How to Do Show Stopping Horse Braids

Beautiful braiding is a common sight in the equestrian scene. Have you ever watched a professional event and wondered how the riders got those perfect horse braids? Well, now you can find out!

Your horse is one of your most prized possessions, and you want them looking and feeling their best. That’s especially true when out in the show ring.

Some horse braids are more popular than others, and some styles are required for certain riding disciplines. But braiding is not just for show. It can also benefit you and your horse.

But is braiding your horse’s hair really that necessary?

Although the rule book says nothing about braiding, most competitions require horses to present a polished look to impress the judges, and your horse will lose points if they appear untidy with an unbraided mane and tail.

Aside from the requirement of horse shows, it also helps keep your horse’s hair from knotting. For a horse with a long mane, braiding can help keep the tangling to a minimum.

All horses benefit from having their manes and tails done regularly to remove dirt, tangles, and debris. That’s why a well-presented braid is an excellent way to show off your horsemanship,

However, if you’re dealing with a rather hard-to-manage mane, you might need to pull it before you start braiding.

Mane pulling is the act of removing individual hairs at the root of your horse’s mane. Although it might sound terrible, it’s a common practice, completely painless, and enjoyed by most horses.

The primary purpose we do this is to thin and shorten the mane. Generally, pulling is only required for equestrian show events, but it also benefits horses who have long, hard-to-manage thick locks.

As a friendly alternative to pulling the mane manually on sensitive horses, many riders enjoy using Solocomb.

Before you start, make sure your horse is used to having the mane handled. You don’t want to attempt pulling or introducing anything new right before a show. Give them plenty of time getting used to it by tugging on the mane during your regular grooming sessions.

You’ll want to begin past your horse’s bridle path and work your way down the neck. Below is a fantastic video showing you how to pull your horse’s mane in the most painless way possible.

  • Mane and tail comb or brush
  • Rubber bands
  • Pulling needle
  • Yarn
  • Hair clips (optional)
  • Detangler spray


​Image ​via Unsplash

Braiding the mane and tail can result in a fantastic work of art. And if you plan to compete, it’s customary for horses to have their manes done before they enter the ring.

There are several different styles of horse braids for all levels and disciplines of equestrian events. So it’s essential to choose a style that will not only flatter your horse but also please the judges.

You should always prep your horse’s hair by using a detangler spray. And there’s no better spray to use than The Original Mane ‘n Tail Detangler.

No matter what style you’re working with, proper braids come from proper preparation. Take the time to brush your horse’s mane before you begin braiding. You can do this by using the Roma Soft Touch Mane and Tail Brush.

Now, grab your supplies, and let’s take a look at the most popular horse braids to help you learn how to give your horse a finishing touch of perfection.

Hunter horse braids originated from the tradition of the Fox Hunt. The purpose of the style was to prevent the horse’s mane from flying back into the rider’s face. It also helped manes and tails from getting tangled during a wild chase.

These days, we typically use the hunter braid when competing in the equestrian show ring rather than an actual hunt.

The hunter braiding style consists of several short tight braids following the line of your horse’s mane.

For a hunter braid, it’s best to use a needle and yarn, but you can also try elastics. Whichever you choose, it’s most common to use the same color as your horse’s hairs.

For the yarn, we recommend Red Heart, but many other brands are just as good.

To measure the yarn, hold your arm like you are flexing your muscles and make an L with your hand. Then wrap the yarn around your hand and elbow in a circular motion. When you feel that you have enough, cut one side of the circle.

Depending on the length of the mane, you’ll make around 8 to 10 rotations before introducing the yarn halfway through. Take the yarn behind the braid and hold it against the hair, then continue braiding down.

When you reach the end, separate the yarn and make a knot by looping the yarn at the tip. Hook the yarn to your needle and take it through the very top of the braid. Pull up and through the hole to make a double twisted knot and tie it underneath the braid, tightly.

Once finished, your horse’s neckline should be elegantly visible, presenting a highly sophisticated look for any event.

To see the process of creating hunter jumper horse braids, check out the video below.

A running braid, also known as the waterfall, is an elegant and sometimes useful alternative to traditionally braided manes.

