Mane Clipping

Why Clipping of the Spanish Mare’s Mane and Tail is So Common In Spain

Clipping of the mane, also known as “roaching” is a foolproof cure for that unruly mane when all else fails. Perhaps that’s why it’s so popular with Spanish horses – a horse breed known for it’s abundant mane and tail. Imagine owning a herd of 100 or so mares with manes dragging through the pastures day in and day out. How mangy would that herd look!

picture of andalusian horse  picture of andalusian horse

That’s why it’s common practice for Spanish horse breeders to clip the manes off their mares. They often keep large herds of mares at pasture whose main function is to produce a foal crop each year. There were even some Gitano groups in Spain that were famous for clipping horses and mules with shearing scissors, thus improving the animal's appearance. There is a practical reason for keeping the base of the mares’ tail shaved off as well – to help keep the mare’s tail cleaner and out of the way for breeding and foaling.

Does Clipping the Mane Make the Hair Come in Thicker?

Some people believe that clipping a young horse’s mane and tail will “make it come in thicker”. Whether there is any scientific proof to this, I don’t know. But clipping the tail off does make the youngster suddenly appear to have larger hindquarters. And it is harder to hide conformation faults on totally clipped yearlings.

Can Clipping Improve My Horse's Appearance?

Most certainly clipping the mane on a young horse can improve his or her appearance. However, in the United States, buyers are not often used to such a clean look on Andalusian horses. You will have to weigh the pros and cons of clipping your own horses. Here are some points to consider:

• Young Andalusian horses typically have straight necks;
• Colts have not yet grown the large arched neck that they will get as stallions; and
• Mares take a while to mature and fill in their neck.

By clipping the mane in an arch, the seller or breeder can give the horse a more mature and lovely appearance. However, it does sacrifice the lovely look that our horses have with a full mane and tail.

Andalusians are Not The Only Horse Breeds With Clipped Manes

Pure Spanish Horses and Lusitanos are not the only equine breeds to have their manes clipped. Donkeys and mules are clipped in a similar fashion. Draft mules and other drafts may have their manes roached. A mule’s tail clipped in the “Spanish way” is called a “belled tail”. The Norwegian Fjord is always shown with a clipped mane so that it will stand erect. The Fjord’s mane is trimmed in a characteristic crescent shape to emphasize the graceful curve of the neck The white outer hair is then trimmed slightly shorter than the dark inner hair to display the dramatic dark stripe. South American criollos often have their manes clipped.

picture of horse  picture of horse

Roaching can also enhance the appearance of a horse’s conformation. Saddlebred 3-gaited horses are shown with a clipped mane and partially clipped tail. The roached mane helps accentuate the long slender neck characteristic of the breed.

Why Would A Riding Horse Need Its Mane Clipped?

Functionality and the horse’s “job” play a role in whether a horse’s mane is clipped or not. Working stock horses often have roached manes as prevention against burrs, sticks, and other debris they are exposed to daily. Police patrol horses and barrel racing horses may have their manes cut to avoid getting them tangled in the reins. Roping horses may have their manes roached to keep them out of the ropes. Dressage horse owners keep their horse’s tails thinned out at the top and keep them banged. English and western horse owners keep their horse’s manes “pulled” for easier braiding. Polo ponies’ manes, forelocks, and the tops of the tails are clipped. The manes is clipped to keep the horse cooler and there is less interference for reins, whips, martingales, etc. It also makes the polo ponies’ necks look leaner and more athletic.

picture of horse  picture of horse

However, there are disadvantages to clipping the mane off the horse you will be riding. Riding any horse without a mane can make your seat a bit less secure since there is nothing to grab onto “just in case” you’re about to have a spill. Polo riders solve this problem by leaving a patch of hair unshaved near the withers called the “Oh God” patch.

Interestingly enough, if you own a palomino horse or want to register your horse as a palomino you should not clip the mane just before registering it. The “ A horse may not be inspected and approved for registration while its mane is roached. The mane must be grown out enough to determine its color accurately” (Palomino Horse Breeder’s Association).

Dictionary of Clipping

Belled – a style used on mule tails
Date: 14th century
1 : to provide with a bell
2 : to flare the end of (as a tube) into the shape of a bell

picture of mule  picture of criollo horse

Bell sharp -An experienced mule that knew where to line up and could identify her saddle.
Date: 1605
1 a : a bobbed tail b : a horse, dog, or cat with a bobbed or very short tail

Cavvy marks – cowboy tradition of clipping the mane of a horse to indicate his training status

Clipped – a mane that is cut so that it stands up straight
Etymology: Middle English clippen, from Old Norse klippa
Date: 13th century
transitive senses
1 a : to cut or cut off with or as if with shears <clip a dog's hair> <clip an hour off traveling time> b : to cut off the distal or outer part of

Etymology: 1cock + tail
Date: 1808
: a horse with its tail docked 

“Interestingly enough a horse with a pedigree is called a "thoroughbred." In years past these horses were simply known as "bred-horse" and contrasted with a cocktail. "Cocktail," meaning a horse with a docked tail that stood up like the tail of a young rooster or "cockerel." Equines having their tails docked in this fashion were less likely to have a pedigree. Hence the connection between cock-tails and non thoroughbreds. This term has given rise to the name of our modern day name for a mixed drink. Given the reason of a mixed parentage and a drink with mixed ingredients we have named our drink after the "cock-tailed," horse”. (Why Horss are Called Horses)

Haca – “hack” - part-bred horse with a docked tail.
Etymology: short for hackney
Date: circa 1721
1 a (1) : a horse let out for common hire (2) : a horse used in all kinds of work b : a horse worn out in service c : a light easy saddle horse; especially : a three-gaited saddle horse d : a ride on a horse

Well, literally, a hackney is a "rental horse" and, just as a hired horse is likely to be tired and worn out, a hackneyed idea is similarly "tired and worn out". As you probably discovered in your research, hackney comes from the Old French haquenée, "an ambling horse or mare, especially for ladies to ride on". Many etymologists have attempted to trace it back further than this but the word has resisted all analysis. Most relate it to the Old Spanish and Portuguese facanea, Spanish hacanea, Italian acchinea and chinea , "a hackney or ambling nag". The French haquenée and its Romanic equivalents had probably some relationship with Old French haque, Old Spanish and Portuguese faca, Spanish haca, all meaning "a nag, a gelding, a hackney".

This is not the entire story, though. It is also possible that the English word hackney "rental horse", might derive from the place-name Hackney (1198, Hakenei, "Haca's Island") where horses were raised for use in London. Hackney is now no longer a separate entity, having being swallowed by London during the 19th century. (Take Our Word for It)

Hogged – a mane that has been saved close for its entire length
Date: 1769
transitive senses
1 : to cut (a horse's mane) short
2 : to cause to arch

Etymology: of Algonquian origin; akin to Narraganset or Massachuset Mohowawog Mohawk, literally, cannibal
Date: 1634
a hairstyle with a narrow center strip of upright hair and the sides shaved

Roached – a mane that has been clipped short, usually 2 to 3 inches
Date: 1818
1 : to cut (as a horse's mane) so that the remainder stands upright
2 : to cause to arch; specifically : to brush (the hair) in a roach -- often used with up

Shavetail - a rookie mule unproven in a pack train and designated by a roached mane and cropped tail
Etymology: from the practice of shaving the tails of newly broken mules to distinguish them from seasoned ones
Date: 1846
1 : a pack mule especially when newly broken in 

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