Possibly the biggest question we get asked over and over again on a daily basis via our customer service networks is 'how to prevent mane loss'. Its not hard to understand why, particularly as Summer is drawing to an end and we start to think about temperatures dropping and heavier gram rugs being used? Yet isn't this ironic? the warmer we try to make our horses that is the moment the mane loss begins. We notice every year as we increase our rugging the mane becomes finer, which eventually leads to full sections missing. On average if you were to walk on a livery yard during winter a high percentage would have a section of mane missing. What we did find upon our research was that a high section of mane loss victims were Cobs and Natives; again is this a coincidence that these breeds are known for being hardy, keeping weight on and keeping warm much easier than say the lovely TB?. In actual fact this all could be a very reason or at least one of the reasons why mane loss is happening in such high volume.
Horses were of course not originally developed with a rug on their back, of course over centuries and domestication they have adapted, or should we say we have adapted them to become more dependant on us. We clip them, exercise them, work them to high levels and change their full natural programme, therefore we take responsibility for there care; for example we clip them so there natural thermodynamic system can not work the same, therefore we rug them, but who is to say what rug gram we can and should use? After all each horse has their own breed, height, build and Thermoregulation System.
As owners we really do over rug. We as humans feel an emotional link to feeling that the horse thinks like us, in wet or windy weathers we think 'its so cold' because we are so cold we rug our horses up as though they will most definitely feel the same way.
How Does Thermoregulation Work?
Reference Credits taken from Stance Equine USA.
The ability of the hair coat to regulate body temperature is directly related to its length, thickness and density per square inch of surface area of skin. Each hair follicle has a small muscle that is controlled by the nervous system. These muscles can pull the hairs to a standing or “puffed up” position in order to increase the insulating factor of the hair coat. When raised, the hairs will effectively trap a layer of air, which is then heated by the body, creating a toasty warm insulation. When the horse’s body begins to get too warm, the coat is easily flattened, thus decreasing the amount of insulation, increasing new airflow to the skin and providing a cooling effect.
Unfortunately, when humans rug a horse, the weight of the rug forces the hairs to lie flat. This means the horse no longer has control over regulating his own temperature. It also means the hair muscles don’t get exercised, which leaves them in poor condition. When we clip or rug horses, we hinder their natural ability for thermoregulation leaving them vulnerable to becoming too hot or too cold. No matter how attentive and careful we are, we will never be as good as the horse’s own natural body and hair coat at self-regulating for ideal body temperature in any given moment.
Despite what many humans believe, horses are naturally very well adapted to deal with cold conditions. In fact, it is easier for them to warm themselves up than to cool themselves down. Unlike dogs, horses cannot pant to lower their body temperature. They must rely on sweating to cool the skin’s surface as the moisture evaporates. Many horse owners believe clipping is good because it helps a horse to cool itself. Unfortunately, it also takes away their ability to warm themselves. In nature, a sweaty or wet horse will later raise the hairs of its coat and turn them in different directions to allow the air to dry the moisture so they can warm back up. Ventilation and airflow are key in this process. Regardless of whether a horse is clipped or not, when drying takes longer than usual due to limited airflow in a stable, this can lead to chilling.
So with the Scientific points out of the way, that does not help with the fact that the majority of owners have horses to ride and/or compete on, which means we simply have to be practical and sometimes allowing the horse to be as nature intended is simply not possible. Many times you will hear owners say forget rugs and hoods, it is just elbow grease, although agreed and factual to an extent, this does not sit with reality of circumstance for a lot of owners. A high percentage of horse owners have to work and work long hard hours to pay for this hobby, with working it then becomes neon impossible to drive to your yard in the dark winters and spend 3 hours grooming all the mud off so you can ride, by the time you have groomed as best you can with your elbow grease you realise it is time to get home to start tea for the family. This is not being lazy, this is not lacking in motivation it is simply called reality for so many horse owners accross the world.
It is clear that rugs and hoods are rightfully here to stay and can be such a life saver when in the above said scenario.
We have trialled and researched and listened to our customers daily explaining and sending photographs in of their horses mane and skin problems, from this we have detected a pattern of reason as to why it may be happening.
