The mane should be the proper length for the type of braid you want.

         If you are going to be showing an English horse with braids, you won’t want the mane to be shorter than about 6 to 8 inches.  Once braided, the mane will be about 4 inches and then the braid will be doubled or made into a button.

          If you desire a French braid, running braid or Continental braid, then your horse’s mane must be very long.   In most cases, only certain breeds would wear such braids, and you should be familiar enough with the styles of your competition to know what is and what is not appropriate.

          You can buy braiding kits, or you can assemble your own.

          You will need:

          1. Twelve-inch stands of yarn matching the color of your horse’s mane.
          2.  Small rubber bands.
          3. A braid pull-through.  You can make one from some bailing wire or you can use a rug latch hook 
              or crochet needle.
          4. Scissors.
          5.  A sectioning comb.
          6.  Hair gel.

          A slightly damp, slightly gelled mane holds stray hairs in place and gives a great finished appearance.

          You will need to stand on a stool.

          Start at the top of the mane and comb off a section of hair to be braided.  (If you have a grooming apron, put your tools in the pockets so everything is handy.)

          Start braiding the section, keeping the braid nice and tight as you go.  About half way down the braid, place a piece of yarn, folded in half, in the center of the braid and continue braiding, incorporating the yarn as you braid.   When you get to the end of the braid, wrap the two pieces of yarn around the tail of the braid and knot the yarn.

          Continue to braid sections of the mane until you are finished.  Now you should have a row of braids with about 4 inches of yarn hanging from the end of the braid.

          To finish a plaited loop, slide the hook down the top of each braid, through the mane and slip the loose yarn though the eye of the pull through.  Pull the hook up and out the top of the braid—the braid tail and yarn should now be through the mane and resting on the crest of the horse’s neck.

          You can now crisscross the yarn under the braid, then bring it back around the middle of the braid and pull tight, creating a small bump, and tie a square knot.  Keep everything very tight.  Clip off the loose ends of yarn.

          A slightly different way to braid for a hunter or dressage horse eliminates braiding the yarn into the braid.

          Section off a part of the mane, again starting at the top of the neck near the poll.  Start a three-stand braid, wrapping right over center, then left over center.  Continue to the end of the hair.

          To secure the end of the braid, place a folded strand of your yarn or linen string behind the braid.   Wrap the string around the braid and take the loose ends through the loop made by the fold in the string.  Pull the string tight.

          Now slip the string through the top of the braid and by pulling the string, fold the braid in half.  Pull tight.   Separate the ends of the string and encircle the top of the braid.   Pull tight and tie a square knot.  Clip off the ends of the string.

          If you want a “button” or “rosette” then you simply repeat the braiding process until you have the braided loop.

          Using 10 to 12 inches of thread, push a needle into the middle of the “loop” from the bottom of the braid, coming out the top.  Then push the needle and thread down through the end of the loop of the braid, coming out the bottom.   From this position you push the needle through the base of the braid at the crest of the neck and pull tight.

          The result is you have “doubled” the loop and now have a tight “button” resting nearly on the top of the crest of the neck.  Tie the button tightly into place using the end of the thread, then clip off any excess thread.

  • Taken from the online course Preparation for Competition taught by Cathy Hanson.

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