Show Horses and their Beautiful Mane Braids

This two year old horse patiently awaits her debut in the show ring. A braided mane and tail will show her conformation at it's best.
This two year old horse patiently awaits her debut in the show ring. A braided mane and tail will show her conformation at it's best.

Traditionally, horses and ponies to be shown in English styles of riding and driving are braided for horse shows. The braiding styles are absolutely beautiful pieces of art and many hours of love and practice have gone into producing them.

Spectators at fairs and competitions are often kept at a distance from the horses for safety reasons, so here’s your chance to see up-close and personal what the braids in the horses manes and tails look like. Here are a few styles of mane and tail braids I have done over the years. Enjoy!

Copyright note: Please ask for my permission before distributing any of these photos. They are my own work and craft.

Hunter Braids - Grey Large Pony
Hunter Braids - Grey Large Pony

The Short Manes

Hunter Braids

Aptly named, this is the most commonly seen style of braids seen in the Show Hunter ring. Occasionally referred to as Flat Braids or Bumped Braids - though those terms oddly contradict one another.

Hunter Braids
Hunter Braids
White yarn offers a subtle highlight to the neckline for this dressage horse.
White yarn offers a subtle highlight to the neckline for this dressage horse.

Dressage Braids

This Hunter style of braiding can easily be transformed into Dressage Braids by using white yarn for a subtle highlight to the horse or pony's neck-line, or by using white tape for a bolder statement.

Dressage Braids with white tape
Dressage Braids with white tape
A splash of colored tape was added for this horse's fun class.
A splash of colored tape was added for this horse's fun class.
Colored yarn added to Scalloped Braids for fun Musical Freestyle Festival.
Colored yarn added to Scalloped Braids for fun Musical Freestyle Festival.

Scalloped Braids

are beautiful and delicate. They are used in a variety of show rings and make for a very elegant neckline. In the right lighting they throw a pretty, laced shadow on the neck of the horse.

Scalloped Braids - an elegant style.
Scalloped Braids - an elegant style.

Button Braids

are simply neat, tidy and the most authentic style of any mane braid. They are truly a classic: seen in many disciplines of English riding, they are really making a comeback here in the states! Traditionally sewn into the mane with needle and thread, the Button Braid has taken on few different forms over time by the use braiding elastics or yarn to achieve a similar look. Therefore, this rounded style has inherited several names: French Knots, English Braids, Hunting Braids, Australian Rosettes, and probably many more! Seems as though each country would like a go at it.

French Knots on "Boy George".  A gorgeous choice for his neck.
French Knots on "Boy George". A gorgeous choice for his neck.

The Long Manes

French Braid

Sometimes referred to as a Running Braid or Spanish Braid, this style can be sported in competition as well as being a fast way to tie their mane up for riding on hot days. The French Braid can be done in a variety of ways and done tight to the neckline or draped. Shown here are: the original, the Inverted French Braid and my own Alternative Braid which is perfect for the extra long manes of the equine world.

The Classic French Braid
The Classic French Braid
Source
Fresh from his bath, this lovely Friesian Stallion is ready to show with my "Alternative Braid".
Fresh from his bath, this lovely Friesian Stallion is ready to show with my "Alternative Braid".

The Continental

is a pretty option for long manes allowing them to be competition-worthy yet flow freely and show their beautiful length. Because it is not really a braid, it is often referred to as a Diamond Weave or Woven Mane.

The Continental by the equestrian vaulting team
The Continental by the equestrian vaulting team

I hope you have enjoyed my tour of beautifully braided manes!

There are a lot more styles not pictured here. That I will try to add to a future article. Interested in the beautiful tails? See...Show Horses and their Beautiful Tail Braids

If you already show horses, braiding is a great skill to learn. You will not only to save you money by not having to hire a professional braider, but you can also make money by offering your services to the horse-showing public!

If you are interested in learning these braiding skills and other show grooming tips, please request it below and also check out my blog,The Mane Alternative. I will be adding articles often with show-season upon us!

...And yes, you CAN learn to braid! I have taught hundreds of people who thought they were “all thumbs.” Some have walked right into the show-ring the same day with their own braiding! Pictured below is the result of one lesson, ON show day, headed to the ring for her rated hunter division.

