Beyond the Hunter Braid: Braiding for Long Manes

Author: Debby Stansell, Alaria Moss Gypsy Horses

Horse With French Braid

Debby next to her horse sporting the French Braid

There is  nothing like a long  flowing mane and tail, all clean, sparkling and  blowing in the wind, to make a horse lover’s heart smile, but sometimes, that long mane is not appropriate or comfortable. If you are showing in some types of horse show classes, you will want a more “controlled” look, or on summer trail rides, you will want to get all that hair up off of the neck. There are several quick, easy, and attractive options.

Cleaning and Grooming The Mane

The  first  and  most important thing to  consider is the  health  and  cleanliness  of the  mane  hair. Consistent care with excellent products is necessary for growth, thickness, and shine. This is true in the winter as well as in the summer.  A good dry shampoo like Officinalis Dry Shampoo can be used no matter how cold it is, and they will help keep the mane clean and healthy. You will want to be sure to read the labels as different shampoos are designed for different hair colors.There are also many excellent brands of shampoos, conditioners, and grooming gels specifically designed for long hair.

Long manes require special handling. You need to be very careful about which brushes you use so that hair is not pulled out. A popular brush that will prevent the pulling of hair is the Oster Mane and Tail Brush. Never brush a dry mane, always either treat it with a good gel detangler/conditioner, spritz it with a mane conditioner, or just water if that’s all that is available. My favorite is Eqyss Avacado Weightless Moisturizer Spray. This silicone and alcohol free spray will leave mane and tail shiny, soft and tangle free.

Braiding

Decorated French Braid

Decorated French Braid

Once your mane is clean and tangle-free, it’s time to put it up. There are several easy and attractive braids you can use that work for any of the shows you would be going to, and believe me you will get a lot of “ooohs and ahhhs” when you appear!

My favorite “go to” braid for most events and all trail rides is the basic French Braid. If you are braiding for a show or event, you will want to stand on a safe stool so you can get a good purchase on the hairs and braid up close to the crest. If you are doing an everyday trail braid, just standing beside the horse works fine (of course this all depends on the height of the horse AND the braider). Braiding like this for a trail ride takes only minutes, is so much more comfortable for your horse, and also will keep the mane free of reins. If you are racing across fields, you also won’t eat all that hair! This is a good way to deal with thick manes, and to hide any patches when your horse finds a way to rub out a chunk of mane!

Lattice Braid

Lattice Braid

For a show, if your mane is long enough, people love the lattice braid. This braid is easy to do but does take quite a bit of time. For the lattice braid, Quic Braid will be your friend. You should also be sure to have lots of bands available. There are a number of variations on this braid that are all pretty and interesting, and can be used for all disciplines. The first one I ever saw was on an Arabian in Dressage, which was lovely! I will not attempt to explain how to do these braids, there are plenty of guides and videos on YouTube, Google, etc. where you can see it done.

There are some really fun braids you can do for parades and parties. Some easy and fun ideas to try in your braids are to use Braideez to add flowers and bling to the mane, or try the Kelley Rave Bands to add a pop of color.

We  work  hard  to  grow  and  care  for  our  long  manes,  and  using  these braids,  as well as  other  fun braids,  not  only  shows  that  off,  but  both  you  and  your  horse  will  enjoy  the  time  you spend together getting spiffy.

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