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Matted curls, Rub outs and Frizzy dos: Tips to help!

& TAILS too! (click here for updates)

By Denise Conroy

We all agree that one of the most wonderful things about our Curlies is their low maintenance & ease in keeping. But there is one thing that isn't so easy and that is caring for a curly's spiral mane. Many find it so frustrating. they do nothing. Just as we have adapted to the peculiar appearance of their curly coats, we have also grown very accustom to seeing curlies with manes in disarray, half shed out, matted curls and frizzy dos. It's normal, it's natural, right? Well, I used to think so until I started experimenting with my gelding's manes last fall.

Video by Brie & Sage

Video Demonstration of Denise's Mane Treatment

FAQ & Product links to buy

STEP ONE: Eliminating the rub outs:

My first experiment began with trying to answer the question, 'why do some Curlies 'rub' their manes out? I felt something must be triggering that response. I took a closer look at the skin under the mane and found white, flaky gunk. Why some curlies, but not all? I believe some curlies have an oilier skin and as their mane grows thick in the winter, an underlying bacteria begins to form causing an itching response as warm weather approaches. It would also make sense that as they rubbed out the hair, the fungus/bacteria would go dormant as the skin became exposed to air & sun. I decided to take a pro-active approach to this and see if I could keep my horse's manes & tails clean all winter and just maybe prevent the loss of those curly locks come spring.

I found a product called Dermal-aid. At first the horses didn't like it much because it tingles if the skin is irritated but once the skin is healthy they didn't mind at all. As their skin became healthy it stimulated amazing hair growth! Lush, gorgeous and thick curls.

By mid-summer, three of our four geldings went from 1 inch frizzy manes in October to 14 inches of gorgeous, thick spiral curls! (pictures of before and after below) Our extreme gelding, Zig also had more hair than in past years. Enough tail to swat flies and about 3 inches of curls compared to none in past years. The horses that benefit the most are the ones that literally 'rub' out their manes verses a random 'falling out' that takes place with some extreme curlies. In those cases we could be dealing with a genetic component and not an environmental one.

Here is a picture of Reese before any treatments. Although he would keep a few long strands, he would rub out 85% of it.
Photo taken October 05 - click on photo for closeup view. .

bashkir curly, curly horse, curly horse mane, spiral curls

Reese's Gorgeous Mane AFTER surviving the normal Summer rubouts! (exactly 1 year later!)

BELOW: Photo below taken in January 2007
BELOW: Photo taken in April 2007
In April 2007 I ended up trimming Reese's mane a bit...maybe 2-3 inches. The ends had frizzed quite a bit due to the long winter and inability to keep oil on those ends --- basically the oil froze on those ends. I realized that a long mane is a bit more work than a nice short one! lol. Ideally, I would say 10-12 inches is the best length for a curly mane....any longer and you risk breakage and losing the quality of the overall appearance.

STEP TWO: Maintaining those gorgeous curls! - Very important!

Once your curly has about 5 inches of growth, you need to condition the mane to KEEP those curls healthy and prevent breakage and matts. It's important to condition the mane using natural hair oils , such as Jojoba oil. Never comb the curls, only use your fingers! PREVENTING matts is the best way to keep your horse's beautiful mane. But if you do see some curls beginning to matt over time, my advice is to snip those individual dreads right off at the base of the neck to allow for healthy re-growth. (using a razor comb works best so there are no blunt edges and that section blends in with the rest of the mane.) I've noticed that some manes matt more easily than others, for instance our gelding Billy has coarse spiral curls whereas Reese's mane is softer and absorbs the oil much easier. So depending on what type of hair your curly has, you may need to oil more frequently. This sounds like a lot of work, but truly just a few minutes each week can make all the difference in maintaining those spectacular curlies! No more frizzy mops and funny looks! Your Curly will be come the envy of the neighborhood!

For those that are afraid to cut back your Curly Horse's mane, here is a good example for you. In October of 2006, I used sissors and completely cut down Billy's mane -- there was maybe 1/2 inch left. I treated his mane thru January with Dermal aid only since there was no need to apply the essential oils until he had significant growth. Note photos below.
ABOVE: Billy's mane in October 2006, freshly cut
ABOVE: Billy's mane in April 2007- Gorgeous thick curls!!

I have focused on the Manes in this article and thought Tails should also be mentioned. I have treated my geldings tails as well as their manes with great success. Of my 3 geldings, Reese does not shed his tail at all, so he just gets his iodine bath in the spring to clean his tail and that's all I do. Chy always sheds the top of his tail and he will rub it on everything til it's a huge fluff ball and then it slowly falls out. So I treat the top of his tail and he never rubs it out anymore. This past year, I only treated him once and he kept it in all year again. Now Zig -- he is our extreme curly. I treated his tail and I got rather shocking results the first year.....see below: CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Note on the left is an old photo of Zig taken in january of 05. I treated him the following winter and the right photo is the results by spring of 06. What a difference, eh?

