This months feature thanks to Lydia Kelly from Freehold Equine
Simple Step-by-Step Braiding Instructions
Braiding a horse is a useful skill for all horse people. Many believe that it takes special talent, and that only a few can perfect it. In reality, anyone can learn to braid, all it takes is a lot of patience and practice. At first it will take you close to two hours to full braid your horse, but with practice you can get it down to about 45 min. Good braiding really catches a judge's eye, and it is a source of pride no matter how well you do at the show. If you get good at it you can even offer braiding to other people and make a little money. In my instructions below, I have tried to be as clear and simple as possible so that the braiding process is easy to understand. I first describe how to braid a mane. Then I go on to explain how to French Braid a tail or forelock. The material listed are for both kinds of braids. Good luck and have fun braiding!
Wool / Cord
Rug hooking pull through
Blunt tipped needle (optional)
Alligator style hair clip
Seam ripper (for removing the braids)
Extra hold hair gel (optional)
Braiding the Mane
Step 1: Make sure that the mane is pulled evenly to about 4-5" in length (about the length of a pulling comb). Do not use Show Sheen, or any other polish on the mane or upper tail.
Step 2: Cut your wool (the same colour as or darker than your horse's mane) by wrapping it around your arm from your hand to the elbow. You will need up to a maximum of thirty pieces.
Step 3: Wet your horse's mane using the brush. Take a section of mane about one inch wide just behind the bridle path. Pin back the rest with the alligator clip.
Step 4: Take one piece of wool and fold it in half. Hold it in your mouth (or any other convenient spot) at the fold.
Step 5: Separate the section as evenly as possible into three pieces. Lift the center piece.
Step 6: Lay the wool on the remaining two pieces, putting one half of it on each part.
Step 7: Drop the center piece down, and braid as per usual. Keep the braid as tight as possible, and work by pulling it downwards on the neck instead of out sideways from the neck. This will help the braids to lie flat.
Step 8: At the end of the braid (as far down as you can reasonably get) take one string and wrap it around the braid and through the loop that is formed thus making a knot. Do the same with the other one. Then repeat with both. This will make the knot pretty secure.
Step 9: Continue in the same fashion, leaving the ends of the wool to dangle, all the way down the mane. Try to keep the braids as tight and even as possible. For a mare there should be an even number of braids, while a gelding (or stallion) should have an odd number of braids.
Step 10: When the entire mane is braided get the pull-through. Slide the hook through the top of each braid as close the center as possible. Catch the wool in the hook, making sure that the little flap is closed. Pull the wool through the braid. Make sure that the braid is lying flat. If it lies crooked, it will likely end up crooked too. Continue down the entire mane.
Step 11: Once the whole mane is pulled through it is time to tie the braids off. Cross the wool beneath the braid and tie a single knot. Cross the wool back on top of the braid. Tie a double knot so that it flattens the braid at about one third of the way down. Make sure that the know is tight and secure. This will leave a small knob on top, and hold the braid tight against the horse's neck. Continue down the entire mane.
Step 12: Cut the wool about 1cm (1/2") away from the knot.
Step 13: Smooth gel into the braids if desired to help hold them in more firmly.
To Braid the Forelock
(An "Upside-Down" French Braid)
Step 1: Cut a single piece of wool the same length as those used in braiding the rest of the mane.
Step 2: Fold the wool in half and hold it in your mouth, or any other convenient spot.
Step 3: Stand in front of the horse. You may want an assistant to hold his/her head while you are braiding.
Step 4: Take one strand of forelock from the left side, and two strands (one above the other) from the right side.
Step 5: Take the left hand strand and cross it under the upper right hand strand.
Step 6: Take the lower right hand strand and cross it under the left hand strand.
Step 7: Take the strand that is now on the left and cross it under. Pick up a strand of the forelock and add it to this strand.
Step 8: Take the strand that is now on the right and cross it under. Pick up a strand of forelock from the right side and add it to that strand.
NOTE: This may seem rather confusing, and will take a few tries if you have never done a French Braid before. If it is messy at first, don't worry about it, you will improve as you practice.
Step 9: Continue in this fashion until there is no more forelock to pick up in the braid.
Step 10: Continue the braid in the ordinary fashion for a few more crosses.
Step 11: Lie the wool on top of the braid so that one strand of wool goes with one strand of hair, and the other goes in another strand of hair.
Step 12: Continue the braid with the wool included until you reach the end of the hair.
Step 13: Tie off the braid in the same fashion as the mane braids.
Step 14: Run the pull-through through the bottom part of the "french" portion of the braid. Pick up the wool, and pull the braid up so that it is folded in half. Make sure the braid is lying flat.
Step 15: Tie the wool under the braid in a double knot.
Step 16: Using either the blunt needle, or the pull-through sew down the braid drawing the last stitch through the very end of the braid.
Step 17: Using either the needle or the pull-through pull the braid up under itself through the bottom of the "french" part of the braid so that it is again folded in half.
Step 18: Tie off the wool under the braid and cut the excess wool about 1 cm (1/2") awat from the knot.
Continue on to Tail Braiding
Click here to see pictures