Braiding with Elastics
If you have ever shown a horse, you will know just how important it is to have your horse braided to look its best. Not everyone knows how to braid their horses, and many turn to professional braiders to do the job. But horse showing is very expensive and adding the cost of braiding to the fees only makes it that much harder to afford.
Anyone can learn how to braid their own horse. It takes a lot of practice, but with time and patience, you can learn to produce show-quality braids and avoid the cost of paying a professional to do the job.
The first stage in learning to braid is to braid with elastics. Start out with elastics the same color as your horse’s mane. If you can’t find the right color, choose a color that is darker than his mane as it will blend in better than a lighter color.
In addition to elastics you will need a mane comb (or pulling comb), a hair clip (the long alligator type is best) and a small brush or sponge with a bucket of water.
Start out by combing your horse’s mane so that it lies flat and has no tangles. Use water on the brush or sponge to wet the top portion of your horse’s mane. Then separate a section about 1” in width, and use the hair clip to hold the rest of the mane back.
Take an elastic and place it on your baby finger (you can put a few on the finger if you’d like, but be careful not to cut off your circulation). Then separate the hair into three even sections. It is very important to make these sections as even as possible as uneven sections will make braiding impossible.
Now comes the braiding part. If you have never braided before, this will take some practice. If you know how to braid, you are ahead of the game, but the technique on a horse is a bit different.
Throughout the process keep the tension on the braid in a downward direction, along the horse’s neck. If you pull the braid sideways you will have a braid that sticks out. Take the far right section and cross it over the middle section so that it is the new middle piece. Now take the far left section and cross it over the middle section so that it becomes the middle piece. This is basic braiding. Continue this process until you reach the end of the braid.
If this is your first time braiding, your braid will probably be quite loose. The best braids are tight braids, so you need to learn how to make the braid tight. Keeping the tension between your fingers, pull each twist of the hair as tight as you can. The pressure should be sideways, through the twists, not downwards along the neck. This takes a lot of practice, and your first attempts will not likely be very tight at all. Don’t despair; if you keep trying you will learn to get it tight and tidy in the long run.
At the end of the braid, use the elastic to hold it in place. Braid the hair as close to the end as possible, or you will get stuck with a lot of excess hair that sticks up and looks messy.
When the braid is finished, fold it under itself so that the elastic is underneath. Now, take a second elastic and wrap it around the folded braid, close to the top of the neck. If you have kept it tight and the overall pull downwards, the braid should lie more-or-less flat against the horse’s neck.
Continue this process down the neck until you reach the end of the mane. Wet the hair as necessary to keep it lying flat and the braids as tight as possible. While your first attempt will not likely be show-worthy, if you keep up the practice, soon you will have decent braids suitable for low-level shows.
Once you have perfected the elastic braid, for professional-quality braids, try learning to braid with wool.