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Show Horses and their Beautiful Tail Braids

Updated on February 26, 2015
No Conformation or In-Hand class is complete without a beautifully braided tail. This 2 year old patiently awaits her debut in the show ring.
No Conformation or In-Hand class is complete without a beautifully braided tail. This 2 year old patiently awaits her debut in the show ring.

The Complete Look - The Tails...

Traditionally, horses and ponies to be shown in English styles of riding and driving are braided for horse shows. If there is braiding to be done, the mane always comes first. But there's nothing quite so gorgeous than when the look is completed with a finely braided tail. 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 (especially from their rear-ends!), so here’s your chance to see up-close and personal what the braids in the horses tails look like. Here are a few styles of 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.


Classic style French Braid tied off with a Pinwheel
Classic style French Braid tied off with a Pinwheel

Baby Got Back

Some classes at horse shows are judged on a horse or pony's conformation; or how they are built. Similar to a dog show, it is based on quality breeding and intended purpose for the breed. A beautiful tail braid draws positive attention to and shows off the hindquarters.

Other reasons that tails might be braided is more practical than esthetic. Polo, Racing, Hunting and Driving are just a few examples of activities where tails may need to be secured out of harm's way.

The Finishing Touch

Most horse show tail styles are French Braided. They are then tied-off in one of several ways for a customized look.

  • Pinwheel - The free portion of the braid is rolled up to about the size of a Half-Dollar coin.
  • Tuck - For those who don't care for the Pinwheel, here the free portion of the braid is just neatly tucked in.
  • Stick - (not yet pictured) Rather than rolling the free-braid up, it is doubled back and molded into a stick shape that freely hangs with the remainder of the free flowing tail.
  • Mud Knot - Both the free braid and the remaining tail is intricately wound around the base of the tailbone.


French Braid tied off with a Pinwheel

The most traditional look and the most commonly seen, especially at Hunter competitions.

Classic French Braid with Pinwheel. Variations in the hair colors often make tail braids very unique to each animal.
Classic French Braid with Pinwheel. Variations in the hair colors often make tail braids very unique to each animal.

Inverted French Braid

is great for an added touch of flair and refinement. The braided portion of the strands are exposed like a decorative piping and the gathered strands lie snug to the tailbone. Like the other versions, it can be finished off in any way you choose.

The Inverted French Braid - Very pretty
The Inverted French Braid - Very pretty
A simple Tuck style tie neatly polishes off this Inverted French Tail.
A simple Tuck style tie neatly polishes off this Inverted French Tail.

The Mud Tail

is a beautiful design that originated for practical reasons and then made it's mark on the show-world time and again. Before the popular trend of fake tails hit, it was an especially attractive choice for horses with little to no tail to brag about.

This medium pony looks absolutely stunning with her intricate braided Mud Tail / Mud Knot.
This medium pony looks absolutely stunning with her intricate braided Mud Tail / Mud Knot.

The Alternative Braid

once again, is my own creation. And, just like the manes, works especially well on horses and ponies that have overly voluminous tails!

Alternative Braid - beautiful on this black hunter pony
Alternative Braid - beautiful on this black hunter pony
The Alternative Braid up close
The Alternative Braid up close

The completed look... Hope you enjoyed the ride!

Missed the manes? See...Show Horses and their Beautiful Mane Braids

Horse braiding is a great skill to have. You not only save money by doing it yourself, but you can also make money too! Where else can you earn $45 per hour? ...And yes, you CAN learn to braid!

If you have questions about your own braiding challenges or are interested in learning these and other show grooming tips, please comment below and also check out my blog,The Mane Alternative. I will be adding articles often and they could be catered to your question!

Thanks for stopping by!

© 2011 Megan Carl - Mane Alternative

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      Clever1 18 months ago

      Wow that alternative braid is STUNNING!! Would love to know how you did this?! @Suzanne Winfield

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      Maddy P 2 years ago

      How do you do that amazing alternative braid?? Its fantastic +!!

    • Suzanne Winfield profile image
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      Megan Carl - Mane Alternative 2 years ago from Utah

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

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      Hailey 2 years ago

      Thanks you really helped with my project and to learn more about braiding horse tails

    • Suzanne Winfield profile image
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      Megan Carl - Mane Alternative 2 years ago from Utah

      Nice! Thanks so much for the compliment. Yes, you may try it. I very much appreciate you asking.

      Quick pointers would be keep the tail hairs dampened to avoid fly-aways and maintain your grip. It's a long ride for your hands! LOL

    • profile image

      Shy 2 years ago

      Hey Suzanne!

      I'm pretty big into showing and my horses braids always make a statement at the shows!

      The Alternative braid close up looks AMAZING! I would love to try it on my horse, with your permission of course!

      If you agree to letting me try this, do you have any pointers on how to make it look as amazing as your?

    • profile image

      Jacqueline B. 5 years ago

      You alternative tail braid is GORGEOUS! Any chance you'll be doing a tutorial on this one? I'm just learning how to braid (just for fun, not getting into the braiding business....no one would pay me to braid a tail, I'm pretty horrible at it!)

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      Megan Carl - Mane Alternative 5 years ago from Utah

      Thank you Christy!

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      Christy 5 years ago

      BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I wish you were around here so I could take lessons. I can't even find anyone to pay to braid for me around here (South of DC and Annapolis, MD).

    • Suzanne Winfield profile image
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      Megan Carl - Mane Alternative 6 years ago from Utah

      Hi Meredith. Thank you! You definitely should learn. Ask a local braider if they will do a lesson for you. If you're in my area, I'll be glad to help you out.

      Braiding prices vary depending on your area. Here, hunter manes are $45 and tails are $30 a piece. If you're just getting started, you can charge less to get more experience and business. Good Luck!

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      Meredith  6 years ago

      Wow! Those are awesome. Makes me want to learn. How much can u make doing that?