How to Braid a Horse’s Tail: 3 Classic Styles (Step-by-Step)

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Learning how to braid a horse’s tail is a great skill for any equestrian to have.

There are several different styles you can learn from a simple braid to the fancy braid you see on American show hunters.  

Let’s get started, I’ll introduce you to the easiest first!  

Tools For Braiding A Horse’s Tail

There are many reasons why you might braid the tail of a horse. Some breed classes require horses to have extra long tails. However, to protect the tail it is necessary to keep the tail in a tail bag.  

The bag also keeps the tail clean. These bags are fabulous if you have a horse with a white or blonde tail. It is pretty impossible to keep them stain-free otherwise. I’m more familiar with this struggle than I’d like to be!

Anyway, getting back on track, there are different tools you will need to braid a tail. What you actually need will depend on the type of braid, but I’ll list them all here so you’re familiar with them when I mention them in the sections for each style.  

  • Tail brush
  • Mane and tail conditioner
  • Small spray bottle to hold water
  • Plaiting gel or spray
  • Rubber bands for horse braids
  • Plaiting thread
  • Yarn in a color that matches the hair color
  • Latch hook
  • Scissors
  • Seam ripper
  • Shampoo

CHECK: Beautiful Buckskin Horse Color

Basic Three Strand Tail Braid

The easiest trail braid for horses that anyone can master quickly is a basic three-strand braid, just like the type you might put in your own hair. Just follow my simple steps.

Step 1 – Wash The Tail

Before you put any type of braid in a horse’s tail you need to wash it, especially if you plan to put it in a protect tail bag.  

Step 2 – Brush The Tail

Once the tail is completely dry you need to thoroughly brush it out. Before brushing spray the tail hair with a mane and tail conditioner. This will help any knots come out easily and keep the tail soft and silky.  

Step 3 – Braid The Tail

Divide the tail into three sections just below the end of the tail bone. Start your braid by crossing either the left or right strand over the middle one. Alternate sides until you get to the end of the tail.  

Secure the end of the braid with a plaiting band or braid a strand of yarn in towards the bottom. Yarn is more secure as plaiting bands can snap when used on single, large tail braids.   

I suggest, if you use the elastic bands, you secure the end with more than one. Also, make sure you don’t do the first quarter of the braid too tightly as this can be uncomfortable for the horse.  

Watch this type of tail braid in this really helpful video.

Fishtail Braid

A fishtail braid is a more complicated version of the basic tail braid. It isn’t used for competition and is just for fun.

You can do it by just messing around or using this braid for a fun class, such as a costume class at a show.

Step 1 – Clean And Brush Out The Tail

Make sure you start with a clean dry tail that is fully brushed out.  

Step 2 – Divide The Hair Into Sections

For a fishtail braid, you first need to divide the tail into two sections, starting below the tail bone. Hold one section in your right hand and the other in your left.  

Step 3 – Start Braiding

Starting with either the left or right section; it doesn’t matter! Take a thin section from your preferred side. Let’s say you start on the left to make it easier to explain.

Cross the thin section of hair over the top of the left bunch and pull it under the right section. Then pull both large sections to tighten the braid.  

Next, do the same from the right, taking a thin section, crossing it over the top of the right bunch, and pulling it under the left section. Repeat this process all the way down the tail. For the best, finished look, make sure each thin section is the same size.  

You can start a fishtail braid towards the top of the tail instead of below the tail bone if you want. The same process applies.  

This short video gives you a great visual of how to do this type of braid. Take a look.

Show Horse Tail Braid

Depending on what country you live in, this type of braid can vary in thickness. In North America, it is a hunter tail braid. The braid is thin, tight, and very elegant.   

In the UK, it is the same type of braid but with a thicker style. Whatever style you want to achieve this style is always a french braid done over the top of the tail to the end of the bone.  

It is the hardest type of braided tail to master, especially to do it to show standard. You will need lots of practice and the hunter braid is the most difficult to get right since it is so refined.  

To do an American hunter show tail braid you will need a length of the acrylic yard about a foot long in a color that matches the hair.  

Step 1 – Make Sure The Tail Is Clean

For this type of braid, a clean tail is a bit of a catch 22. Since you are focusing on the top of the braid where the hair is shorter a clean tail makes the hair slippery.  

However, if the hair is dirty the finish can show up flakes of dry skin and dirt, which you don’t want for a show standard tail braid.

My suggestion, unless your horse has a white tail is to wash the hair two days in advance, instead of one.  

