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How to Braid a Horse's Mane for Hunter Competition

Beautify your hunter with this step-by-step mane braiding guide.

By Cindy Hale / Photos Sharon P. Fibelkorn | April 7, 2007

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How to braid the mane of your horseDownload a printable version of this page

If you grew up riding hunters 20 years ago, chances are you mastered the art of braiding a hunter’s mane. It was simply part of a show horse’s turnout. But with unrated divisions B-shows allowing today’s riders to forego braiding, the ability to braid well is disappearing.  A beautiful coiffure on a modern show hunter is now often left to the skillful hands of a professional groom. However, you can still make your horse look like a national champion, even if you’re competing at a schooling show. Just follow these step-by-step tips.

For an alternative braiding method for jumpers, eventing and dressage, see our step-by-step instructions for rubber band braids >>

  1. Assemble an assortment of braiding tools: 4-ply yarn cut into strips 12-inches long (for our photographic purposes, we’re using a contrasting color), a latch hook (bought at any craft store), a plastic alligator hair clip, a mane comb, scissors and a spray bottle of water mixed with a styling gel or braiding solution.

  2. Make sure you’re braiding a mane that’s freshly shampooed, free of coat polish—that’ll only make it slick—and pulled and thinned to about 4 inches.

  3. Horse Mane Braiding Step 1

  4. Thoroughly dampen the first third of the mane with the solution.

  5. Horse Mane Braiding Step 2

  6. Using the comb, make a part about one-inch wide. Each braid needs to be the same width against the top of the horse’s crest. Snap the clip on the neighboring hair to hold it out of your way.
  7. Horse Mane Braiding Step 3

  8. Begin braiding. Keep even tension on the hair, making sure that you pull down on the mane as you braid. If you pull the hair toward you, the finished braids will stand away from the horse’s neck.
  9. Horse Mane Braiding Step 4

  10. About half-way to the end of the braid, add a piece of yarn that’s folded in half.
  11. Horse Mane Braiding Step 5

  12. Meticulous braiders make a note of how many crossovers they make in a braid before they add the yarn. This adds a consistent look to the finished job.
  13. Horse Mane Braiding Step 6

  14. Split the yarn tails so that they each go in separate sections of the braid ..
  15. Horse Mane Braiding Step 7

  16. … then braid all the way to the end of the hair.
  17. Horse Mane Braiding Step 8

  18. Wrap both yarn tails around the braid and knot once. Make sure you pinch the end of the braid with the fingers of one hand while you knot with the other. This will prevent the braid from unraveling.
  19. Horse Mane Braiding Step 9

  20. Tying the Knot
  21. Horse Mane Braiding Step 10 Horse Mane Braiding Step 11 Horse Mane Braiding Step 12
    For a secure knot, wrap both pieces of yarn around the bottom of the pigtail while forming a small loop with your index finger. Then feed the yarn ends back through. Pull taut, in a sort of half-hitch knot.

  22. This is what the braids will look like at this stage.
  23. Horse Mane Braiding Step 13

  24. Finish the entire mane in the same manner. There isn’t any hard and fast rule about how many braids are required in a mane, but generally speaking, the more, the merrier. And the fancier.
  25. Horse Mane Braiding Step 14

  26. Now pull-through by inserting the end of the latch hook through the top of the braid.
  27. Horse Mane Braiding Step 15

  28. Once your tool has hold of the yarn tails, gently pull on the end of the braid until it butts up against the horse’s crest.
  29. Horse Mane Braiding Step 16

  30. Be careful not  to pull so hard that the end pokes up through the top of the braid!
  31. Horse Mane Braiding Step 17

  32. Continue with your pull-through down the rest of the braids.
  33. Horse Mane Braiding Step 18

  34. This is what the mane will look like at this second stage. Now you are ready to knot the braids off.
  35. Horse Mane Braiding Step 19

  36. To knot your braid off, grasp the yarn tails you just pulled through.
  37. Horse Mane Braiding Step 20

  38. Take one yarn tail in each hand …
  39. Horse Mane Braiding Step 21

  40. Cross the yarn ends under the braid once, then bring the ends back to the top side of the braid about halfway down, where you’ll finish off with a double knot.
  41. Horse Mane Braiding Step 22

  42. As you prepare to knot the braid, here’s a little trick to make the braid lie flat against your horse’s neck. Tie the first part of your double knot, but before you snug it up, slip your thumb underneath. Press the braid against the crest with your thumb …
  43. Horse Mane Braiding Step 23

  44. Then push upward slightly, enough to form a little bump in the braid. Slide your thumb out from underneath as you snug up the knot.
  45. Horse Mane Braiding Step 24

  46. Doubleknot (using a basic square knot) to secure the braid.

  47. All knots must be dead center or your braids will slant to the side.

  48. Snip off excess yarn, leaving about ¼ inch.
  49. Horse Mane Braiding Step 27

    Horse Mane Braiding Step 27

  50. Braiding the Forelock
  51. Horse Mane Braiding Step 28 Horse Mane Braiding Step 29 Horse Mane Braiding Step 30
    To finish the mane, braid the forelock. You can simplify things and braid the forelock like the rest of the mane, but if you want to be extra fancy, create a French braid. Tie off the French braid,  pull through, and knot.
    Horse Mane Braiding

Now, wasn’t that easy? If your horse tends to rub at night or between classes, you will need to protect your beautiful braids. Pull a stretchy hood over your horse’s head and neck. Wearing some funky pajamas is a small price to pay for looking lovely.

Need help with the tail? Check out our guide in Top Tails for Show Hunters >>

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How to Braid a Horse's Mane for Hunter Competition

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Reader Comments

PKL    Northern Part, WY

8/27/2015 6:01:26 AM

I hope it will be as easy as this video "makes" braiding look. Beautiful by the way.

Grace    Athens, GA

6/7/2014 4:56:05 PM

So normally you would use a yarn that matches the horse's mane color so the yarn isn't so visible? Great tutorial by the way!

Named    City, AK

8/9/2012 4:57:24 PM

That was good. Will be printing this out and hanging in the barn for easy- reference!

Lauren    knoxville, TN

3/29/2012 6:20:25 AM

That's just beautiful! I can't wait to try it!

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