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Shortening Thin Manes


How do you shorten a mane that’s very, very thin, almost to the point of being “wispy”? I’ve been a traditional mane puller all my life, but the top and bottom third of my horse’s mane has become too thin to shorten by pulling (I can still pull the middle). I had a clinic recently, and successfully used the Solocomb beforehand, but I’m wondering if professional grooms have any other techniques? His mane was too long just to snip vertically with scissors (I do that mid-season to keep him tidy). Thanks! – Lydia G. from Elburn, IL

Trying to keep manes tidy, under control and manageable is a constant battle for grooms. Maintaining thin manes takes time and practice. There are many products (like solocomb) on the market that are aimed to help you with the task on shortening thin manes. My personnel choice is to use either a bot knife or the saw tooth pocket knife. I find these tools allow you to razor the mane, leaving a pulled look.


  • Don’t try a new technique the night before you need to braid. Nothing like over-shortening the mane and then having to try and braid it!!
  • Always take less mane, you can always go shorter but cannot replace it once gone!
  • Always have a dry mane. Wet hair stretches and it is difficult to get the mane even.


  1. Comb through mane
  2. Using the knife, take a few hairs and back comb through the strands of hair.
  3. Holding the end of the hair, use the knife to razor the tips off.
  4. Comb through the same section and repeat process until the mane is at the required length.

Good luck!


Emma Ford

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

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6 comments on “Shortening Thin Manes
  1. Amanda says:

    Another good tool is a dematting rake (not the silly little anklebiter size, we’re talking St. Bernard here!). It has maybe 8-10 two-inch-long blades that cut at several spots at once, so the cuts look more natural than using scissors (gasp!) or a solocomb. We use it for both thinning and shortening manes.

    Thinning: Do Not brush or comb the mane for several days. Simply use the dematting rake to, well, rake through thick hair. Keep going until it’s the desired thickness or you cut through all the tangles.

    Shortening: Pull taut a small hank of hair like you are about to pull it, except don’t push back hairs, and don’t yank them out! Use the dematting rake pointing blades towards the horse (don’t worry, the ends are blunt!) and “pluck” at the hairs to cut them at roughly the desired length. You can practice on some baling twine first! I find it a lot of fun to use, and it can be easy to get carried away getting too nitpicky and getting shorter and shorter… So plan to have a couple of days to do several quick sessions to avoid ending up with a mohawk!

    • Cindi Wyatt says:

      I use dull clipper blades on thin manes I use them just like a comb for thick manes on my Paint who has a very thick mane I use dull clipper blades on the clippers I have Oster A5’s that are corded does not work with cordless clippers not enough power. My Paint will not tolerate having her mane pulled and this has been the best method for me

      • Jenny says:

        I use a similar technique with a folding 3 inch safety razor tool from the beauty supply store. Start with very small sections to avoid a frizzy look. It does take practice to get the right angle going down the neck….as previous poster said, it’s best to trim a little less and then go back and pull thick areas. Touch up length again using razor and you should have a fairly natural looking mane.

  2. Rachel says:

    We have always had good luck with thinning shears. They don’t give the blunt-cut look of straight shears and are easy to blend!

  3. Julie says:

    There is nothing wrong with using scissors on a mane if done properly – emphasis on properly. An appropriate pair of thinning shears, used through the correctly will create a wonderful look that is completely natural at any length you desire. The trick is the angle you hold the scissors at and where you cut – you don’t just chop off the end – you take several cuts down the length of the section you are trying to shorten. Why you ask – because thinning shears do not cut all the hairs the same length, that way you can remove bulk, shorten and still have a wonderful natural look.

  4. Dennis says:

    Good information. Lucky me I ran across your website by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

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