You’ve entered the competition, the horsebox is packed, horse bathed, now all that’s left to do is the ‘pièce de résistance’ — plaiting.

There are two ways for you to plait, either with a needle and thread or with rubber bands. Here we explain how to do both ways, plus we give you some final top tips to ensure your plaits stand out from the crowd for all of the right reasons.

Rubber Band Method

What you will need:

  • Rubber bands in a colour that matches your horse’s mane
  • Mane comb
  • Something to stand on, like a plastic box

Method:

  • Wet the mane and divide it using the mane comb. You can keep the sections secure by loosely putting a rubber band around each one. Each section should be about ¾ of a mane comb width, and you can hold back the hair you don’t need with the mane comb.
  • Divide the hair to be plaited into three equal sections and start plaiting. Each plait should be tight and firm, not loose.
  • When the plait is complete, secure it with an elastic band.
  • Then roll the plait up by tucking the end under and then folding up – the number of times depends on the length and thickness of the mane, but you’re aiming for a neat little ball. This is then secured with another band.  
  • Repeat this down the mane.
  • The forelock should also be plaited and can be done the same way or as a French plait. It takes practice but looks awesome!
  • For the superstitious among you (us included) it is desirable to end up with an odd number of plaits down the length of the neck, and then you even this up with the final forelock plait.

Needle and thread method

What you will need:

  • Blunt needle (threaded)
  • Spare thread
  • Mane comb
  • Scissors
  • Something to stand on, like a plastic box

Method:

  • Wet the mane and divide it using the mane comb. Each section should be about ¾ of a mane comb width, and you can hold back the hair you don’t need with the mane comb. You can keep the sections secure by loosely putting a rubber band around each one.
  • Divide the hair to be plaited into three equal sections and start plaiting. Each plait should be tight and firm, not loose.
  • Plait down to the bottom and hold tight with one hand while you pick up your needle and thread.
  • Sew round the plait twice near the bottom, and then fold under the loose ends and sew round again to secure the end.
  • Fold the plait in half, turning the end under, putting the needle through from underneath, near the base of the mane, coming out on top.
  • Make a couple of stitches down the folded plait so that the needle comes out at the bottom.
  • Finally fold the plait in half again, putting the needle through from underneath near the base of the plait and sew up and down through the plait several times to secure it in place. You can shape the plait by pushing it up or down slightly before sewing up and down through the plait to secure it. If you need to make it smaller, you can wrap the thread around the plait to pull in the sides.
  • Tie off on top of the plait and use scissors to cut the thread.
  • Repeat the process all the way down the neck. There are no rules about how many plaits you should have down the neck, provided they look evenly sized.
  • The forelock should also be plaited and can be done the same way or as a French plait.

Top tips

Mane pulling

A pulled mane to a suitable length and thickness will really help you achieve the desired look when plaiting. Don’t over-pull though, making the mane too short.

Bathing

We recommend that you bath your horse’s mane well in advance of trying to plait it. This avoids the mane from being too slippery – natural grease will help keep the plaits in place. If you are bathing your horse the day before or on the day of the competition, try to avoid getting the mane soapy.  Very importantly do NOT spray mane and tail conditioner on your horse’s mane prior to plaiting as this will make it virtually impossible!

Plaiting for your horse’s conformation

There are no rules with regards to plaiting to suit type and conformation of your horse, but there are a few tips that can help enhance the overall look of your horse.

For example, a short neck can be made to look longer by creating more plaits, and a neck lacking in muscle can be enhanced by standing the plaits up a little to give the impression of more crest.

Similarly, the mane can be thinned and/or plaits can be made smaller on a cresty type of horse to make the crest appear smaller.

Fashion

There are no set rules with regards to which size of plait you should create in relation to your discipline, although there seems to be certain trends. For example, many dressage riders prefer to use larger, fewer plaits, but eventers tend to like a lot of very small plaits.

Once you have master the plait, remember to share your photos on our Facebook & Twitter.