Tricks to Treat a Thinning Mane

Learn the most common causes of skin conditions that result in a thinning, flaking mane.

Learn the most common causes of skin conditions that result in a horse’s thinning, flaking mane.


Through the years, I have had several horses, or have noticed clients’ horses, that lose mane hair on the underside of the mane. This causes a thin mane.

The area is slightly flaky but does not appear red or inflamed. The flakiness does not appear to be more than what is normal for horses with thick manes. With these horses there is no history of rubbing this area of the neck. The condition does not appear to bother the horse at all.

Any ideas what causes this or if there is a way to encourage mane hair growth in this area when the thinning occurs?

For the answer, we sought advice from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.


Often, when I am not sure of what is causing a skin problem specifically, I will treat the most common skin conditions. If I get good results, the problem goes undiagnosed, but the horse does improve. I start with those most-common ailments and move down the list until I find a solution that works.

1. A mild case of insect hypersensitivity

  • Try spraying a strong fly spray twice daily.
  • Feed omega-3 oil via flaxseed. 1/4 cup is adequate for a 1,000-pound horse.
  • Grind the flaxseed in a coffee grinder.
  • Bath the area three times per week with any shampoo. I have had luck with Dawn dish soap.
  • Oral herbals meant to keep inflammation down are useful.

2. Parasites

  • I will do paste dewormer three weeks in a row (i.e. Monday, Monday, Monday)
  • Many horses skin problems are due to deworming schedules that are too dependent on fecal testing. Tapeworms, bots, encysted stronglyes can be missed on fecals.
  • Many horses are not dewormed for 6+ months, so this may be a factor.
  • Using a more frequent worming regimen will help get many ectoparasites. After the first three weeks, I will then have the owner transition to deworming every 60 days during the season of hair loss.

Managing a horse’s mane and tail can be a difficult task. Clipping is just a part of the process of preparing a horse for the horse show. AQHA Professional Horseman and halter horse trainer, Randy Jacobs shares his best advice in AQHA’s FREE “Horse Clipping Tips” report.

3. Sunlight exposure

  • Many horses get mild bacterial/fungal hair problems that increased sunlight exposure can help control.

4. Nutrition

  • Add more protein to the diet. There are many ration balancers with higher protein and zinc content that help the immune system and skin. Because skin is mostly protein, this is immensely beneficial.

Treating the Top 3 or 4 causes of skin problems will typically solve most cases. Some might say this is a shotgunning approach, but it is usually the easiest, effective and economical.

— Dr. Frank Reilly, in conjunction with AQHA Alliance Partner American Association of Equine Practitioners.

*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.

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