***Here is what I think happens to the tail. If you have a curly with sparce tail hair, I think the more it is exposed to the elements the tougher the skin becomes, almost like elephant skin. As a result, the hair can not get grow. By using Dermal Aid, this not only rids the skin of anything unhealthy, but it also softens the skin as well. I noticed when treating Zig that for about 5 days, his skin was shedding -- it was flaking and gross. But after it quit shedding it was like new skin undereneath. If we can get the skin healthy, I do believe the hair CAN grow. Due to expense, I didn't treat Zig the following year and although he still shed the TOP of his tail, he is keeping the rest of it!! It is still short, but healthy!!!

I also treated an extreme curly mare, Katy - who had a bare tail with bald patches everywhere. The same thing happened...she shed her old dead skin after a week of treatments and within 2 weeks, the bald patches grew in. I don't know if she will ever have a full mane and tail, but if we can keep the tail protected so it is not bothered by flies, I am sure the horses are happier.

Here are the DON'Ts:

  1. Never comb or brush your Curlies mane! You will create frizz that will stretch the hair and damage the natural curl. It does not spring back. A Big No-No!
  2. Never use show sheen or any silicone based product on your curlies mane/tail. This will dry out the hair, cause breakage, mattes and tangles.
  3. Do not over shampoo your horse's mane. This will dry your curlies mane out quickly. If you need to bath often for a show, use a baby shampoo as a gentle cleanser mixed with a bit of hair oil. Beta iodine will also dry out your horses' manes, so I only use this once a year on my horses.

So in summary: Here are the DOs:

  1. Treat your horse's mane every 3-4 weeks with an antifungal product such as Dermal Aid during the winter months to maintain healthy skin and proper hair growth. Dermal aid has an oily base to it and does not dry out your horse's mane.
  2. Bathe your horse each spring using a beta iodine scrub to remove any winter scruff from body, mane & tail.
  3. Weekly treatments of hair oil to the mane, such as jojoba to condition and maintain the corkscrew curls, adding soft & silky feel while preventing tangles and mattes. Just spritz it in the mane, rub it in thoroughly and let it go!
  4. Trim off any matted curls at the base of the neck to encourage healthy re-growth.
  5. When necessary, don't be afraid to trim your horses' entire mane back to 1 inch to allow a fresh new growth of even curls. I just use scissors or clippers. I know this is hard but trust me; it does grow back and even prettier than before! Long manes are pretty but if they are frizzy, dry and matted, it only takes away from the beauty of your curly horse.

Note: One of the most unique things about a curly is their mane and in the summer this is one attribute that sets them apart from other breeds. We have sort of grown accustom to matted, tangled and rubbed out manes but non-curly people find it grubby and messy. If we are in the public eye, I think it should work a bit on the presentation of our horses. Until now, I have found this very hard to do, but hopefully through this article this may help more of us to have nicer looking manes as we proudly present them in public.

Here is a video demo of my process


Q & A on Curly Mane Article

I have received several emails with further questions on the Curly Mane article I wrote in the last issue of the Curly Cues, so I thought I would post the answers here incase others had similar questions.

Q: Where can I buy Dermal Aid?
A: Valley Vet Supply, Buy here.

Q: How do I apply the Dermal Aid?
A: The best way to apply it is to buy a plastic condiment (ketchup) bottle with a tip and put the Dermal Aid in there to apply to the mane and tail. This way there is little waste and you can squirt a little and rub in good. You can buy these at any dollar store or Walmart. I found a small 7 oz empty bottle with a tip on the end that allows me to squeeze on the product without any waste. I can concentrate on certain areas too. If your horse has a split mane it is quite easy to apply. Just squeeze down the center of the mane and rub in. Dermal aid is very penetrating so you don't have to use much.

Q: Where can I buy Hair oils?
A: I buy my oils from Herbal Remedies online. I included the direct links to the products below.
Sweet Almond Oil and Jojoba Oil

Q: What kinds of oils are best?
A: If you want to keep it as inexpensive as possible, buy the 16 oz of Jojoba and 16 oz of Sweet almond oil, mix 1/2 and 1/2 and add a little water. Both are great hair oils and are affordable.

Q: How do you apply the oil? With a spray bottle?
A: Yes, for the oils I purchased a small spray bottle at Walmart. They are usually found back by the hair products. I found as the mane gets longer, the oil spreads nicely if the mane is just a tiny bit damp.

Q: When should I start and how often do I do treatments of Dermal Aid? Year around?
A: I started in October, which is best! I treated my horses every 3 weeks during the really cold months. ( I did not start the hair oil treatments until they had significant growth, like 5 inches, which wasn't until the spring. Usually by then, you can start to see the mane begin to matt or frizz and the oils help to moisturize and maintain those amazing curls.) By spring, my Dermal aid treatments were more often because as the weather warmed, I noticed more white flakey skin coming more frequently. I would not recommend treating more often than every 10-14 days. If you notice some bald areas appearing, you can treat just those areas. The best advice I can tell you is to keep an eye on the skin of the mane and always make sure it looks healthy and prevent any bacteria or fungas from developing. This keeps the skin clean and healthy for regrowth and also prevents rubbing. I treated Prairie Espresso Dream's (AKA Reese) mane all needed with incredible results. (see photo attached, taken in Sept 06)

Note: if you do see small bald patches appearing during the summer, treat with dermal aid AND a fly repellent cream such as 'swat.' - This will keep the flies from biting that bare skin. Otherwise your horse will rub to ease the irritation of the fly bites.

