How to help prevent your horse’s mane being rubbed out by rugs over the winter and how to aid its regrowth

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  • You want your horse to be warm and cosy in their winter rug with a neck cover, but many horse owners have discovered an aggravating downside to this — it rubs off all or part of the mane. However, there are plenty of methods for preserving them, so owners can figure out whatever works best for them and their horses.

    Horse & Hound spoke to Sarah Shears, an international competition groom and a member of the British Grooms Association. She says: “In my experience the main reason that manes get rubbed away in the winter is because of either badly fitting rugs, or dirty neck covers. The grease then rubs off the rug back onto the mane and pulls the hair out as the horse moves their head.”

    Sarah continues: “To help combat this, try and keep the mane washed as much as possible in the winter. Alternatively, if it’s too cold to wash your horse, use a water brush with warm water and a tiny drop of shampoo to help keep the grease down. It also helps to use duvets under your rug instead of heavy neck rugs and always try and use a detachable neck cover on your stable or turnout rug so it can easily be washed.”

    Holly Askew, a horse owner from Manchester, says: “If the horse doesn’t need a full clip, I don’t use a neck.” This is by far, the simplest solution for an unclipped horse, especially furry natives. Holly adds: “If I have to I will attach a no fill neck to whatever rug I need, which is taken off at night.”

    For horses with a long mane, keeping it in individual plaits prevents it from being rubbed off. It’s a slightly strange look and requires faff to maintain, but it’s effective.

    If you don’t want to wash your horse’s mane, if it’s not long enough to plait, and if you need a neck, it seems as though different makes and types of rugs can reduce rubbing. However, horse owners disagree on which ones, so it probably depends on the horse and the rug.

    One user of the Horse & Hound forums agrees with Sarah that detachable necks rubbed less than permanently attached ones, but several more posters disagreed, writing that in their experience, detachable necks were more problematic. A user who says she hunts regularly, and therefore needs to be able to plait her horse’s manes, finds she has had good results with the Bossy Bib mane guard. However, someone else says this method didn’t work for them at all.

    International eventer Lucinda Green tells us: “Here’s the advert for Horsware Rambo rugs and necks — we have no rubbed manes and they all live in necks and turn out rugs 24/7.”

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    Other manufacturers owners have had luck with include Horseware Rugs, which only have a half-neck, and Mark Todd rugs. Whatever the manufacturer, the general consensus is that lighter covers cause less damage, so if possible, attach a lightweight or medium-weight neck cover to a heavy weight rug, and if you can get away without a neck cover at all, that solves the problem.

    Other tips suggested include spraying mane and tail detangler on the mane while the horse is wearing a rug with a neck, or to try rubbing coconut oil into the affected area, which reportedly helps regrowth and prevents initial rubbing.

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