Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Find a Braider

If you aren't yet experienced enough to create a set of flawless hunter braids, or if you would like to avoid the stress of braiding on the show day, you might be considering hiring a professional braider.

At multi-day shows, professional braiders are seen braiding through the night and morning (they can be recognized by their braiding belts overflowing with cut yarn, their ever-present foldable step stools and their looks of exhaustion by the end of the morning). They are available to braid horses who are stabled on-site, and occasionally those who ship in early enough and have a suitable workspace for them. For single-day shows, professionals can be someone within your barn or someone who is willing to travel from barn to barn in the area to braid.

Braiders often start taking bookings before the show season begins, and some can book up early unless they hire other braiders to handle their overflow. For this reason it's important to find a braider as early as you can; you can't guarantee that the best ones will have spots available for you at the last minute.

There are several ways in which you could find a professional braider prior to (or at) a horse show. The best, in my opinion, is through word of mouth. Anyone can call themself a professional braider; there is no guarantee of quality. If you ask others who they use and are happy with, you have a better chance of finding someone who will do a good job. Here are the main ways to find a braider, in order of my personal preference:

Word of mouth

Simply put, ask others which braiders they prefer to use. If you don't know anyone to ask, most grooms and riders are quite happy to recommend good braiders so don't hesitate to ask someone you're stabled beside, in line with you at the show office, etc. This method will also catch those braiders who are so popular that they don't always need to advertise. You might also be able to see a braider at work in the morning and inquire about their availability later in the week or for a future show if you like the quality of their work.

Advertisement at a show

Some braiders will put up signs at the show office, on bulletin boards or on walls in high traffic areas. These signs often include sample photos of braids and convenient tabs that you can rip off with the braider's contact information. While none of this is any guarantee of quality, a physical advertisement shows that the braider actually visits the show venues and isn't someone just hoping to get enough clients to be able to make it out to the show.

Advertisement online

Braiders will sometimes advertise on social media, either in groups for geographical horsey areas/show circuits, or on pages devoted to the individual horse shows. While you can ask for sample photos, there is a risk when they're viewed privately that the photos are not that braider's work. Also, anyone can post an ad hoping to get clients, which makes it a favourite option for those just starting out who might not have yet perfected their craft.

You can also post a "wanted" ad online, but you again have no surefire way of vetting those who respond.

Once you've found a braider, you'll need to contact them and ask whether they are available for your horse show. The braider must be told which days your horse needs to be braided for, as well as which division you'll be showing in (in order to schedule which horses need to be done first). You will also need to give the horse's location (so that they will not be forced to wander around the showgrounds searching for your stalls) and name (which you should clearly mark on the stall so that the correct horse will be braided!). Be sure to also let the braider know if the horse's mane is in need of pulling or shortening so that can be worked into their schedule.

If there is anything that the braider will need from you, such as a fake tail, tail wrap or neck cover, leave it in a clean, accessible place and tell the braider about it; they're not mind-readers!

Anything that happens to your horse once braided is not the braider's responsibility. While some styles of braiding might be more itchy than others, a braid rubber is usually a braid rubber and the braider can't be expected to go around looking for and fixing rubbed-out braids throughout the day. Also, the removal of the braids is your job, so keep a seam ripper on hand (cutting through the yarn strands crossed underneath a braid will often be enough to unravel the whole thing).

Most braiders will come around in the morning following their braiding to collect money so that cash isn't being left out during the night to potentially be stolen. While it's possible to miss the braider for a day or two if you're away from your stalls, try to pay as promptly as you can. Braiders work hard and the last thing that they need to be doing after hour upon hour of braiding is chasing people around the showgrounds. If you have trustworthy people who will usually be present at your stalls, find a safe place to put the cash there and ask them to give it to the braider if she comes around while you're at the show ring.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What To Wear: Men's Edition

My previous posts about show ring attire have been very much focused on the female rider, so this post will aim to focus more on the men's side. There are many similarities, therefore I won't necessarily go too in-depth about every common detail because those can be read in the general hunter and jumper rider editions.


