Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Braiding progress: Show Day July 8

Part of the show process is -- for better or worse -- braiding. I've never been good at it, despite the many articles I've read and the considerable practicing I've undertaken. For our show today I braided the night before.

All things considered (uneven length and thickness of mane) I was not horrified by the results of my work, and they did hold up well.  I think these braids look good from a distance. And the judge is a distance away.

I've started to learn now what makes a really good braid job. First and foremost I need to pay more attention to the uniform length and thickness of Ri's mane. That, at the moment, is probably our biggest problem. Braid thickness and quality varies accordingly. Among many judgable characteristics of braiding, you want to see...

  • tight braids that hold their shape
  • minimal stray hairs (part of mane maintenance)
  • uniform size and shape
  • uniform placement/orientation on the neck
  • barely visible bands/thread

What I learned this time around is to skip the Braid "hair spray" and just saturate the mane with water. It just works better and dries better.

What else?


  1. I've finally regained my old high-school braid talent. taking 15 years off from showing is a really good way to forget all of your tricks (whoops!)...

    uniform thickness is huge, length not as much for me. I just adjust the braids accordingly. I've also struck a balance between bands and waxed thread, banding off the end of each braid, then tying the wax thread to the finished rubber band before I "sew" up the button. I can never get my buttons round or tight when I just roll them up with another band, but I HATE trying to fumble with thread to finish the braid itself...

    sadly practice (and practice and practice) really does make (almost) perfect....

  2. Hi Stacey.

    Those plaits look fairly good considering they've been in over-night :)

    I suggest getting up that little bit earlier on show day and doing the plaits on the morning if you can. That way they won't have come loose, and there isn't so much risk of Ri rubbing them out!
    Also, I would use thread instead of bands, you get a tighter, more secure plait, that looks much better.

  3. Yes I noticed your braids and wondered if you did them. Nice and subtle. I'm a yarn braider myself and not a fan of people taping braids for a schooling show, little too pretentious for me. I've also found an "Olive oil hold spray, for some who human w/ very thick hair strands works well. Provides just a little tack. Cosmo has a calic about 8" from his poll then his mane gets even thicker! Thank you for the reminder, he needs maintenance! Stay cool!

  4. Nice job, actually. If you do braid the night before, you can take a rectangle of aluminum foil and wrap each braid, kind of folding it down against the neck. That way Riley is less likely to rub a braid out and they tend to stay both nice and clean and pretty neat.

    Now, you will get comments about a foiled mane, especially if thunderstorms are predicted or if errant radio waves are suspected, but it really does work a treat. I used to trailer my horse to the show and take the foil off there.

    I braid with yarn the color of the mane. By braiding the yarn right in, it helps keep the braid really sturdy. You've done a great job with the bands, though.

    Oh, also, as you braid, do not pull the hair towards you, but push towards the horse's neck as you tighten each part of the plait. That's another way to get a snug braid.

  5. Want to add that using matching yarn can be a big help when you have that thin patch that yields a scraggly braid. Add several lengths of yarn to the thinner sections of the braid to fatten them up.

  6. I like that Braid spray because a clean mane is the PITS to try to get things to "stay tight and together," even with lots of water. The key to a neat braid job is that the BOTTOM of the "buttons" or plaits is even.

    My horse has the Killer Cowlick right in the middle of his neck; the whorl has hairs parting in lebenty seben directions for a full 8 inches or so on either side. His mane is THICK along that area, too, so thinning is very important.

    He has a gorgeous neck, so I do fat plaits. I've had compliments on how nice his mane looks after I've finished with it, though I prefer the tiny buttons like you are doing on Ri.

    And my hands don't work as well (arthritis) so the rubber bands work better than thread or yarn.

  7. Those braids look very nice! I learned to braid with yarn, braiding it in like Jean described. It takes a long time, but they rarely fall out.

    I do not pull my horse's mane anymore, but I have read that it is important not to pull too much from the underside of the mane. The braids will have nothing to anchor to if the underside has been pulled out. Pull more from the middle of the mane. I am not sure how to accomplish this, but it seemed like good advice. ;)

  8. This really works. Pull his mane when he is warm after riding. The hair just comes out so easily.

  9. Thank you, Anonymous above me, for the tip on pulling manes after riding. I will try that on my QH, but my TB absolutely REFUSES to have his mane pulled. I have to cut it (using the scissors held vertically and little snips to cut the length I want it.)

    Ri's mane looks a lot better than my first time in a long time. :-) What I have found to work wonders is hairspray. This works on either a clean or somewhat clean mane. (I don't like to see small white flakes in the hair, even if no one else can see them. I like a clean mane. Period.) Anyway, I'm not OCD, but I do like my dressage braids to be just shy of three fingers wide. I'll use a comb to get the line through the mane straight, then hold back the rest with a human's hair claw. I'll then spray the hair I'm holding on both sides with my cheap hairspray. I'll start the braid and go as far down as I can. I too am a "bands" person, but I've seen youtube videos on using yarn. It seems easy to use the way I saw it. But, if bands are used correctly, they'll stay in just as well as yarn, and still get noticed as looking nice. (Otherwise, my daughter wouldn't have gotten a 2nd out of 14 in her dressage test at the State 4-H horse show last month. [yes, I know it had more to do with her riding than her turnout, but the braids added a little something, right?]) :-)


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