My student's 1st time braiding, and heading straight to the show ring!
My student's 1st time braiding, and heading straight to the show ring!

My inspiration when I was a little girl...Incredible books to set out on your coffee table!

© 2011 Megan Carl - Mane Alternative

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13 comments

sarah k 5 years ago

Can u still sget Vavra' book, the Girls Who Love Horses? -something like that..Mine was ruined years ago and I loved it.


Suzanne Winfield profile image

Suzanne Winfield 5 years ago from Utah Author

Hi Sarah. Thanks for your question. You made me smile because that was my favorite too. I read it from cover to cover and gazed at the pictures hundreds of times!! I tried to post it, but couldn't for some reason. So, YES it is available. Go through one of his book links above and type in the search "All Those Girls in Love With Horses" - it will pop right up for you!


danfresnourban profile image

danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

These braided manes are incredible, it must take hours to do that. Thanks for sharing, I had seen some braided manes, but never any as elaborate as these.


Suzanne Winfield profile image

Suzanne Winfield 5 years ago from Utah Author

Thank you, Dan for that nice compliment! At first it takes a while (couple hours), but just like everything else in life, with repetition you get faster. I can do up the hunter braids in 30-45 minutes; and the longer manes and button braids only take about 20 minutes. That's of course if the horse or pony is cooperating! ;) They get better in time too. Thanks for commenting! :)


chuffman 5 years ago

Just wanted to let you know that I thought your pictures were beautiful! I am excited to try a few of these briads on reining horses! I'm curious though...do you have photos, instructions on the polo pony's "mud knot"? This is one we think might work for our horses. Thanks Suzzanne!


Suzanne Winfield profile image

Suzanne Winfield 5 years ago from Utah Author

Thank you very much, chuffman. Glad to hear you're going to try them. I'll be glad to put together a how-to for the Mud Tails as soon as possible. Thank you for requesting it! Feel free follow me, that way the system will notify you when I've posted the Hub. :)


Carol Huffman profile image

Carol Huffman 5 years ago

Hi Suzanne!

I wanted to follow your Hub on Horse braiding so now I'm a Hubster! I asked about the Polo Pony "Mudknot". Let me know when you have this posted. Thanks for answering!


Suzanne Winfield profile image

Suzanne Winfield 5 years ago from Utah Author

Cool! Welcome to HubPages Carol! I will hopefully be able to post it soon. I need to start it from scratch and get some pictures and have been extremely busy. Stay tuned! ;) If you click "Follow Suzanne Winfield" near the top right of the article, you'll automatically get e-mail updates when I post.:)


Carol Huffman 5 years ago

Thanks Suzanne! No hurry. I'll wait until you post.


Solaras profile image

Solaras 3 years ago

Very interesting and a blast from the past. I used to show hunter jumpers and braided their manes as well as those of friends ponies. It's very relaxing to loose yourself in thought while you brad manes and tales. Thanks for sharing. Voted thumbs up and interesting!


Hailey 21 months ago

Thanks you helped me with my project and helped me learn more about different kinds of braids


Suzanne Winfield profile image

Suzanne Winfield 21 months ago from Utah Author

Cool. Glad to be of assistance! What was your project?


Shannon 2 weeks ago

Megan, I have been inspired after reading your braiding posts. I do not braid, yet; I am definitely, currently one of the 'all thumbs' group, but plan to practice on my horses. I own naturally gaited heritage breeds and they are shown with their luxurious manes natural. However, would you please explain the process to creating this braid? (I owned a thoroughbred racehorse in the past and am planning to purchase a horse next year and re-entering racing. I was a very hands-on owner , to ensure that my beloved horse's welfare was the always the prime focus - I would like to be able to braid its mane myself. I had seen one horse at the track with this braid technique. It looked beautiful. Thank you. Enjoy your sites! (By the way my thoroughbred is now an USEA competitive eventer with a devoted junior owner/rider and has taken a first... proud mama. My wish is that all ex race horses had such a happy transition.)

Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue is an agency doing great work and I saw the braid on their website here...

http://www.sctbrescue.org/Rojo_s_Page.html

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