Preparing your horse for a show involves lots of grooming and tack cleaning. It would be a shame to put all of that effort into getting ready for a show and neglect to braid your horse's mane and tail though braiding isn't a requirement. Professional braiders are available for hire at many shows, but with a little practice you can do the job yourself.
Braiding the Mane
Thin your horse's mane before you begin braiding. To thin the mane, comb through it with a metal pulling comb, removing loose hairs. If the mane is still longer than 4 to 6 inches or thick enough that it doesn't lay flat, use the metal comb to backcomb the mane and pull out the longest hairs, a few at a time. This shouldn't bother your horse as long as you don't pull too many hairs out at once. If it is going to take a bit of work to get the mane thin enough to braid, divide the session up by thinning for a few minutes each day.
Thread your needle with braiding thread or heavyweight carpet thread. A color matching your horse's mane is best, although sometimes ponies are braided in fun colors.
Take a section of mane and start braiding. You want the finished braid to be about the width of a pencil, so if your horse's mane is very thin, each section will be wider than if your horse has a thicker mane. Start braiding behind the ears and work towards the withers. The braids need to be tight to look good and lay flat.
Slip your needle and thread through the middle of the braid, near the bottom. Wrap the thread around the braid several times to secure the end.
Pull the ends of the braid underneath the braid, toward the base of the neck. Slip the needle through the base of the braid, from the underside through to the top.
Sew through the braid several more times, alternating which side of the braid you go through. This will keep the braid tight and secure.
Clip the thread and knot the ends to secure the braid.
Braiding the Tail
Gather hair from both sides of the dock of the tail. You are going to french braid the tail, picking up hairs from each side as you work your way down the tail.
Stop picking up additional hairs when you reach the end of the root of the tail and braid until you reach the end of the hairs you have in your hand.
Tie off the braid the same way you did the mane, wrapping a threaded needle around the ends several times to secure.
Tuck the end of the braid under and push it to where you stopped french braiding. Pass the needle through the braid and tie off like you did the mane.
- West Virginia University Extension: Braiding the Hunter's Mane and Tail
- The Whole Horse Catalog: The Complete Guide to Owning, Maintaining and Enjoying Horses: Steven D. Price
- Dampen the mane with a sponge before braiding to control flyaway hairs.
- Don't use shampoo on your horse's mane before the show, as this makes it slick and harder to hold onto. Rinse the mane with water and scrub the base with your fingertips to get it clean.
- If you don't have a braiding needle, you can use a traditional needle. Break the end off first for safety.
- Don't leave the braids in any longer than necessary. They may start to bother your horse and cause him to rub them, which can break the hairs.