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10 Easy Steps to Perfect Plaits & Braids for Your Dressage Competition

When it comes to preparing your horse for a competition, attention to detail can make all the difference. 

One often overlooked yet crucial aspect is plaiting and braiding your horse’s mane and tail. A neatly braided horse not only presents a polished appearance but also reflects the dedication and care you’ve invested in your horse’s presentation. In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of braiding your horse’s hair for a competition, ensuring that you both stand out in the arena and present at your best.

Firstly, depending on where you are located in the world, there may be some differences in the language used for ‘Braids’ and ‘Plaits’. For the purpose of the article, we will refer to braids and plaits as the same thing: the banded or sewn neat “balls” down the horse’s mane.  

Tools You’ll Need

To get the perfect braids, these are the tools you will need:

  • Mane comb
  • Tail comb
  • Rubber bands or braiding thread
  • Spray bottle with water or detangler
  • Scissors (for trimming excess hair)
  • Towel or cloth (to wipe off excess moisture)
  • Fine comb (for parting the hair)

The Ultimate Braiding Guide

  1. Prepare the Horse:

Ensure your horse is clean and dry. Grooming beforehand removes dirt, tangles, and loose hairs, creating a great base for braiding.

  1. Materials and Setup:

Lay out your braiding tools in an organised manner, making the process efficient and stress-free for both you and your horse. We also recommend the use of a grooming tool belt or hairdressers belt where you can place the tools so they are within close reach around your waist. If you don’t have access to a belt of this nature, a nearby flat surface to lay your tools out will be fine. 

  1. Divide the Mane:

Use a fine comb or your fingers to divide the mane into even sections. The number of sections will depend on your horse’s mane thickness and the desired final look. It is a suggestion to always have an uneven number of braids. Creating bigger plaits helps to highlight your horse’s neck. 

  1. Wet the Mane:

Mist the mane lightly with water or a detangler spray to make it more manageable. This step reduces tugging and breakage while braiding.

  1. Begin Braiding The Mane:

Start with a small section near the base of the mane. Divide it into three even strands.

Cross the right strand over the centre strand, then cross the left strand over the new centre strand. Repeat the process until you are at the bottom of the hair strand. Use a band or braiding thread and secure the plait in place. Make sure it’s tight but not so tight that it causes discomfort.

  1. Repeat the Process:

Repeat the plaiting of each section of the mane until all sections are plaited.

  1. Roll the Plait:

Next we are rolling the plait into a ‘rosette’ to achieve our finished look. Grab one plait, then roll in half, then half again. Hold the ‘rosette’ and use a band to secure the hair in place. Repeat this process for the entire mane. 

  1. Tail Braiding:

If desired, present the tail using a similar process called ‘braiding’. Divide the tail into three small sections as if you were going to commence a plait, as you progress incorporate small strands of hair from each side of the tail every time you cross over. Ensure you maintain equal tension to create tight and uniform braid. A popular style of tail presentation is to choose a small section of the tail to plait/braid from the top and then leave the remainder of the tail flowing and well brushed.

  1. Finishing Touches:

Trim any stray hairs or uneven ends using scissors (optional). If your horse is comfortable, spray some hairspray and pat down the plaits and braid to ensure no fly away hairs are seen.

  1. Presentation at the Competition:

Before entering the competition ring, check that all braids are even and tidy. Make any last minute adjustments.

Apply a light coat of coat shine spray for a polished appearance, but avoid overdoing it as this may cause the hair to be oily and not look natural.

This video is with the International Super Groom, Alan Davies! Alan shares what is in his grooming bag and how he uses them to present Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester’s Team of Grand Prix Horses. 

Find more videos all about Grooming and enjoy the Ridely Group where you can ask Alan Davies questions and share your grooming success. Join Ridely with a 7 day free PRO trial today.

Braiding your horse’s hair for a competition is an art that combines patience and attention to detail. By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll not only enhance your horse’s appearance but also demonstrate your commitment to presenting the best version of your equine partner. 

Remember, practice makes perfect, so give yourself ample time to refine your technique. With a beautifully braided horse by your side, you’ll be sure to catch the judges’ eyes and make a lasting impression in the competition arena!

Get the best grooming tips from Alan Davies

Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester’s groom Alan Davies has a whole series of grooming videos in Ridely.

Take part of his many tips to give your horse the shine it deserves.

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