Horsehairdressing’s Lucie Holt on making fake tails for top horses, and why she prefers equine clients to human ones...
I’ve been around horses all my life. I used to showjump and I’ve worked on yards. My family were horsey; my grandmother was a stunt rider and doubled for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. My dad bought a livery yard and was planning to give it to me to run when I left school, but I wanted to train as a hairdresser – for humans.
Horses make better clients than humans, but when I decided I wanted to move into horse hairdressing people laughed. My dad thought I’d lost my marbles: “Who’s going to pay to have their horse’s hair done?” But now when he phones me I might be driving halfway across the country to fix a tail, and I’m going to Australia for a month later this year to show my work (or early next year if travel is still limited) which is exciting.
I do everything from clipping, plaiting and show prep, to make-up, hair extensions, hair colouring and wedding makeovers. I can apply extensions to manes, tails and forelocks, and I spend a lot of time fixing botch jobs.
I’ve spent many years perfecting my technique, which is a secret, and you wouldn’t know the horse had extensions in to look at. But I’ve seen so many cases of poor work where people just don’t know what they’re doing. It can be damaging to your horse’s hair and it’s just not worth the risk.
People contact me for many different reasons, some for aesthetics for showing and competing. I’ve also fixed tails for horses who have had theirs chewed by foals, and I’ve made forelocks to help keep away flies in the summer, which is rewarding.
I couldn’t be without a good brush – that is my must-have item. I love MP Gloss products as they give the perfect show-ring finish and the revitalising oil is my go-to product.
You should treat your horse’s hair like you treat your own, as it gets damaged just like ours. I find human conditioner is one of the best things, as well as coconut oil. People are always impressed with my horses’ coats, but it’s mostly just a good brush and a lot of elbow grease.
A lot of people think I’m a glorified hairdresser who plays with ponies all day, but it takes a lot of work behind the scenes. I often spend my evenings making extensions. It’s hard to fit everything in and I travel all over the country.
I think it’s easy to overlook what goes into it before I’m at the fitting stage and sometimes I’m given little notice. I have to source, wash and treat the hair, then it takes about six hours to make a tail, before fitting it. It’s more than a full-time job and at some busy times in the year I work on little sleep.
My daughter does showing with our part-bred Exmoor – last year she qualified for the veterans at Olympia – and I meet a lot of clients that way, but many of them track my business page down on Facebook when they hear about what I do. It’s a lot more popular and prevalent than you might think.
Some showing societies don’t allow it, but I view it in the same way as applying products to your horse. One of my clients has a well-bred show horse, but he suffers from the equine equivalent of alopecia, so is unable to compete without it. I wish these showing societies would take a closer look and reconsider.
Some people donate me tails when their horse passes away, and I always like to let them know where the hair has gone. I used one donation to create a tail for a British team horse, which was special. You’d never know who has extensions in and some of my clients might surprise you – but I never reveal who I do work for.
Ref Horse & Hound; 21 May 2020