Anyone who owns a traditional cob will probably agree with me when I say keeping a cobs hair in peak condition is almost a full time job. I have however, learnt some amazing tricks over the years that can help make the task a little easier.
Diet - In my opinion the absolute most important part of ensuring your horse has long, strong and healthy mane/tail and feathers is the diet. If your horse is not receiving the correct amount of minerals, it is impossible to expect them to grow good quality hair. I started feeding a small amount of natural minerals (which include seaweed etc) in with my horses diets approximately 2 years ago. Previous to this I found that Pie in particular had very coarse and brittle feather hair, would go through stages where the hair would break off in chunks and generally leave him looking rather bedraggled and untidy. Since adjusting the diet and over time his hair is now considerably stronger and breakages are less visible. I have also noticed that the hair has become much sleeker and feels softer to the touch. not only are his feathers now abundant in hair but I've also noticed an improvement in his coat in general.
So before reaching for the grooming products take a moment to asses weather your horses diet may need some tweaking to help improve the initial hair growth.
Trimming - Many die hard cob owners upon seeing a person with a pair of scissors approaching a horse bearing a magnificently long mane, will have a complete mental breakdown. The idea of hacking off that beautiful hair is very much frowned upon in the traditional circuit. However sometimes its impossible to avoid a little trimming here and there, the difficult part is making it look natural.
If you are to take a look at the CHAPS rule book for example it will read that excessively long manes and tails are not permitted in the show ring. This means if the tail is trailing along the floor, not only is it against the rules but it can also be a safety hazard as well, as if another horse or even the horse itself was to stand on the tail it could end up with a nasty accident taking place.
In traditional cobs the tail is left longer than in finer breeds. To achieve a natural look trim the tail level as normal and then take the scissors and trim upwards into the hair to achieve a feathered effect. A rake can also be used afterwards to achieve more layering if necessary.
Washing - Something people say to me on a regular basis is "you must wash Pie a lot to keep him so clean". Answer is.....I don't! If I were to wash my horses on a regular basis not only would I deny them of the natural oils in their coats but in the process of each wash, I would unintentionally pull out numerous strands of hair which if done too often would eventually leave the hair very sparse. Don't get me wrong if my horses come in from the field or a ride very muddy I will always give their legs a hose down (preferably with warm water) but I only ever wash with soft soap if heading out to a special event. When it comes to keeping the tail clean however, here's the best tip I can ever give........Tail bags!! Yes that right, its basically a long waterproof sock that you pull up over a plaited tail and tie it in at the top. What an absolute lifesaver these are and especially during the winter, Pie will wear one 24/7 and come out in the spring with a pearly white tail needing only a quick wash and a brush through to be ready for the show ring.
Oils and Products - I'm forever seeing people posting in groups on social media asking for miracle products for their horses. If their was a magic bottle you could rub that a genie would pop out of and magically poof you a clean and shiny pony, trust me we'd all have one. No, caring for horses is a lot of blood, sweat and tears and if your unlucky enough to own a grey you can guarantee your maintenance levels will have to treble. Some of my favourite products to keep my horses in good condition though are: