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46/ AUGUST 2012 THE RIDER Jacking Up Your Horse’s Look - An Introduction To Braiding


by Daina Tunney and Kelly Bowers, photos by Daina Tunney Some horses, such as those used in circuses or in mounted presentations like Cavalia have manes that are encouraged to grow down to their knees. Others have their manes deliberately shaved completely off for style or practical purposes. However, if left alone, the mane usually grows no longer than the width of the horse’s neck, as natural wear and tear limit its potential length. Ponies often have the thickest manes, with breeds of horses having tremendous variation in thickness and length. Other equines such as the donkey often have very sparse, thin manes. All domesticated horses benefit from having their manes and tails untangled regularly to remove dirt, tangles and debris. Horses with short manes usually have their manes combed, while horses with longer manes are usually groomed with a human hair brush or a stiff dandy brush. Horses with extraordinarily long manes may have their manes hand picked to remove tangles. Before a horse show, the mane is generally washed, often fol- lowed by a conditioner or cream rinse to improve shine and man- ageability, though for horses with braided manes, the mane may be left alone or have gels that increase stiffness and body added instead.


Beyond basic care, the mane is styled in various ways, depending on the breed of horse, part of the world, and the rider’s discipline. The options for styling are:


• Natural, which includes manes conditioned to grow extremely long.


The Hunter Braid


Many exhibitors of long-maned horses also like the wavy look of a mane that has been kept braided until just before a show and may loosely braid a naturally long mane the night before a show just to obtain a fuller, wavy appearance.


The Running Braid


• Pulled or thinned, where small clumps of hairs are pulled out along the underside of the neck until the mane is three to five inches long and thin enough to lay flat against the neck.Banded, divided into many small sections with a small rubber band placed around each, seen on some breeds in Western riding • Roached, which is shaven off down to the neck. • Braided seen primarily in English riding or for fun. Today, braiding is performed to show off the neck, accentuating the top line when the horse is moving or jumping. Braiding may be used to hide conformation faults of the neck (for example, a relatively short neck can be braided with a greater number of smaller braids, making it look longer). Braiding can be used to train the mane to lie on one side of the neck, if half falls on one side and half falls on the other.


Traditionally, the mane is braided on the right side of the neck. This is still the standard for show hunter and eventers although dressage horses are commonly braided on either side. Regardless of style, many manes have a section behind the ears shaved in order to help the bridle lay more neatly on the head. This area is called a bridle path. It may very in length from one inch to over a foot, dependent on the discipline or breed of the horse, and is important to consider when grooming for competi- tion.


Types of Braids


The French braid is also known as Run- ning braid or an Andalusian braid. This style is braided along the crest and shows of the curvature of the neck. It is used on long thick maned hors- es, and is usually seen either when a baroque horse breed competes in dressage, or in hunter and dres- sage classes for horses that are otherwise required to show with a long, full mane. It may also be used in some dressage or west- ern classes, or at breed shows. Using this style allows room for


Running Weave


of horses known to kick as a warning of the danger to anyone fol- lowing them into the show ring.


Braiding horses began for practical reasons to prevent manes and tails from being pulled out and muddied during work. Braid- ing was originally reserved only for thoroughbreds, whether hunt- ing or racing, and denoted quality in a hunter.


creativity. It is easy to weave ribbon or other adornment into the mane for costume classes, breed shows, freestyle dressage, etc.


Today, braiding is more of a tradition; It improves the appearance of your horse and shows respect for the judge. It still denotes quality in a hunter. A well turned out horse will immedi- ately catch the eye of the judge and set a good impression. When two horses are showing the same ranking on his judge’s card, but he must choose to pin one higher than the other, he will always choose the more polished competitor.


References: Wikipedia, All About Horses by Disston, Harry (Bramhall House) and years of experience.


The Continental Braid The Dressage Braid


One of the most common and traditional braids in North American is a button braid or dressage braid, often utilized in Dressage as part of a well-groomed, well turned-out horse. Show horses of all types are traditionally braided with an odd number of braids, usually nine to fifteen. The number can be increased or decreased, depending on whether the rider wants the horse’s neck to look longer or shorter. This style can be used to show off the musculature and poll of the neck, making it easy to see if the horse is accepting the bit. Usually fewer, larger braids are placed along the neck or straight up from the neck. They may be tied with braiding tape instead of yarn or elastics.


The Hunter Braid


Hunter braids or flat braids are smaller, with as many as twenty to thirty on a neck, and they are the only braid considered traditional in hunt seat competition. They are usually not seen in other disciplines, although they are permissible for dressage or jumper. These braids can be used as a good way to show off your horse. The braid can help the horse look more balanced to the eye. ie: A horse with a short neck would have many braids to make the neck seem longer, but a long neck would seem shorter with fewer braids. Tails are usually braided as well to comple- ment the look.


The Continental braid is also called a “macrame braid” is also useful for long and thick maned horses, and creates a “net” in the mane. It isn’t a “braid but is s unique style made up of simple knots or can be created with rubber bands or yarn, but is viewed as stylish in some dressage and flat classes, particularly those in breed shows for horses that have naturally long manes. It is most striking on horses with contrasting colours of mane and body which shows through the weave. Coloured elastics can be used to make this specialty braid stand out more, or braiding tape may be used for an even more dramatic look.


The Running Weave


The Running Weave is a less common form of braiding, where the braids are not pulled up in half under itself, but rather pulled up under the braid that is two down from it (toward the withers). It is seen most often in hunt seat, dressage, or in the jumpers, although it is not as popular as the other forms of braid. It is used for horses with manes not long enough, or too unruly for a tradition- al running braid. It may be used in some dressage or west- ern classes, or at breed shows etc. It is a very unique looking braid that shows off the neck of the horse.


Tail braids


Tail braids may be a solid braid and may be braided only to the end of the tail bone. The braid can lay flat or be made to pop out. A red ribbon is woven into the tails


Tail braids


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