Buccas has a relatively new advanced fiber product that is very versatile. It can be a cooler, blanket liner or sheet. The material is somewhat like lycra, so it stays pretty clean. Plus, it breathes and wicks well. It is not too hot or bulky. I think it is a breakthrough in dressing horses.
Conditioners: You are right that most conditioners ultimately dry out the hair. They coat the hair and it hangs heavy instead of full. Plus, the detanglers make the hair brittle to break. Some are even toxic.
In my experience the best route to a glistening and fluffy mane and tail is not a spray. If you use a healthy shampoo and comb the wet long hair (hold and work below your grip), it will reduce tangles, strengthen hair, and improve shine. In fact, you’ll see more layers to the shine in just one bath! More products are not better. Just keep her clean and groom her lots.
Brushes: To begin, I like to use a soft rubber curry with nubs along the ridges or a conventional rubber mitt. If you get her blood going first, she may be more tolerant of a medium brush. I like to use a wooden handled dandy in each hand and go at it. The rhythm itself can be relaxing. Some horses are sensitive, but good grooming is not optional. Do what you can for her, but still groom vigorously. It is important for her.
Ruthann Smith is a top braider who has used her years of experience grooming and braiding elite show horses in this country to start the Lucky Braids empire. Now, Ruthann travels across the nation conducting clinics on horse management, turn-out and braiding. She's also started a line of horse healthcare products. No one is more qualified to answer your questions about those frustrating grooming and braiding questions!
To see more about the Lucky Braids products Ruthann mentions, and to check out her instructional braiding DVD, please visit www.luckybraids.com.