‘It can take up to 10 hours to wash and plait’: meet the gypsy cob with an extraordinary mane and tail

  • For many of us, dealing with our own “bed hair” in the morning is quite enough, but for Caroline Barrett her hairdressing skills extend to the stable yard thanks to her gypsy cob, The Gambler, whose extraordinary mane and tail just “keeps growing and growing.”

    The eight-year-old gelding is owned by Caroline’s partner, Andy Curtis, but it is Caroline who is in charge of maintaining the horse’s flowing locks.

    “When I first saw The Gambler in the field as a two-year-old, his mane, tail and feathers were all curly and he just stood out from the rest,” says Caroline. “He’s typical of his breed in many ways but he’s also different because his mane and tail just don’t stop growing. I decided to let it grow because I was intrigued about how long it would get — I think he looks very beautiful when it is down.”

    It can take up to 10 hours for Caroline to wash and plait The Gambler’s mane and tail, which she does at least once a month to keep it in the best possible condition.

    “First of all, I start with a bucket of water and Fairy Liquid, and soak both the mane and tail. Then I rinse them out and use a horse mane-and-tail conditioner, before adding some human hair serum and running my hands through. Finally, I use a wide tooth comb to untangle any knots and leave it to dry.

    “To plait his mane alone takes a few hours,” she added. “I don’t plait it in a special way; I do straight plaits, with about 25 plaits in total, then plait them together in groups of three. His tail gets plaited and folded up just above the hocks.

    “I always use human ponytail bands instead of rubber bands, which just cause damage to the hair. Any hair that does come out, I bag up and donate to furniture companies, who use it for re-stuffing furniture.”

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    Caroline describes The Gambler — who is both ridden and driven by Caroline and Andy — as a “novelty horse”, and he is well-known locally for his unusual locks.

    “I took him out hacking once with his mane unplaited and we met a thoroughbred, who was pretty spooked by the sight and nearly ended up in a ditch — so I didn’t do that again and now I keep his mane and tail plaited all the time.

    “He’s a lovely horse and so well behaved. He lives out all year round with a fly sheet on in the summer and he always loves being washed.”

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