The Equine Canada rule for dress is as follows:

1. All competitors must be properly dressed in the confines of the arena. This includes the inspection of the course and at the presentation of prizes.
2. Competitors should be neatly and suitably dressed in coat, shirt and tie, choker or stock, breeches or jodhpurs and boots. Black or brown smooth leather half chaps are permissible providing they match the boot colour.
... Only approved helmets (see Article G102) of a conservative color are allowed.
3. If competitors are not suitably dressed, the judge may refuse to allow them to compete.
4. In hunter competitions, in extremely hot weather, coats are optional at the discretion of the Competition Committee.
6. At all EC-sanctioned competitions, anyone mounted on a horse must wear the required headgear (see Article G102.1) as well as safe, appropriate footwear.

The key for hunters is to dress conservatively and neatly.


The helmets for men are the same as those for women.


Men are lucky that they don't have to worry about doing "hunter hair". Try to keep your hair cut short enough that it doesn't hang too far out of your helmet and that's about it!

Show shirt 

Show shirts for men are the same as regular dress shirts, although a select few companies do market show shirts to men with special features for riding. Ideally, opt for a shirt with long sleeves as the lack of a cuff on short-sleeved shirts can give you an unfinished look. You can choose whatever colour you want for your shirt but make sure that it doesn't clash with your jacket. The most common colours are white and pastels. When you want a formal look, go with a white shirt.

You will need to wear a tie, and for a regular hunter class, the colour of tie is up to you. Conservative is again the key word. For a hunter classic or derby, full formal attire calls for a white shirt with a white tie. Make sure that your tie won't escape your jacket and distract the judge during your round.

Show jacket 

There are show jackets made specifically for men, and these should be worn rather than a men's suit jacket because they are designed to be ridden in and are cut appropriately to accommodate sitting in the saddle. The colour is up to you, provided it is conservative, but navy is a very safe classic choice and the buttons should match the jacket colour for the hunter and equitation rings. For a hunter classic or derby, the colour should be dark, ideally navy or black.


Your number is to be worn around your waist the same as for women.


There are breeches sold specifically for men, usually designed with more of a relaxed fit than you see in women's breeches. Breeches should be light in colour. Beige (or greenish beige) is appropriate for showing in the hunter ring. White breeches can be worn by men in hunter classics or derbies when full formal attire is called for, but are not appropriate at other times.


Male hunter riders should wear men's field boots. These are the boots with laces in front, as shown in this photo. There is no way to go wrong with black leather. Be sure to polish your boots to a shine before you show.

Leather half chaps worn with matching paddock boots are allowed but field boots are the better choice.


Spurs may be worn but they are not mandatory. Spur straps should be clean and match your boots. There are spurs made for men that are wider to accommodate the width of men's boots.


Gloves are not mandatory, either, but they do look much better than bare hands. Black gloves are ideal, but brown gloves can be appropriate if they match the rest of your outfit. White gloves are never appropriate in the hunter ring since the rider is not meant to stand out. Again, there are gloves made specifically for men's hands.


Here are the EC attire rules relating to jumpers that were not mentioned earlier:

2. [...] Note that breeches and boots (not half chaps or paddock boots) are mandatory in FEI Children's Jumping classes. Only approved helmets (see Article G102) of a conservative color are allowed.
5. In jumper competitions, in extremely hot weather, riders may, at the discretion of the Competition Committee, be permitted to wear dress or riding shirts with or without chokers and ties or open-neck polo shirts without jackets; no sweatshirts, t-shirts, tank tops or other similar dress will be permitted. Shirts must be neatly tucked into riding breeches.

Richard Spooner demonstrating correct
formal attire for the jumper ring
Formal attire

How often you will have to wear formal attire will depend on the individual horse show. Generally speaking, polo shirts are acceptable on weekdays and formal attire (jackets and dress shirts/ties) is required on weekends. It is up to each show to set their own standards for formal attire, however, so some shows will only require jackets on Sundays while others require jackets beginning on Fridays, for example. If you're not sure what to do, ask either the in-gate person or someone at the show office.

Also keep in mind that some classes will require a jacket even when the rest of the classes in the day do not. This usually applies to big-money welcome classes early in the week and jumper equitation classes.

If you wish to look your best at all times, you are free to wear a jacket on informal days even if the other competitors choose not to.


Again, helmets are unisex and anything ASTM-approved (check your federation's rules for country-specific requirements) will do.

