Pulling a Horse’s Mane: Step-By-Step Guide for Beginners

How to Pull a Horse’s Mane

Have you noticed how many horses competing in English disciplines have a short mane? Believe it or not, but these manes weren’t cut with scissors; they were shortened using a technique called “pulling.” Pulling a horse’s mane is exactly as it sounds; the mane is thinned and shortened by using this technique; the result is a shortened clean look that allows the mane to lay nicely against the horse’s neck.

So, How do you pull a horse’s mane? Here are the steps you need to know to pull your horse’s mane:

  1. Get the Proper Materials Needed to Pull a Mane
  2. Secure Your Horse
  3. Brush Out Your Horse’s Mane
  4. Find the Length You Want the Horse’s Mane to Be
  5. Select a Small Amount of Hair From the Horse’s Mane
  6. Tease the Hair First
  7. Wrap the Remaining Hair Around the Comb and Pull 
  8. Repeat Until the Entire Mane is Pulled


Having the perfectly pulled mane on your horse takes practice. Pulling your horse’s mane is a tedious task, but it will give your horse a professional and clean look. If you plan on competing with your horse, mane pulling is essential for the show ring. (Check out our article Horse Show Checklist: All the Essentials.) Keep reading to learn what each specific step includes to that you can pull your horse’s mane like a pro.

1. Get the Proper Materials Needed to Pull a Mane

To properly pull your horse’s mane, you’ll need the right materials. To pull your horse’s mane, you’ll need a mane brush, a pair of scissors, and a metal pulling comb (click the links to see these products on Amazon.) When used correctly, these materials will make pulling your horse’s mane much easier.

You’ll use the mane brush to brush out your horse’s mane. It’s much easier to pull a brushed out mane compared to a mane with snarls and knots. To properly pull the horse’s mane, you’ll use the metal pulling comb. It’s important to use a metal comb for mane pulling because a plastic comb will easily break during the process.

Once you’ve completely pulled your horse’s mane, you can use your pair of scissors to even out any uneven hair that you find in your horse’s mane.

2. Secure Your Horse

Before you go to pull your horse’s mane, you’ll want to make sure that your horse is secured. You can tie them off or put them in cross-ties. Believe me, it is much easier to pull a horse’s mane when the horse is standing still and can’t just walk off. 

If your horse has a hard time standing still for mane pulling, hang a hay net in front of them. This will distract them from what you’re doing and encourage them to stand in one place.

3. Brush Out Your Horse’s Mane

Once your horse is secured, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush out the horse’s mane with a mane brush. You never want to pull a tangled horse mane as it can be much more difficult to do and cause pain to your horse as too much hair will come out at once.  

When you brush out your horse’s mane, make sure you’re getting both the top layer and the bottom layer of mane. While you may be tempted to use a detangler spray, don’t. Detangler stray or any kind of product will cause the horse’s mane to be more elastic, which will make it more difficult to pull and break. The same goes for a wet mane; refrain from pulling your horse’s mane just after they’ve had a bath when their mane is still damp.

4. Find the Length You Want Your Horse’s Mane to Be

Before you start pulling, you’ll want to decide on the length you want your horse’s mane to be. The normal length for a horse’s mane that would still allow for braids is a hand’s width plus one inch. To determine where the mane should fall, place an opened hand over your horse’s mane starting at the base of their mane. Wherever your hand falls on their mane plus and additional inch is the length you should pull it to.

5. Select a Small Amount of Hair From the Horse’s Mane

Now it’s time to start pulling your horse’s mane! I always start with the mane strands over the horse’s withers and work my way up to the horse’s bridle path just behind their ears. You mustn’t attempt to pull the horse’s forelock. The forelock is the piece of mane that falls over your horse’s face. This should be left alone.

To begin, start at your horse’s withers. It’s important to pull the mane in sections; you should only select a small amount of hair at a time to pull. If you select too much hair at once, it will be more difficult to pull and may cause the horse pain. By selecting a small amount of hair, it will be easy to pull and the horse shouldn’t feel a thing.

6. Tease the Hair First

Once you’ve selected a small amount of mane, hold the hair between your pointer finger and your thumb. Have your thumb fall where you want the mane to be length-wise; this is where you’ll pull. Before you pull the mane, take the metal mane-pulling comb, insert it into the hair above your thumb and comb up. This teases the hair and will help to thin the mane. For each section of the mane that you take, tease the hair up 3-4 times.

7. Wrap the Remaining Hair Around the Comb and Pull

Now that you’ve teased the small amount of hair you have selected from your horse’s mane, you’re going to pull the section the length you want. To do this, take the hair that will need to come off and wrap it around your pulling comb. Place your thumb securely against the comb to hold the wrapped hair in place.

Before you pull, make sure that the pulling-comb is inserted into the mane where the mane should break to give you the length you want. The mane will break where the pulling comb sits.

Next, just pull the comb to yourself. The hair should break where you had started teasing the mane. Make sure you apply enough pressure when you pull so that the mane break quickly. If you pull to soft, the mane won’t break right away and it will be uncomfortable for the horse.

8. Repeat Until the Entire Mane is Pulled

You will repeat the above steps to get a short and classy mane for your horse. As you continue to pull, make sure you are taking smaller sections of hair. As you go on and get tired, you’ll be more apt to take bigger sections of mane, but this will just be more difficult to pull and harder on your horse.

To make sure you’re pulling evenly, include some previously pulled mane with the section you’re currently working on. This will give you a guideline to follow when you tease and pull the current section.

Take frequent breaks to reward your horse and rest your hands. It’s common to get blisters on your hands from mane pulling. Overall pulling a horse’s mane should take between 30 minutes to one hour depending on how thick the mane is.

When Should I Pull My Horse’s Mane?

Did you know that the season can determine how easy it is to pull your horse’s mane? The best time to pull your horse’s mane is in the Spring during the shedding season. Since the horse’s hair is already loose, it should be easier to pull the mane.

Pull your horse’s mane after a good ride. During the ride, your horse’s pores will open up to release heat, which will make it easier to pull the mane. Don’t pull your horse’s mane if you’ve just bathed them and their mane is still damp, as this will cause the hair to be more elastic.

Does Mane Pulling Hurt the Horse?

If done incorrectly, mane pulling can be uncomfortable for your horse. This is why it’s important to take small sections of the horse’s mane to pull rather than large sections. If your horse is annoyed easily, you don’t have to pull the mane all at one time; you can pull the mane over the course of a week. 

If your horse starts to get antsy during mane pulling, try taking a break and giving them a treat. Let them know that they are doing a good job! Another thing you can do is jump around the horse’s mane instead of just pulling in one area. The concentrated pulling in one area can cause discomfort after a while.

Why Can’t I Just Cut the Mane With Scissors?

You may be asking “why can’t I just cut the horse’s mane with scissors?” The answer is that you can do this, but not if you plan on showing and competing. A mane cut with scissors tends to be thick and have uneven straight edges while a pulled mane has a more natural look yet thins the mane. A mane cut with scissors is very noticeable and can cause point deductions on your appearance.

I hope this was helpful to those looking to pull their horse’s mane. While tedious, mane pulling can make your appearance look neat and kept. We made a Youtube about mane pulling for all you visual learners out there! Here it is:



Proper care and grooming is just one thing you have to know when it comes to owning horses. Check out our article Cleaning a Horse’s Hooves: Easy Illustrated Guide to learn how to properly care for your horse’s feet.


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My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

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