As asked by so many of your based on our experience we have below some reasons and tips which will hopefully help towards saving your mane this Autumn/Winter:
There is a build up of grease
a build up of grease, oils and so forth cause the grease to stick on to the inside of your turnout rugs, this process then makes the inside of the neck rug sticky pulling follicles out every time you horse moves his head and neck around. To prevent this you could use hoods underneath to act as a barrier in between the mane and neck rug, many customers have several hoods and will rotate them throughout the week. Another way of preventing grease is changing your rugs, some owners may be inclined to keep the same rug on 24/7 which will unfortunately create grease build up; we therefore suggest rotating your rugs at least twice every 24 hours. Another tip noted by staff and owners was to physically spray the inside of the rug with 'Mane and Tail Conditioner' We stock Conditioning sprays and by spraying the mane and neck liner it not only leaves the mane in fantastic condition but equally stops a sticky base contact with the hair follicles, decreasing the risk of sticky build up.
Your Turnout Rug is not an ideal fit
Unfortunately all rug brands are fitted differently and all horses have different muscle, shape and size meaning a brand may fit one horse well and another not so well. As an owner we get to become familar with what brands work for a particular horse and tend to stay with this brand. Horzehoods Deluxe Turnout Rug not only has a much higher cut gusset but has multi clip chest fasteners meaning it can be used on narrow or wide chests coupled with a high 1200D Outer Shell.
- The horse is to hot / rugs and hoods are to thick
From our own experience this is the biggest reason horses lose their manes. As explained earlier on in the blog we are simply over rugging in kindness and essentially creating to much heat for the hair follicles to cope. When we were designing and creating our unique fabric blend for our hoods we experimented with many grams and weights. We spoke with customers and had a real pressure to produce a thick fabric for customers to feel and think 'wow it is so thick it must be great quality', customers wanted us to produce thick fabrics that perhaps are more durable to tears or sharp objects, but then came the question 'functionality over durability' or 'durability over functionality' ?. With horse wellbeing in mind and practicality of helping reduce mane loss the answer without a doubt was to choose a lightweight fabric blend. Upon trials and personal use of other brands before we made our own it was completely obvious that the stretch hoods on the market were all far to thick. We realised for the ultimate coat shine, coverage, plait protection, mane trainer and mane loss prevention; then it would have to be a super lightweight texture. The con's of making hoods and bodies in this light breathable fabric were that it is so so much harder to stitch, sew, manufacture and keep high grade hence why other hood makers usually always choose thick grade which is no different in price for us to produce. If you are using hoods throughout the seasons please remember to choose light, breathable, shiny fabrics that have a silky texture feel to them just like the Horzehoods Hoods.
Field Buddies are having a good chew!
Just as the title says, your horses play buddies can have a good grooming session or play and the mane is slowly being chewed away. Of course if this is the reason and you do need a full mane in tact then consider keeping a lightweight neck rug on to cover the mane area.
Below are tips and a quick breakdown of what we have discussed in the blog above.
- Mane and Tail Conditioner
- Hood protection (lightweight fabrics only)
- If using a high gram rug in winter use a standard neck only or if you do need a neck them team with a Lightweight No Fill Neck Hood instead of the same gram as the rug, this ensures body heat in the right places over the back and rump.
- Plaiting several thick plaits has been fed back to us by customers as helping under neck rugs
- Check rug fit
- Check horses temperature and rug according to the day
- Change rugs morning and night to create rotation.
- Do not over brush the mane, twice a week is sufficient.
- Keep mane well conditioned
- Sew silk on the underside of the neck
- Shiny Spandex hoods to decrease friction and act as a barrier (not thick grade)
- Not a lover of face hoods then check out Horzehoods Headless Hood.
- Check your current Turnout Hoods are not to thick
Did you know, Horzehoods are currently finalising trials for their Dual Half & Half Turnout Hood with great success. 80% of the hood coverage which goes under a turnout rug is made with their standard Stretch Light Fabric coupled with a waterproof head section for the elements with a soft thin membrane to help mane maintenance. *Currently Sold out again but sign up to Newsletters to be notified of re-stock. Not liking the face version? We also now have a new Sherpa Headless in Stock.
Do you have any advice for our readers? any successful tips you can share please feel free to comment on this blog.
*Photo credit taken from google.
All the best, HH Team. x