Braiding your horse’s mane can give a classic look and may enhance a less-than-perfect neck. Braiding should be completed shortly before your scheduled event to lessen the chances of the braids being pulled out or becoming frayed. Here’s a list of equipment necessary to attain that perfect braid.
A fine-tooth comb or braid aid (available from tack shops) to divide the mane into equal sections. A large hair clip (from beauty supply store)
Braid puller ~ Make this yourself by doubling a 12-inch piece of heavy, stiff wire and leaving a loop in the end.
Yarn or rubber bands ~ should match the color of the mane. Braid binders are available at tack shops in many colors
A large yarn needle
A seam ripper for removing the braids without damaging the mane.
Be prepared to start by already having the mane pulled to the right length and tangle-free, although if the mane is freshly shampooed or sprayed with tangle remover the hair shafts will be slippery and braids will be difficult to hold tight.
For “yarn braids” make ten loops of yarn (looping the yarn around your elbow and between your thumb and forefinger), then cut the loops in half.
Wet the mane with a damp sponge and using the braid aid or comb, divide the mane into sections, working from the bridle path to the withers. A braid aid will ensure that the braids are all of the uniform sizes, and using a large hair clip will keep the unfinished mane from interfering with the braid you are working on.
As you start braiding the first section, include a piece of yarn with the hair, twisting the hair tight and close to the neck. Braid close to the end and then tie off the braid with the strand of yarn. Continue this process until the entire neck is braided.
Next, just push the “eye” of your braid puller through the hair (up close to the skin) at the base of the first braid. Thread the yarn through the loop and pull it back through the braid. This will double the braid up underneath making a perfect braided loop.
Separate the strands of yarn, crossing them behind the braid, and push the braid up again (toward the neck) with your thumb. Tie the yarn into a secure double knot.
Braiding With Rubber Bands
If you are in a hurry and don’t mind the look of a little less “polish” then rubber bands or “braid binders” are perfect for the job.
You will need to divide and braid the mane, just as for yarn braids, but each section must be braided completely to its end and secured with a rubber band. Fold over the frizzy hairs at the braid’s end into a knot and secure them by repeatedly doubling the band.
Turn the braid underneath so the rubber band is hidden and use a second binder to secure the loop in this position, wrapping several times and letting the last loop fall 1 / 4 inches lower than the rest. This helps the braid lie flat against the neck for a more finished appearance.
Don’t forget to braid the forelock in the same fashion. Good luck and good riding!