For traditional braids, a horse’s mane must be trimmed or pulled to fit standards. However, for a running braid, your horse’s mane can be almost any length. The longer the mane, the better running horse braids look.

You braid this style into a mane very similar to a French braid in your own hair. If you know how to make a French braid, you’ll have no problem creating a running braid on your horse.

To begin, gather a handful of hair right behind the ears at the top of your horse’s neck. Then create three segments out of the mane. Continue by crossing these strands underneath each other to form the beginning of a braid.

It’s vital to braid with even tension down the mane line. Make the braid tight enough that it stays tidy, but loose enough to allow the neck to stretch.

Once your braid gets started, continue adding hair so the braid will trail down the length of the neck.

When you reach the base of the neck and run out of mane, finish braiding the length of the hair in your hand with a traditional braid. Finally, finish it off by tucking the braid with a rubber band.

It’s best to pick durable bands specifically designed to use on your horse like Perri’s​ ​Rubber Braiding Bands.

The finished effect of a running braid is dramatic and compliments the neck of many horses. This braid is popular for showing but should be removed for turnout.

Watch the video below for a better look at how to make your own running horse braids for your horse.

Button braids have become increasingly popular in the equestrian world. Also known as the dressage braid, this style is the most common of horse braids used in the dressage ring.

Similar to the hunter braid, the button braid consists of tying up singular braids along the horse’s neckline. However, these braids are larger and tied with colorful bands to give them a bolder appearance in the show ring.

To begin your buttons, section off the mane to ensure evenness and braid to the halfway point. Now you’ll want to add a piece of yarn to the braid with a needle. Finish braiding the mane normally by threading the yarn through each of your rotations.

The Zhanmai metal yarn needle is sturdy, making it an excellent choice to use for all braiding styles.

When you reach the end of the section, use the yarn to tie off the tip of the braid.

Next, fold the end back underneath the braided hair, meeting the base of the mane and creating a loop. Pull the needle and yarn back through the mane to fasten the end at the top and secure the loop.

Continue by rolling the braid into a ball, to create your first button. Sew the braid into place so that it won’t come undone. Then tie it off and cut away the excess yarn. Try to sew the closest you can to the crest of the neck but always be careful with the needle.

Proper button braids can add a level of polish to your ride, while messy, horse braids can be a distraction. While the dressage rule book says nothing about braiding, judges look down on an untidy horse.

If you still have questions, here’s a handy video on the basics of doing great button braids.

While not technically a braid, the continental braid is where the horse’s mane is woven together along the neckline. This style is popular for horses who have longer manes.

Like all styles, you need to start by separating the mane into different sections to make it easy to style. That’s done by using a brushing tool like this fantastic Oster ECS Mane and Tail Comb.

Hold the first section in one hand and part the next into two even pieces. Then combine one of these parts with the first ponytail section.

Twist an elastic around the new section, placing the band about one and two inches down this part of the mane. It creates a gap in the braid, which begins a lace effect.

Work down the mane, separating the parts in half. Continue creating new sections by joining the halves of adjacent groups. Remember to keep the bands even by following the same pattern a length you used on the previous section.

To finish a row, join the entire last ponytail section with half of the previous section on the neck. Create as many rows needed for the right diamond or lace effect you want.

The continental braid is one of the more advanced, yet beautiful styles of horse braids you can do. The finished result will give your horse’s mane a touch of elegance and fantasy.

Check out the video below for a more hands-on look at creating continental horse braids.


​Image via Pixabay

Whether you’re braiding for show or fun, it’s essential to have a tidy mane and tail. Braids don’t only look great but also shows that you put a lot of time and effort into your horsemanship.

Caring for your horse involves extensive grooming. It would be a shame to put all of that effort to waste by neglecting to braid your horse’s mane and tail.

Just like with our own hair, braiding your horse adds something unique and special to their look. Braiding can help benefit the health and growth of your horse’s mane by keeping it clean, trimmed, and tidy.

We hope this helps you on your quest for the perfect horse braid! Let us know about your own braiding experiences by leaving a comment below.

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