why horses have manes

Why Do Horses Have Manes?

A galloping horse’s mane looks beautiful as it bounces and floats in the wind. And when they toss their heads, the mane hair whips up and down as if it has a mind of its own.

Some horses’ manes are long and flowing, while others are short. In the earliest days of horse riding, riders would hold onto a horse’s mane to stay atop the horse.

What purpose do horsemanes serve today? Let’s take a closer look at this topic to answer the question of why horses have manes.

The Top Reasons Why Horses Have Manes

A horse’s mane runs from its poll to the withers – from the top of the horse’s head to the shoulders. The mane has a few benefits.


Horses use their manes to communicate. For instance, if a horse’s mane is raised, they may be feeling dominant, aggressive, or threatened. If their mane hair is lowered, they could be showing submission or even fear.

Protection from the elements

A horse’s mane protects the neck and offers a bit of a shield from the sun, wind, and rain.

In colder climates, a horse’s mane keeps the neck warm, and in warmer climates, a horse’s mane can be used to cool the neck. In rainy conditions, the horse’s mane keeps the water away from the horse’s neck. The forelock acts like sunglasses, shading the horse’s eyes, which assists a horse’s vision.

Pest control

A horse’s tail is the main point of pest control, but their mane hair can also be used to ward off those pesky horse flies and insects.

Protection from adversaries

In the wild, equids, such as zebras, have thick, short, upright manes that ward off wild animals attacking them. These attacks usually occur on the neck area, so the thick hair on the mane helps to act as a shield and armour.

Horses With The Thickest And Longest Manes

  • Ponies, such as Shetlands and Fjords, have some of the thickest manes.
  • Gipsy vanners (cob horses) have thick, long manes and silky feathers on their legs.
  • Friesians have a long mane that can reach their shoulders in a black velvet waterfall.
  • Andalusians have thick, luxurious manes. For competitions and events, they often have braided manes and tails.
  • Black forest horse manes protect them from the European weather. Their manes are chestnut and their bodies are a dark chocolate colour.
  • The Haflinger is a chestnut horse from the mountains. They often have wavy natural manes that cover their heads.
  • An Icelandic horse’s mane protects it from the icy cold weather. The coarse, thick manes offer the greatest protection from harsh conditions.
  • Morgan horses are known for having a very long, flowing mane.

Horses With Not-So-Thick Manes

Some horses are not as lucky and have sparse manes. Sometimes, this is because of nature, and other times a mane is styled to be short and sparse.

Appaloosas are a popular horse breed with a naturally short, sparse mane. Akhal-Tekes also have naturally short, thin manes. Additionally, they sport a gorgeous golden coat and muscular build.

Styling Manes

Horse owners often like to give their horses braided tails and manes. On dressage horses, braiding is popular because it keeps the mane neat and untangled.

Not only does it look good, but it’s also a safety precaution and less distracting, as it keeps hair out of the horse’s eyes. It was customary at the time to braid male horses’ manes differently from the females’, especially during competitions.

Short manes

There are times when you may decide to cut or trim your horse’s mane. This may be because you want your horse to look neat for a competition or for safety reasons to keep the mane out of the bridle path.

Another reason may be to remove knots and tangles that have gotten completely out of control. Trimming the mane will allow it to grow back neat and straight.

What is a roached or hogged mane?

While many modern domestic horses still boast long manes, some owners will roach or hog the mane.

A roached mane means that the horse’s mane is clipped short, leaving a short mane in its stead.

A hogged mane is when the mane is completely removed, right down to the crest. This is often seen in draught horses for practical purposes.

Factors That Can Affect Horse Manes

Wild horses have manes that grow according to their genetics. Mustangs and Przewalski’s have shorter manes, while Fjord and Icelandic horses have long manes.

Because they don’t have anyone grooming them, they often get leaves and twigs entangled in their manes.

A horse’s mane can also be affected by their health and their nutritional intake. If a horse is not getting enough nutrients, then this can cause a deficiency that could affect the horse’s hair, including their tails and mane.

Their age can also play a part, as horses lose hair as they get older. Younger horses’ manes are often longer, healthier, and thicker.


Which horses have shiny manes?

Palominos have an impressively shiny mane. The golden hue of their coat and mane often catches the sunlight in a dazzling glaze. Silver dapples have a silver coat and mane, while Friesians and Andalusions have black, shiny coats and manes.

Do wild horses have better manes than domestic horses?

The answer here is based on preference because wild horses have natural, untouched manes that are functional. They offer warmth and protection. Some wild breeds have a thicker mane than domestic horses.

On the other hand, domestic horses are groomed and fed nutrients to help give them healthy, shiny coats, tails, and manes.

Do different riding disciplines require different styles of manes?

Yes, they do. For some disciplines, shorter manes are preferred for better bridle contact. For others, braiding is preferred.

Final Thoughts

While a healthy and thick mane is often a sign of good horse breeds, not all horse manes are the same. Some horse owners opt to remove a luxurious mane for practical purposes, and others opt to style and braid thicker manes.

It’s up to you how you decide to present your horse, as long as you keep the horse’s safety and circumstances in mind.

Similar Posts