If you want to learn how to braid a horse’s mane, you’ve come to the right place!
Every equestrian, at least I think, needs to know how to braid, even if it is just basic or for fun.
To help you get started I put together this guide with both show and fun styles.
Let’s get started, so you can get down to the barn and practice!
Table of Contents
Tools for Mane Braiding
To braid a horse’s mane you will need several different tools. While each style won’t need everything on this list, this is a comprehensive guide of all the supplies you will need.
- Metal pulling comb
- Rubber bands specifically for mane braiding
- Yarn in a color matching man color
- Seem ripper
- Sturdy step
- Spray bottle
- Small sponge
- Braiding product such as Quic Braid
- Mane brush
- Latch hook
- Hair clip, like the ones hair dressers use
- Tool belt – you can find ones designed specifically for horse braiding
Also Check: Fishtail Braid Horse Tail
English Show Braids
Let’s start with the most difficult to get right. These types of braid take many hours of practice, so don’t beat yourself up if they don’t right on your first or even tenth try!
Another name for this style is hunter braid. Producing those elegant, beautiful, finished braids you see on show horses is not easy. You will need many practice braids to get it right.
A professional braider can complete a mane in around 30-minutes but expect it to take you an hour or more. To create these you will need the following items:
- Skein of yarn in a matching color
- Small mane pulling comb that’s metal
- Hair clips
- Tool belt
- Mane brush
- Latch hook
- Seem ripper
- Spray bottle filled with water or styling product
- Braiding thread
- Braiding needle
- Braiding kit
Step 1 – Prepare Your Yarn
The first step in the braiding process is to get your yarn set up. To do this hold the end across your palm holding it in place with your thumb. Then wrap the yarn down around your elbow and back up across your palm.
Keep wrapping around until you’ve made at least 30 loops. At first, you don’t need to do so many when you are just learning but for a proper set of braids, you will need that many.
Slip the yarn loops off your arm, holding it together with your hand at the top.
Then cut the yarn at the top. Now you will have 30, or whatever number of loops you made, pieces of yarn. You can store the strands in whatever way works best for you but I find the way I was taught the easiest.
This is to slip the yarn through the metal ring of the horse’s halter. Use the ring that sits next to the upper jaw.
Step 2 – Organize Your Tools
Next, make sure all your supplies are in your tool belt, which you should put on first. Give each tool its own spot so you can easily access it and put it back when not needed.
Step 3 – Prepare The Mane
To create show standard mane braids the mane must be correctly prepared or this just won’t look nice. Braiding expert, Stacy Lane Huls, recommends washing the mane two or three days in advance. 
I agree! If you wash the mane on the same or even the day before it can end up too slippery. You want a clean mane but if it’s too slick, it is very hard to handle.
Also, make sure you don’t use any conditioning products on the mane before braiding. Make sure the mane is evenly pulled and trimmed. Sometimes if the horse has a very thick mane, you need to thin it.
A good length is four fingers wide from top to bottom.
Step 4 – Start Braiding
Place your step next to the horse, near the top. Just as a little side note, show braids always sit on the right side of the neck. Brush the mane and then spray some water or styling product on the first section.
Then section off the hair for the first braid. Keep in mind, that the sections of hair need to be the same size all the way down the neck. If you’re using a hair clip with teeth, make the section two or three teeth wide.
You can also use your metal pulling comb to make the sections. About a third of the comb’s width is usually a good size. Make you the edge of your section is an even, straight line. Once you have your section of hair, use your clip to hold the mane to the left out of the way.
Divide your section into three even pieces of hair and do a normal braid, crossing one side of the middle, alternating side. With each cross pull tightly. I like to pull the section slightly up as it helps keep it tight.
Halfway down your braid add a piece of yard. Place the middle of the yard behind the braid and combine it with the hair pieces on the left and right. Continue your braid until you run out of hair.
Combine the two pieces of yarn and wrap it around the end of the braid making a loop to pull it through. Essentially knot it tightly around the end.
Repeat the same process until you have braided all the hair down to the end of the neck completing the entire mane. Remember braid tight!
Step 5 – Tie Up The Braids
The next step is to tie the braids up into lovely little, uniform buns. I personally found this part really hard to master as it can get fiddly. For this, you will need your latch hook. Go back to the top of the neck to your first braid.
Slip the latch hook through the top center of the braid, as close to the crest as possible so it comes out underneath the braid. Open the latch hook and stick the yard for that braid in the hook and close it.
Pull it back out, bringing the yarn with it. At this stage, you can either continue tying up the braid or move down the neck pulling all the yard through. You will find your preference as you practice and either way is correct.
Resume tying up the braid by pulling it snuggly so that the end of the braid where the knot is gets hidden in and underneath. Then separate the two pieces of yarn pulling them back to the right side, one piece in each hand.
Pass each strand under the braid, crossing them, and pull snuggly, but not super tight. Now, bring the pieces of yarn over the top and start to knot it like you were tying your shoe.
Push down on the braid as you do this so you create the little bump you see at the top of the braid. Then pull more tightly and knot it again, like a double knot. Next, you can either leave it like that or for a tidier look wrap the pieces of yarn underneath the braid and double knot it again there.