Q: How about the hair oil treatments? How often?
A: Once my geldings have a good mane, I started spritzing on the oil about once a week. It made a world of difference in preventing matts and the frizzies. Just remember, DO NOT apply the oil in the heat of the day. The oil will burn the hair and only make it more frizzy. I always applied oils at sunset to allow absorption during the nite.

Q: In order to start, do you suggest that we cut the mane and start fresh?
A: Yes, if your horse has matts, frizz and an overall unhealthy mane I suggest cutting it completely down. If the mane is just a bit frizzy, try applying oil and the dermal aid treatments and see if you can revitalize some curl. If not, I would cut it off to about 1 inch and start over.

Q: I am afraid to cut it! How long does it take for the mane to grow back?
A; With 3 of my geldings, their manes grew about 12 inches over the coarse of the year.Our extreme curly gelding Zig was more like 5 inches. In most cases, your horse's manes will come back even curlier than before. Some horses' manes will come back with magnificent curls, while others will start out whispy but with length and weight, spiral into soft curls later.

Q: Does this work on extreme curlies?
A: To some degree, but not as well.

Q: My horses seem to flinch when I apply the Dermal aid, why?
A: Because the skin is irritated and the Dermal aid has to kill the bacteria. You will notice that the second time you apply it, your horse won't mind - and that's because the skin is healthy. As with any new product, I would suggest trying a small area to start and make sure your horse isn't allergic to it.

Q: Do you also treat the tails?
A: Yes, but only the top where it tends to shed. All my geldings kept hair on the top of their tails this year. Chy's and Billy's were like puff balls at the top! I don't apply oil to the tails, simply because it is just too costly, but you can if you want.

Q: My horse has very coarse curls, do you suggest more oil treatments?
A: yes. Billy's mane is very coarse and I find it matts very easily because it dries out faster and breaks easy. So you will have to moisturize more often with oil. NEVER, ever use human hair conditioner or gels - this will only coat the hair and block the pores..making the hair heavy and prevent regrowth to the skin. Reese's mane is very fine and I find it easiest to maintain.

Please feel free to email me with any further questions.

Your Testimonies!

March 24, 2011:

I got Abby in Nov. so 4 months ago and started treating her mane right away.  I decided not to trim it down cause I wanted it as long as possible before the Midwest horse fair.  Well you can see from the second picture it's grown alot! I can get some of her forelock to that really grew. ~ Blaine Hendrickson

We started with the dermal aid and almond oil on this smooth coated gelding on the 28th of Feb. You can see a kind of "line" where the mane is dark (more dirt) and very white. Thie is the growth in that time period !! (about 2 inches?? maybe more?)  I bought some of these 'beauty aids" for a few friends too I am so impressed with the results. I am doing ALL the horses-- on a pretty regular basis. We also own 2 very nakeds (from Erica Frei) and the one very naked is actually growing hair on his body where he has been totally bald for the time we have owned him. ~ Betsy, Top O' the Hill Farm

These are pictures "before" and "after" pics of my curly mare, Dream. You can see that her mane was either 3 inches that stood up straight, or 3" that laid on one side of her neck.  Her hair has grown in MUCH thicker, because now it spilts down the middle and falls on both sides!  These are the "After" treatment pictures of Dream's mane and tail.  Bear in mind that I have done no trimming.  I washed her twice since March 31 (when I adopted her) with Iodine shampoo.  Then I treated both mane and tail with DermalAid.  It took a long time for her "itchies" to go away and stay away. Her mane doesn't turn into dreadlock.  So far it twirls, but doesn't mat. It is very thick, so it is splitting down the middle with some laying on each side of her neck.  When I first adopted her it was as though her mane was starting to grown out from being roached, so this is about 4" of new growth!  The longest piece of her tail was at her hocks, and now the rest of her tail is at her hocks.  Now I am treating with the other essential oils mixed in with Sweet Almond Oil. ~ Laurie Lee

Hi Denise, I have been treating Mocha Baby Twist's mane for a couple of months now.  I use the Dermal aid and Jojoba oil and Almond oil, as you suggested.  I was ready to wait for several weeks or months for an improvement, but I noticed a change right away.  Baby lost over half her mane last summer when I used a silicone based product on it.  She is now back to a 6 inch double split mane, thick and beautiful, and still growing!  I do apply the dermal aid right out of the bottle and use a little spray bottle for the oils.  I need to attack WWW One Curly Drifter's mane, but boy, I am hesitant to cut it back, it is so thick and curled, but matted in some spots.  I will trim it back this summer when I have time and begin the applications on him.  I also treat my yearling filly, Angel Leggs, her little split mane and tail are beautiful.  I notice that the hairs are healthier and the mane fuller.  I can bury my face in Baby's mane easily!  I would like to send photos, as soon as I figure that one out.  Thank you so much for sharing your ideas.  I am very grateful and my curly horses are the more beautiful for it. Sincerely, Joanie Henning

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