Step 2 – Prep The Tail Hair

Using either your spray bottle or plaiting gel smooth out the top of the tail. I recommend some kind of styling gel as this will help keep the odd length hairs from sticking out.  

Brush out the tail thoroughly but don’t use any conditioner as this will make the tail slippery, which will make it very difficult to braid.  

Step 3 – Start Braiding

The type of braid you are doing is a French braid. You want to start as close to the top of the tail as possible.   Start by taking two thin bunches of hair, one from each side of the tail.

It is important when doing this style of braid that you only take hair from the very outside of the tail bone.   

Otherwise, you end up with loose hairs along the edge which isn’t show standard.

Cross the first two strands of hair and take the third section of equal size from either the center of the tail or one of the sides and cross it into the braid.

Always pull tight after each section cross. Continue your braid taking thin hair sections with each cross from the side. Make sure all of the new sections are the same size so the braid takes a uniform appearance.

Remember keep it tight otherwise, the whole look will not work. This is hard, very hard when you are first starting out! I’ve been there and the only solution is practice, practice, practice!  

Keep going until you are nearly at the end of the tail bone. When you reach that point stop adding in hair from the sides and braid the hair in your hand normally to the end.  

However, a couple of inches before you reach the end of the normal braid, you need to insert your piece of yarn.

Place the yarn so the middle sits behind your braid with one side on the left section and one on the right. Then continue the braid with the yarn worked into it.  

When you reach the end separate your yarn and pull both sides together. Then wrap it around the end of the braid and under itself creating a knot.

One thing to note is that is it not necessary to go all the way to the end of the normal braid unless you want to tie up in a pinwheel style.

Step 4 – Tie Up The Braid

For this step, you will need a latch hook. Alternatively, you can use a horse braiding needle but I’ve always found a latch hook much easier.

If you use a latch hook insert it a couple of inches above the end of the tail bone into the center of the braid.

Hook your yarn into the end and pull it up and out of the braid. You want to pull the normal braid up under the French braid as much as possible. Be careful not to make the braid loosen or crooked.  

Now using the latch hook inserted sideways under the center braid pull only one section of yarn through and out the other side. Finally, tie a triple knot and cut off the excess yarn.  

Reading all that might sound like a foreign language and I don’t blame you if you’re confused! The best way to understand how to do this kind of braid is to see it done.

That’s why I found this great video from an expert braider. She does a great example of a show standard hunter braided tail.  

I strongly advise you to watch it, it will really help you.

Make sure to check these amazing white draft horse breeds.

Pro Mane and Tail Care Tips

Over the years, I’ve picked up lots of tips on how to best care for a horse’s mane and tail. I wanted to share some great ones from Erica Peet. [2]  

Erica works with horse breeds that require long manes and tails. This means lots of extra care, so she really knows her stuff. 

When washing the mane or tail, Erica recommends that you really scrub around the roots where most of the dirt builds up.

She also cautions equestrians not to wash mane and tail hair too often as this can dry it out, increasing the risk of breakages. [2]  

Make sure to check these horse mane styles too!

FAQs

I’ve answered some common questions I’ve been asked by those learning how to tail braid. I hope the answers can help you as well.  

How do you take out a hunter tail braid?

You take out a hunter tail braid using a seam ripper or thin sharp scissors. Take your time and avoid cutting any hair.  

Can you leave a hunter tail braid in overnight?

No, you should not leave a hunter tail braid in overnight. These are tight braids and get uncomfortable for your horse.
Always remove it when you are done showing for the day and put the braid in on the day.  

What products are best for tail hair conditioning?

Shapely makes some of the best products for tail hair conditioning. The experts at Pro Equine Grooms are also big fans of Shapely’s products. [1] I also really like Mane and Tail Detangler.  

Conclusion

Now that you know how to do the three most popular tail braids it’s time to get practicing. Don’t let yourself get frustrated, especially with the hunter tail braid as it takes a lot of practice to master.  

Finally, have fun just spending time with your horse!

close-up pic of a horse braided tail

References

  1. 1. Keeping Your Horse’s Tail Braided [Internet]. Pro Equine Grooms. 2021 [cited 2022 Feb 21]. Available from: https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/manes-and-tails/keeping-tails-braided
  2. 2. Pro Tip: Mane and Tail Care [Internet]. US Equestrian. [cited 2022 Feb 21]. Available from: https://www.usef.org/media/equestrian-weekly/pro-tip-mane-tail-care
Siun L
Siun L

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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