Tuesday, February 16, 2010
There is only one type of braid that is correct for the (non-breed show) hunter ring. They are called hunter braids, or flat braids. These are small braids, averaging between twenty and forty braids along the neck (the number will depend on the length of the neck as well as on the thickness of the mane). They are tied with yarn that matches the colour of the mane. For hunter braids, the mane should be pulled to less than four inches long.
Hunter braids are creating by separating a small section of mane into three pieces and braiding that section down. A piece of yarn, folded in half, is incorporated into the braid about halfway down. Once all of the hair is braided, the yarn is used to tie a knot to secure the braid. A rug hook is then inserted from the crest down under the braid to grab the two loose pieces of yarn. Both pieces of yarn are then pulled up through the base of the braid to the top, folding the braid in half. The yarn is then used to tie the braid in place. Detailed instructions for creating hunter braids can be found in various books and on many websites. The best way to learn is to watch a professional braider at work as there are many little tricks and techniques that are difficult to explain in writing. It is also best to practice braiding many times before braiding for a horse show because your first attempts can be both time-consuming and messy-looking!
The most correct way to braid a hunter is to braid on the right side of the neck. Even if your horse's mane naturally falls to the left, it can actually be easier to braid on the other side because it leaves the loose hairs of the mane out of your way. In such a case, just be careful when you're pulling your horse's mane as you need the hair to be braid-able from the right side, which might result in it not looking too great when it's loose on the left.
The forelock is braided by french-braiding from the bridle path forwards to where the roots end. From there, incorporate all of the hair and braid it down normally until the braid is long enough that when it is pulled up under the french braid, all of the loose hair will be hidden. Again, yarn is used to tie off the braid and pull it up under the french braided section.
Braiding the mane is best done on the same day as the horse show. Braiding the night before can result in dirty, rubbed-out braids on some horses.
Make sure that your tail braid is not left in for too long. Horses can pull out a lot of hair by rubbing a tail braid so braid it shortly before your class and then remove it as soon as possible afterwards. Some horses will not tolerate a braided tail. These horses will make it difficult for you to braid in the first place or will not perform as well in the ring with a braided tail. In such cases, leaving the tail loose might be the best solution.
For many photos of beautiful braids as well as some great braiding tips, check out http://topknothorsebraids.blogspot.com