Learning how to braid is an integral part of horseback riding. As the skill takes years to master, it is helpful to start early, even if you do not plan to attend a show soon. Besides, who doesn’t want more horse bonding time?
When I first started riding, my trainer allowed all students to attend their first show with rubber band braids. After that, we had to learn how to braid with thread, or string. There are many benefits to braiding with thread over rubber bands. For starters, the braids are tighter and have less a chance of falling out or being rubbed by the horse. Secondly, they look more professional. And, if you want to make money braiding one day, thread braiding is a must. So, why not start now?
Helpful Hint: Do yourself a favor and get a braiding kit that clips on the waist. This will make things easier so you can keep your seam ripper, needle, QuicBraid, clip, and comb at your fingertips.
Step One: Comb and spray the mane with water or QuicBraid.
Step Two: Measure a section of hair anywhere from two to five finger lengths and make a straight part to separate. Whatever measurement you go with, whether it is two fingers (for very tiny braids), or five fingers (for large, rounder braids), be sure to keep the measurement consistent down the neck. Half the battle of having neat braids is making sure they are spaced out evenly.
Step Three: Use a clip or rubber band to keep the next section out of the way.
Step Four: Start braiding your first section as tightly as possible. It is key here to pull each piece firmly. The tighter the braid, the neater it will look in the end. This also cuts down on flyaway hairs and decreases the chances of the braid falling or rubbing out.
Step Five: Continuing to hold the braid tightly, insert the needle at the tip of the braid and wrap the thread around the end. Insert the needle again through the thread loop you just created, and let go. The braid is now completely secured.
Step Six: Fold the braid to the base of the neck. Depending on the length of the hair, you can fold the braid either once or twice.
Step Seven: Put the needle under your folded braid and pull it up the other side. Pulling it now will make your folded braid tighter.
Step Eight: Insert the needle at the bottom of the braid itself, and push the needle through the loop that your thread makes in this process. Putting the needle through the loop will yield a very tight braid and keep it secure. Do this going towards the right and left a few times.
Step Nine: Cut the excess thread and move on to the next section!
Step Ten: Repeat steps one through nine until you have reached the withers.
Braiding the forelock
This requires French braiding. French braid the entire forelock and perform the same steps you did on the mane braids. Sometimes this can be tricky if your horse prefers to hold his head higher than the clouds. If the braid looks less than impressive, I recommend putting on a nice bonnet and calling it a day! These steps may seem intimidating at first, but once you have practiced a few times, the process will feel like second nature. It is wise to practice a few times before you take your new skill out in public. Be prepared to wow the judges and your friends!
We want to see your braids! Next time you braid your horse, post a photo with the hashtag #onestopequineshop.
From one horse crazed human to another – Maria Holman