Different Ways To Braid A Horse’s Mane

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

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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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