My husband really likes keeping his horses’ manes long. Although Mustangs don’t have a true breed standard, most people tend to keep their Mustangs’ manes long as well as it’s closer to their “wild” state. However, the long mane doesn’t really go with formal English horse showing. In the beginning I did running braids, but I hate how they tend to fall out, even if I french braid it.
The other style I’ve used is the lattice braid. This looks pretty cool, but it’s not really a “braid” and not typical for English shows.
What we’ve been doing for the last few years is running button braids.
In addition to looking traditional, these braids are easy to do and they stay in. They’re easy enough that my husband now does his own braiding. He’d never braided anything in his life before doing these and he’s getting pretty good at it.
These braids look a bit too bulky for a rated hunter show, but they fit in perfectly at dressage shows and Horse Trials.
So how do you do them?
1. Start with a clean, wet, brushed mane. You may want to add Quik Braid (or another braiding product). I find it helps create neater braids and will cut down on the frizziness. Sadly, we realized we were out of Quik Braid when doing the braids in this photo shoot. If you don’t have a braiding spray on hand, keep a wet sponge nearby to re-wet the mane as you go.
2. Divide the mane into thin sections with rubber bands. I often end up sort of re-dividing these sections as I go along by using a bit of one section and putting the rest into its neighbor. However, this step will keep all the hair you’re not working on out of your way so it’s important.
3. Braid your first section and tie off with a rubber band. I have done this with yarn and actually found it more annoying than the rubber bands as you need such long yarn to deal with the long mane. Your braid should be about 2″ long.
4. Poke a hole through the middle of the braid along the neck and push the extra hair into this hole.
5. Pull the extra hair upwards until you have a neat button of braided hair. The rubber band should be inside the braid, not sticking out.
6. You are going to bring the extra hair over from the first section and add it to your next braid. Try to keep it as flush with the neck as possible (if you leave it loose, it will bob around as it’s own bump and mess up your streamlined look). I find adding it to the middle section of your next braid to work best. Make sure to pull your first outside strand tightly over the added section to keep it flat and incorporated.
7. Braid the second section to the same length as the first and tie off with a rubber band.
8. Continue repeating steps 3-7 and adding additional buttons.
9. As you go along, adding an additional rubber band around the completed button will help the button keep its shape.
10. Especially in the middle – where the mane is very long – you may find that the remnant mane from your previous braid is so thick, you need to use a thinner section of mane for your next braid. This is easy to do. You just remove the keeper rubber band, pull off the amount of hair you need for your next section and leave the remainder to be added later.
11. Continue repeating the steps to add additional braids as you go along. You will need to apply additional Quik Braid or water as you go as the mane dries out over time.
12. The last braid gets tied up like a normal button braid and you’re done.