Stick the yarn over the horse’s neck so it is out of your way. Continue the process until you have all the braids tied up. Finally, trim off the excess yard as close to the braid as possible.
Step 6 – Braid The Forelock
The finishing touch to a beautifully braided mane is the forelock. You can either do a standard single braid just like the rest or put in a French braid. Personally, my favorite forelock braids are French braids, it is a much prettier finish.
If you use a French braid, you don’t create the little bump with the yarn piece. Simply insert the latch hook at the top of the braid and pull it up into the French braided section and knot it at the top.
Stacy, who I mentioned earlier, made a detailed video on how to create picture-perfect hunter braids. Watching someone create show braids is the best way to understand to process.
The video is a bit long, but worth it, so check it out.
Dressage and Showjumping Braids
Dressage and showjumping braids are similar but slightly different than English show braids for the hunters or equitation. You will need most of the same tools except you can use braiding thread or rubber bands instead.
But many people still use yarn. These braids are a little loose and bigger in appearance. It is easier to master this style than the first one I talked about as they aren’t as fiddly. Another name you might hear for this style is dressage button braids.
However, the process is pretty much the same with just a few differences.
Take a look at this video to see the slight differences. Enjoy!
Another great, short, and sweet video I want to share with you is from top international showjumping groom, Caroline Holmberg. I really love her braids and they are a great mix of hunter style braids and jumper competition braids using rubber elastic bands.
Take a look.
Now, onto an easier fun braid! To create a running braid your horse needs to have a long mane. This type of braid is a great way to keep a long mane tidy or get it off a horse’s neck in the heat. Plus it is just cute!
Step 1 – Brush Out The Mane
If you are just doing a running braid for fun, you don’t need to wash it. However, avoid too much or any conditioner so it keeps some tackiness.
Step 2 – Begin the Running Braid
A running braid is similar to a French braid but they are also called Dutch braids. If you can know how to do that style, then you will pick this up quickly.
Start at the top of the neck behind the horse’s ears. Section off a large portion of mane, the width doesn’t need to be as precise as show braids, so experiment and see what your personal preference is.
Divide your section into three strands, just like a regular braid. Start braiding by crossing the strands underneath to get the popped out look. Or you can cross them like a normal braid, to begin with, if that is easier.
Once you have the first two crosses, work down the mane, adding more hair into the left strand each time. Only add hair to the left strand. Keep it snug but not overly tight.
Continue all the way down to the end of the mane and finish the last couple of inches as a normal braid when you can’t add any more hair.
Secure the end with a plaiting band (elastic band). To make it extra secure, you can use two rubber bands.
I found this video really helpful for learning how to put in a running braid.
Mane Braiding Tips
Over the years I’ve picked up some handy braiding manes tips. The easiest way to remove braids tied with yarn is with a seam ripper. However, it is easy to cut hair this way.
Be extra careful inserting the seam ripper under the yarn so you don’t cut the hair. Once you take all the braids out regardless of how you tie them spray the mane with some water and brush it out.
This will remove the curl more quickly. Also, it is best not to leave mane braids in overnight. It can make the horse itchy and they can end up completely destroyed by morning.
On top of that shavings and hay can get stuck in them messing them up.
Keep The Mane Tidy
One of the most important things that affect how your braids come out is the hair itself. Make sure it is not too long, too thick, and that the thickness is as even as possible throughout. The best way to thin a thicker mane is to pull it.
Some horses hate this so, you can use a thinning comb. However, I find the same as the experts at Pro Equine Grooms, a thinning comb creates uneven, stray hairs that will stick out. 
If your horse doesn’t mind pulling, I don’t think it is cruel. I have one horse that actually loves it and he’s not the only one I’ve encountered like this!
However, if your horse clearly reacts then I don’t think it is fair to use this method as it clearly is uncomfortable for it.
As I mentioned early, show braids need to be the same width. A tip I really love is to put elastic bands for braiding on your metal mane comb. With one side on the sixth tooth. 
I’m sure you have lots of questions, so here are a few common ones I’ve been asked about mane braiding.
How do you braid a Friesian mane?
The best way to braid a Friesian mane is to use a running braid. Since it is breed standard to keep a Friesian’s mane long. Show braids would not work for this length.
How to you tame a horse’s mane?
To tame a horse’s mane to lie on one side put in standard braids. You can either braid all the way to the end or halfway down. Then leave the braids in for several days.
You will likely have to repeat to process. Don’t make these braids too tight at the top, so the horse stays comfortable.
Why do you braid a horse’s mane?
You braid a horse’s mane for shows, protecting it if it is long, for fun, or for training it to lie on one side.
You are now all set to get started! Some people hate braiding while others love it. Think of it as time quietly bonding with your horse.
Do you have other tips on how to braid a horse’s mane? Please share below!
- 1. How to Braid a Horse’s Mane – AQHA [Internet]. www.aqha.com. Available from: https://www.aqha.com/-/how-to-braid-a-horse-s-ma-1
- 2. Mane Braiding Tips [Internet]. Pro Equine Grooms. 2021. Available from: https://proequinegrooms.com/tips/manes-and-tails/braiding-tips/
Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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