Winning Braids: Style selection and Instruction
The Button Braids
Button Braids are a popular choice for dressage riders. Above is an excellent example of button braids that are show-ready. To get the look: Divide your horse's mane into sections making sure that the sections are even in thickness and width. Secure each section with a rubber band, so that you can braid without interference from a wayward strand. It is best to use yarn for button braids, so make sure you have enough pre-cut strings ahead of time. Make sure that your yarn is cut at a length that is long enough to allow you to work comfortably- you can always cut-off the extra yarn at the end. Simply braid the yarn through each section at a time, tie the braid off at the end. Using your braiding eye-hook, pull the yarn through the middle of the top of the braid. Your braid should now look like a loop, with two pieces of yarn hanging over the loop. Take each strand of yarn and wrap it around the looped braid, fold the braid so that it is round (like a button), securing it close to the horse's neck. Once you have achieved the desired button look, double knot the yarn and cut off the excess. Continue the same steps for each braid.
The french-braid is perhaps the most popular option for your horse's forelock, given that your horse has enough hair to warrant the style. Above is an excellent example of a show-ready forelock. To get the look: Separate your horse's forelock into three small sections at the top, as you braid down the center add small sections of hair from each side. Once completed, secure the end of the braid with rubber bands, or yarn (if using yarn, braid the yarn into the forelock). Neatly fold the forelock underneath the braid, and secure with rubber bands, or yarn.
Banded plaiting is a fancy way to show-off your horse's topline, or to add definition to a straight neck. Above is an excellent example of a show-ready plaited mane, with bands. To get the look: divide your horse's mane into sections, making sure they are even in length and width. This style works best with a shorter, thinner mane, so pulling your horse's mane ahead of time is the best way to prepare for this type of braid. Standing on a stool, braid your horse's mane, by pulling the hair straight up as your braid (like a Mohawk). You can use rubber bands to secure the braid at the end. Take the braid and fold it in the opposite direction of the natural direction the mane falls. Secure with a rubber band. Next take white tape, or any banding of your choice and wrap the band around the braid. Repeat for each braid.
The running braid or "french-braid" is a popular choice for baroque breeds, as it provides a simple solution for braiding a horse with a long and thick mane. To get the look: Make sure you have meticulously combed through your horse's mane ahead of time, taking out all tangles. A wet mane is desirable with this braid. Starting at the top of the mane, divide your starting braid into three parts. Start braiding, pulling the hair taught with each fold. You will want to add a small section of mane every three folds- executing one long French braid. Once you reach the withers, secure the bottom of the braid by folding it under. If your horse has a very long mane, you can secure the end without folding it under.
Baroque breeds can have tricky manes to braid, because of the variation in mane-length. When the mane is not long enough to do a running braid, and not short enough to do button braids, loop braiding is an option. Above is an excellent example of a show ready mane. To get the look: Divide the mane into equal sections. Starting at the top of the mane, braid each section with yarn. To loop, pull the yarn through the top center of each braid, and tie securely. Repeat with each braid until you get to the withers. Your last braid can be a traditional braid that is folded under.
Hunter braids need to be as neat and even as you are able to make them! As with plaiting, you want to make sure your horse's mane is pulled and ready to braid. Using a "braid spray" is advisable, as it will help keep wayward strands in place. To get the look: Divide your horse's mane into small sections, making sure the sections are even in width. With hunter braids it is best to use yarn, so braid the yarn into the sections of mane as you go. Using your braiding eye-hook, pull the yarn through the middle of the top of the braid. Your braid should now be folded under itself (the folded braid should be no longer than 1 inch), with two pieces of yarn hanging over the top of the braid. Take each strand of yarn and wrap it around the folded braid, and tie securely, the knot should be centered and your braid straight. To polish your braids, it may be necessary to cut hair strands that fall out of place. Your braids should look as perfect as possible!