When participating in a competition, it’s time for both you and your equine companion to look sharp! You can give your horse as many baths and shampoos/conditionings as you’d like but, if the mane and tail looks unkempt, you can expect to receive some looks of judgment being directed your way.
The best way to ensure that your trusty steed looks pristine is with horse mane and tail braids. There is a wide variety of different ways to interweave a horse’s mane or tail, something you can easily tell if you just go on Pinterest and search “horse braiding.” However, which style is best for you typically depends upon your chosen riding discipline, as there are certain horse braiding styles that are preferred for Hunter/Jumper, Dressage or Western. While there is typically only one show-accepted way of plaiting a tail, we’ve outlined a few of the more common styles below, so read on!
- Hunter/Flat Braids: Originally developed by foxhunts to prevent horses’ manes from getting caught in branches and other foliage, this style of braid uses yarn that closely matches the natural strands’ color to tie little sections of the mane off the neck and into as many as 45 tiny braid loops. This style is most commonly seen in Hunter and Jumper shows.
- Button/ Rosette Braids: Usually seen in the ring at Dressage shows, button braids are customarily done with a needle and thread. However, they also have been seen wrapped with rubber bands or yarn. It is preferred that the mane’s hair be longer (at least 5 inches) in order to produce rounder buttons, and these are more sparsely spaced with only 11-17 braids.
- Running Braid: Not seen in a lot of horse shows, this braid is still a popular option amongst horse owners. A running braid is essentially just a French braid that runs down the horse’s neck. It requires a fairly long mane, and is most commonly seen on some of the more typically ‘elegant’ breeds like Lipizzans, Andalusians and Friesians.
- Western Banding: This is not technically a style of braid, but it is commonly seen in Western (especially pleasure) show rings. Banding just involves separating the hair into even sections, and tying a grooming band around the section of hair close to the base of the neck. The mane should be at least 3 inches long, as anything shorter than that will usually stick up and look awkward.
- Continental Braid: This style is also known as a Diamond Weave or Woven Mane, as the mane is woven rather than braided. A continental braid works best with long manes, as the finished product should come to about halfway down the horse’s neck. This weave involves sectioning off and banding the mane into separate pieces, and then splitting each one into two parts and continuing to section down the mane, leaving a few inches between each new band. When you’re finished, the result should resemble netting.
- Banded Plaits: Perhaps one of the more eye-catching horse mane braids in existence, this style often uses contrasting colored tape to wrap the hair. It works best with thinner and shorter manes, and is braided straight up; tied with a rubber band; and then folded over to the opposite side of the neck. It’s especially useful on horses with a straighter neck, as it can add more definition.
Horse braids not only add polish to the animal’s overall appearance, but can also visually balance physical features. For example, depending on the type of braid you choose, the style can make your horse’s neck appear thicker, more muscular or longer. Regardless of what braid design you select, make sure that your hard work makes it to the ring with ‘mane stay’ hoods and tail wraps from brands like Gatsby and Jammies.