Different Ways To Braid A Horse’s Mane

Last Updated on February 26, 2022

Braids can be a fun and sometimes a necessary part of your horse’s grooming routine. Whether you are an avid competitor or have expensive backyard pets, check out some of these different ways to braid a horse’s mane!

Purpose of Braided Horse Mane

Braids are not only aesthetically appealing; they serve an important purpose for many owners. For many show horses, particularly breeds with excessive or mane and tail hair, braiding and wrapping is a method to protect the hair and allow optimal growth. Some owners will keep braids in whenever the horse is not competing, frequently with a sock or protective slinky over the braid to prevent any moisture or dirt from getting inside.

Braids are also a practical procedure for riding and working horses. Keeping the hair neat and braided will prevent manes or tails from flying around, possibly knotting, getting tangled, and help with insect control. Braids can also be used to train manes to fall on one side of a horse’s neck. Anyone with a Morgan or Friesian has dealt with mane hair wrapping around the reins! Braids are extremely helpful for these breeds. While most owners braid for practicality, braiding is also a fun bonding experience for many owners and horses. It requires a certain degree of patience and can be a good tool to practice manners while tied.

Purpose of Braided Horse Mane

Read more about The Best Horse Grooming Kit for an Effective Grooming

For Competition

Braids are also used in the competition world. In fact, many classes and disciplines require braids as part of class attire. However, each organization has stringent regulations on allowable braids. Braids are tidy, keep mane hair under control, and can beautifully showcase a well-muscled neck. It also creates a streamlined look when horses and riders are prepared in the same manner, making judging comparisons easier. Braids, to some degree, also represent an element of tradition.

For example, most dressage horses you will see utilize plaits or button braids. However, plaiting is much easier with a pulled short mane. But some breeds that excel in dressage are known for their luxurious locks, such as Spanish breeds and Morgans. Due to this longstanding tradition and breed characteristics, some breeds are exempt from plaits and the competition rules allow the use of a running braid instead. Regardless of the show or the breed, there will be guidelines and rules in regards to horse preparation and grooming.

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Tools Needed for Braiding a Horse Mane

For a simple straight braid, most owners will look to a good spray in conditioner, a mane and tail brush, and an elastic. When turning out, some owners prefer elastics that will snap quickly to release if caught. Others use electrical tape to prevent any damage to the hair upon removal. However, show braids that need to “stick” will utilize some additional tools and nix conditioners as it can make the hair slippery. For a standard plait, you would need:

  • Mane and tail brush
  • Finer tooth comb for parting and separating
  • Hair spray or braid spray
  • Crochet needle
  • Yarn
  • Elastics
  • Bobby pins

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Different Ways to Braid a Horse’s Mane- Braid Styles

There are different styles of braids you can use. Some of the following are appropriate for competition, while others are for maintenance or just for fun!

Straight Braids

Straight braids are the most common braids for pasture, riding, or mane-taming training. These can be finished with elastic or electrical tape depending on the owner’s preference. This is a quick and easy braid for most people to complete!

Running Braids

Running braids, or French braids, are often referred to as hunter braids. There are many styles and variations of running braids- some are beautiful and complex like a split running braid, while others are a simple single-sided French braid. These are frequently used in shows.


Plaits, or button braids, are a popular braid for dressage. These are one of the more complex braids to complete, and again, have many variations. They can be quite ornate, or a simple “button” on the neck. Although shows do not typically regulate the number of plaits (and odd or even), this is a traditional aspect many riders still adhere to.

Western Banding

Although not technically a braid, a lot of work goes into western banding. These can really accentuate the neck, and they are usually used on a pulled short mane to keep things tidy.

Curtain Braid

Curtain braids are beautiful and fun to see. Also referred to as continental braids, these are technically a binding method rather than a braid. Fun for long manes, but impractical for daily wear as they are high risk for getting hung or caught on something.

Horse Mane Braided – Final Words

With so many styles and variations, there is a braid almost every owner can do! Do you keep your horse in braids for turnout or for riding? What is your favorite braid?

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How long should a horse’s mane be?

The length of a horse’s mane depends on his size and breed. In general, the mane should be long enough to cover the tail. In most breeds, the mane should be about 4 to 5 inches long. The length of the mane also depends on the horse’s temperament. A horse with a calm temperament may need a shorter mane. However, if the horse is more excitable, a longer mane is needed.

How many plaits should be in a horse’s mane?

Your horse’s mane should have an odd number of plaits. Generally, there should be 9 to 13 plaits in the mane and one in the forelock. If you’re unsure about the number of plaits your horse will need the best indication is his type and weight. Small delicate plaits are the norm for finer horses. For heavier horses, you may need more plaits to keep their manes and tails in check.

Why is my horses mane thinning?

Hair loss in the horse can be caused by something simple, such as environment and temperature. Therefore if you are keeping your horse indoors in an air-conditioned stable all day, then it is important to make sure that the horse’s mane is trimmed regularly to keep the hair healthy and prevent the hair from breaking. Hair loss can be caused by an infectious skin disease, such as ringworm (fungus) that invades the hair follicles of the skin; dermatophilosis, a superficial bacterial skin disease; or be the result of scratching due to an allergic skin reaction, usually due to the bites of insects. 

Why do horses rub their manes?

Mane rubbing is often caused by insect bites, particularly from ticks that attach to the horse’s neck skin to feed on blood. The horse will often shake his head to remove the tick. When the tick is removed, the horse may rub his mane to help remove the irritating dead skin. In some cases, the horse will rub his head against objects such as the tack, feed bag, or another horse. Black flies, stable flies, biting midges, and mosquitoes can also cause irritation and itching that lead to mane rubbing. Another reason for this is when the horse is nervous. The horse may also rub his head when he is nervous or anxious. This may be caused by a number of different things. He may be frightened or uncomfortable because of a strange or unfamiliar situation. He may be nervous or uncomfortable because of a recent event.

Is coconut oil good for horses mane and tail?

In fact, it has many benefits for your horse’s hair and skin. Coconut oil is great for horses because it is a natural oil that is easily absorbed by the skin. It is also easily absorbed by the hair follicles, and is a great conditioner for hair. Coconut oil is a fatty acid that’s good for your horse’s hair. Coconut oil is the solution to your horse’s thin and dull mane. With regular use, it’ll make their hair lush, shiny, and long. This oil conditions and moisturises for healthy hair. In fact, it’s the best natural conditioner for horses.