Steve Guerdat looking very neat and tidy

While ideally your hair will be kept short enough not to look messy outside of your helmet, you may do whatever you want with it.


You can choose any colour or style for your show jacket and again, there are show jackets made for men.

Show shirt

Once again, any colour goes and you can just wear a regular dress shirt. You are free to stand out as much as you would like from your competitors with your shirt and tie, but try to choose a colour that doesn't clash with the rest of your outfit. For formal classes, white is the most appropriate choice, along with a white tie. Ensure that your tie is secured in such a way that it won't fly up during your round.

Polo shirt

If you are allowed to wear a regular polo shirt, it must be tucked into your breeches and it should be one solid colour. No other shirt, apart from a dress shirt, is appropriate as a substitute.


Breeches may technically be of any colour, but 99.9% of riders in regular jumper classes will wear beige (or greenish-beige) breeches. Grey breeches are sometimes seen in weekday classes and white breeches are seen in formal classes.

White breeches are generally considered to be "earned" by competing at a certain level. Wearing them before that time can be a bit of a faux-pas. White breeches generally only begin to be worn by the majority of riders at around the 1.20m level and above. If you are competing below that level, beige breeches are the more appropriate choice unless the trend is different in your area.


Men's field boots are again best choice for the jumper ring, but you are allowed to wear other tall boots such as dress boots instead. You may also wear leather half chaps with paddock boots, but this is not the dressiest choice.

Boots should be cleaned and polished before you enter the ring.


Spurs are optional and should be humane in nature, and are again available in men's sizes (make sure that the straps you choose are also in a men's or long size).


Gloves are optional as well. If you choose to wear them, a dark colour looks best.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

FAQ, Part 10

What is the proper attire for grooming at a hunter/jumper show?

Normal attire for grooms for the hunter and jumper rings is just jeans and a t-shirt or polo, basically something that can get dirty without being ruined! You should wear whatever shoes you find comfortable, as long as they cover your feet for safety around hooves. Since the groom doesn't usually enter the ring with the horse (unless you're at the Olympics or in a big grand prix where the horse needs to be led in while the rider collects a prize, in which case team clothing might be provided), comfortable clothing is just fine!

What is the best thing to do with a long, thick mane for the schooling level hunter ring?

If you don't want to pull the mane because the horse doesn't show regularly, I would do a neat, tight running braid right up under the crest where from a distance it would look like a mane that's been braided like any other.

If you would like to shorten it, you could cut it to slightly longer than the length you would like it to finish at and then pull it the rest of the way. If you think it could still be hunter-like at its current thickness, you could just cut it, angling your scissors upwards rather than cutting straight across so that the mane will taper slightly and look pulled. Some people have luck using clippers instead of scissors. I've never had much success with any of the so-called humane alternatives to pulling so I either cut with scissors or pull only as often as I need to if the horse is clearly bothered by having its mane pulled. Be very careful if you choose to cut the mane as it needs to remain braidable!

Is it acceptable to put a crystal charm on a hunter braid?

Personally, I would rather just see a nice, uninterrupted line of braids, but if it's a very subtle charm that won't be distracting during a round then it can be acceptable. Use your own judgement to decide if it's something that can be done subtly with your horse and the charms that are available to you.

Can a hunter compete without a noseband?

While the rules do not seem to explicitly state that a noseband must be used, it is the conventional tack and it is expected, with no part of the rules suggesting that a noseband is optional. There are no rules, however, about how tightly the noseband must be done up, so a horse that prefers not to have any pressure there can compete with a loose cavesson.

Can hair bows be used for young pony riders?

Colourful hair bows that attach to the ends of the braids in some young riders' hair are quite popular at the moment. Due to the prevalence of these bows in the pony ring, it would seem that they are being accepted by the judges.

I have found, however, that the bows have gotten bigger and bigger each year, and I think that many are now over-the-top and distracting. Subtle bows in neutral or conservative barn colours are one thing, but layer upon layer of different-coloured ribbon flowing out behind the rider is another. If decorative bows are used, they should really only be used in the short stirrup or small pony classes, or for a small rider on a medium pony. Once a rider graduates to tall boots, they should also graduate to the classic hunter hair because it's no longer time to be "cute".