, we do have favorites.
If you’re really struggling with knots, some products tackle these tough jobs better than others. For seriously tangled manes, Kelco De Mat was the heavy hitter, leaving hair silky and without residue. Tails felt softer, and it was a great preventative as well, with a long-lasting effect. For burr prevention, Eqyss Survivor is your best bet.
Of course, if your horse doesn’t have problems with burrs and tangles, you’re probably looking for shine. If so, grab Absorbine ShowSheen, which gave us the highest shine of any product we used. Testers noticed that days after application their horses’ manes and tails were still shiny — also a bit slick, though — don’t try to braid after application. For the easiest combing and silkiest hair, Ultra Conditioner gets the nod.
Horse hair is coarse by definition, but for especially coarse manes or tails you would like to see lie flat, we definitely like Eqyss Avocado Mist. It helps a tail to hang straight, and it also prevents tangles for a long time. We especially liked the fragrance and the resulting shine. Bio-Groom Revitalizer was a close runner up here, but it’s less convenient since you have to mix it in order to spray it. However, for a damaged mane or tail, we’d reach for it first in combination with a hard look at our horse’s diet.
If you’ve got to have natural ingredients, Topfit’s Mane & Tail performed exceptionally well. It prevented tangles for days and left manes and tails nice, light and silky.
Our favorite product to promote hair thickness and healthy weight is Healthy HairCare Products Silverado Detangler. Silverado only takes a small amount to make hair manageable because the product absorbs well, and the effect lasts for days. The detangler itself is clear and fluid, and hair glistens after application. We found both thick and thin hair benefited, looking thicker and shiny right away. This product earns our overall top-choice rating, and we also liked its counterpart, Healthy HairCare Silverado Coat Gloss.
For a Best Buy, we don’t think you’ll beat Carr And Day And Martin’s Canter Silk. This was a no-frills, effective product that gave us long-lasting silky effects at an easy-to-swallow $9.95 for a quart.