There are many different equine hairstyles. This feature will tell you everything you need to know and which styles are best suited for thick, thin or long manes.
Plaiting the mane and tail often has more than just aesthetic reasons. Some hairstyles protect against matting and dirt, some are particularly suitable for competition and others are used purely for visual appeal. In addition to the practical and popular tournament styles, there is a wide range of braiding techniques that are mainly used for leisure purposes or special customs. Creativity knows no limits when it comes to equine hairstyles. With the help of simple application techniques, useful tips and sufficient practice, most braided styles are very easy to achieve. As soon as you got the hang of it, your self-made looks will certainly look impressive at shows.
Before plaiting the mane or tail, gently separate the individual hairs. Too frequent combing with a mane comb or tail brush can lead to unnecessary hair loss and should be avoided whenever possible. Likewise, we recommend avoiding excessive washing as this affects the body’s natural reoiling process. The mane and tail should also be cleaned of all dirt and bedding residues.
Do not spray the hair with a shine spray or similar, because this can compromise how well the braided style will last. It may not hold its shape for long, if at all. With these simple tricks nothing will stand in the way of creating some impressive looks and show styles yourself.
Tools for braiding
In the past, a sewing thread and needle were used to keep the plaits in place. Today, creative stylists have a variety of tools at their disposal to add the finishing touches and make it easier to create a lasting style.
Depending on the horse’s size, a step or stool should be available to access the mane at eye level. This saves you from continuously lifting your arms and straining your neck. After the mane has been brushed out, a special mane comb can be used to achieve an even braiding result. Special plaiting aids can also help with dividing individual strands before plaiting.
We also recommend using elastics to hold the individual sections in place. These are available in many colours and can even be adorned with rhinestones. There can be significant differences in the strength of the elastics: From extra soft to almost tear-proof.
Adhesive braiding tape can also be used in addition to the elastics. You can opt for reusable small clips to fix the plaits in place. If you want to decorate your mane with rhinestones, bows or flowers, there are various mane rings, decorative elastics or other accessories such as pearls with spirals to complete the picture of a perfectly plaited mane. Of course, each accessory can also be used for the tail.
Afterwards, you can apply a little styling mousse to the mane. This way, the plaits will hold better, even if the horse has a roll in the stable.
Styles suitable for every type
Not all hairstyles are ideal for every type of mane, but there is always a suitable technique to enhance the appearance of a horse’s neck. As a general rule, the hair should always be well groomed in order to leave a positive impression. In addition to sorting tailhair by hand, care should be taken when brushing so that as little hair as possible is pulled out. A mane spray can improve manageability. However, braided styles will hold less well afterwards, which is why a shine spray is better for everyday use, not for competition days. Hair loss can also be reduced if the mane is regularly tied up in loose braids.
Now you can start thinking about the most suitable braiding style. First, you should assess the type of hair and which plaiting technique is best for the mane length. As a general rule, take care not to braid the hair too tightly and leave an unpleasant pull on the horse’s hair roots. Horses are not as sensitive as humans in this respect, but nonetheless it is not comfortable.
Styles for horses with thick manes
A very thick mane is often difficult to manage and it requires some dexterity to tuck plaits in properly. If you have a lot of mane, any form of Spanish braid is recommended. This is done in a similar way to a French plait on humans. It can either run directly along the crest or extend downwards from the head to the neck. However, the basic technique is the same.
At the beginning, three strands of equal thickness are gathered directly behind the ears. The right strand is placed over the middle strand, followed by the left strand over the middle strand. The following right strand is then added from the still open mane. The course of the plait can be influenced by the length of the strand added.
A voluminous, long mane will make a particularly attractive result as the braid eventually acquires an impressive size. This technique requires dexterity and practice to achieve an even result. With some experience this look can be shaped in various ways to suit all preferences. Bows, flowers and other decorations can be added to the finished braid to customise the style.
Styles for horses with a thin mane
A thin mane is much easier to manage, but the result is often not as impressive. If the mane is not as lush, opt for looks that emphasise a beautiful topline or show off the neck area particularly well. Warmbloods, for example, generally tend to have a shorter mane, which is why a button braid is often seen at jumping and dressage competitions. It is perfect for horses with little mane hair. First, the mane is divided at the hairline into even sections of about 10 cm width and tied with elastics. These sections are then each plaited downwards in the classic three-strand way and again secured with a rubber band. The braided strand are neatly rolled up and fastened to the crown with more elastics or plaiting tools. The result basically looks like a lot of miniature chignon braids. The first attempts are often not perfect, but with a little practice and experience, this classic competition look can be perfected.
Cross braids are also suitable for horses with little mane hair. Again, this involves braiding down strands of hair about 10 cm in width. However, here the elastic is tied in after one third of the hair length is plaited. The bottom part remains undone. After all plaits have been created this way, two plaits are joined together with a rubber band. However, one braid in between is always left out, which is then combined with the next braid left out. Make sure that the braids left out are either consistently tied underneath the other braids or over them. The result is a neat web that goes along the upper half of the neck.
Styles for horses with long manes
A lattice design is particularly suitable for a long mane. To do this, gather even strands of mane and fasten them with a rubber band close to the hairline. Eventually, you should have between 10 and 15 finger-thick bunches hanging down. Starting at the poll, divide the second strand of hair in half and secure one half to the first strand with an elastic. Secure the other half of the second section to half of the third strand, and repeat this pattern along the neck. Then return to the top of the neck to start a new row. Keep working down the mane until there isn’t enough hair for another row. Now a perfect lattice style net should cover your horse’s neck.
It is up to you whether the entire mane is incorporated into this style or whether only the top section of the mane is used with the lattice lying on top of the otherwise open hair. If you have an extremely thick and voluminous mane, it helps to try out both options and then decide according to personal preference. The style can also be adorned with various decorations, such as rhinestones, pearls or bows.
Competition styles for horses
There are no specific requirements for hairstyles at competitions. However, depending on the discipline, special preferences can be recognised. Traditionally, the mane is plaited for competition in order to make a good and well-groomed impression on the judges. This applies to both jumpers and dressage horses. As these disciplines are mainly dominated by warmbloods with rather short manes, the popular button style is ideal. It is a classic among competition hairstyles and always ensures a professional look.
In western riding, eventing and various racing disciplines, on the other hand, the mane is usually left undone.
In polo, it is mandatory that the horse’s tail and mane be thoroughly tied up so that no stick can get caught in it. For practical reasons, the mane is usually shaved off completely or at least cut very short.
If the hair is left braided for too long, it can quickly become matted. In combination with dirt or bedding, this can result in stubborn knots that can possibly only be removed with the help of scissors. To avoid this, plaits should be undone soon after a show or other event. It is sufficient to comb the hair briefly with your fingers to untangle everything.