Mane Braiding Tips!
Having a nicely turned out horse at a show is a great way to catch the judge’s eye. All of that shine and bright white highlights, and hopefully an equally lovely braided mane. Don’t be overwhelmed by braiding - practice at home, and over time you will find it easier.
Some handy tips on mane braiding:
- Short manes are seemingly easier to braid - unless you accidentally made the mane too short. So, let’s start from the “prep” part. For some of the western disciplines, like western pleasure, that use bands in the man, to the tiny and numerous hunter/jumper braids, to the few and far between dressage button braids, you will start with a short mane.
- Now, most folks tell you that 4 fingers long is about ideal mane length for any of the above disciplines. And, for the most part, that’s great!! Unless you have a horse with a super wavy and curly mane, in which case you want more. I have always tended to like 5 to 6 fingers, just in case…. You can always go shorter, but it's gonna take a while for mane to grow out. Start on the longer side, do some test braiding, and see if you need to go shorter.
- For any mane, thick or thin, I like the entire mane to be consistently dense. By that, I mean that the mane is the same thickness from ears to middle to withers. Most horses are thicker in the middle, which makes braids uneven.
- To create even density in the mane, you will need to thin the mane by pulling the thicker sections. Many horses tolerate and even like this process, if you horse doesn’t, you can use a thinning comb. Because thinning combs cut the mane, you might have a row of super short stragglers, but some creative product application can smooth them down.
- For long manes, which are seen in some of the western disciplines, some saddlebred disciplines, and the baroque breeds, you can get away with a little more variation in the thickness and still be OK. Most western horses with longer manes are fairly thin from ears to withers, and most baroque breeds are thicker all over.
- Now we are just getting to the practice braiding part. So now you want to think about a few more things before you bust out the yarn and elastics. I like to braid a mane that’s a bit dirty - not crazy dirty where you can see it from space, but just enough stick that your fingers, yarn, and elastics are not going to ice skate away from you and the mane. One or two days (or more) after a shampoo is usually good. If you are one day away from a show and you must shampoo the mane because someone slept in the dirtiest spot possible, use some Mane Mousse for texture.
- See what width of braid works for your horse. Experiment with wider braids and thinner braids to see what’s most flattering for my horse’s neck.
To get ready to braid, I also like to use an apron to house all my stuff:
- Mane Mousse to help smooth and set the hair
- Rubber bands
- Hair clip to hold back the rest of the mane
- A seam ripper, maybe one with a magnifying glass!
Here are some tips for braiding - so you are totally prepared when you get to the show…
- If the mane has some fly-aways that you can get your fingers around, grab them with a few longer hairs and twist together before you section into three and braid.
- For fly-aways that don’t twist into your braid, use a bit of Mane Mousse to smooth the fuzzies.
- Take your time. Practice a little bit at a time and you’ll be surprise how amazing they look.
- You may want to practice braiding with yarn in a different color so that you can see your work clearly and learn from it. Save the matched colored yarn and elastics for show day.
- The more you practice, the more your horse will get used to it. This goes quadruple for the forelock - a very tricky french braid in a tricky location!
- If you are practicing a running braid, get as high up as you can so that you are totally above the mane. The best running braids sit on top of the crest, not on the side. Getting high up there lets you french braid down the crest by staying on top - super classy result!!
- Seam rippers are great for taking it all out when you are done!