Button Braids: How To’s and Top Tips

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Please tell me everything you know about braiding manes! – Sarah P. from Nyack, NY

For some, braiding is a daunting task. Having a mane that is not the ideal length or is too thick or thin can be very frustrating. There are many types of braids. In eventing there is no right or wrong way, although I am someone that feels a nicely pulled mane beats a very poorly braided one. For those starting out, practice makes perfect is one of my biggest tips!! I first started braiding at age nine. I can use bands, thread and yarn, but please don’t ask me to do a hunter braid – that is something I have not tried to accomplish!!!

General braiding tips

  • Wet the mane first – it makes hair easier to manage
  • Divide the mane into sections. This can be done with bands or by using a hair clip to section off each braid. When sectioning off hair, ensure the hair parting is straight from top to bottom (not crooked or angled).
  • The braid itself should be tight, and should start as close as possible to the crest of the neck.
  • For those horses with a thick mane or one that has been pulled too short, I tend to use the three pronged braiding comb to section off each braid. This comb is a good width guideline for these types of manes. Numerous braids normally have to be put in these manes.
  • For horses that have very thin manes, I personally like to keep the manes a little longer and then put fewer braids in the mane itself. Providing it is at a suitable length I will use the width of a regular mane comb to section off each braid.
  • When learning to braid, DON’T feel you must use thread or yarn. For some people, using rubber bands is much quicker and you still have good results. Whatever way produces the most even, tidiest look is the best way for you to go.
  • Although ideally you should start braiding from the bridle path down, I will at times start from the withers if the horse is a little head shy by his ears. For some, this helps them to relax so by the time you get to their head they realize you aren’t going to pull their mane or attack them with clippers!!
  • If sewing in braids, cut the thread to a suitable length, approx 10 – 12″ for each braid. Although it takes longer, it is less likely to cause tangling of the thread than trying to use a long piece of thread to do several braids at one time.
  • When I use rubber bands I place several bands on each of my fingers (on my left hand) and then pull one off as needed.

Step-by-step instructions
The following is a way to braid that I feel is easy to learn and is useful for manes that maybe not be pulled to your liking. This particular mane is longer than I would like so I am using the width of a pulling comb to section off the braid.

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I braid a tight braid down, using a rubber band at the bottom to end the braid. Fold up the bottom of the braid and twist the rubber band around the bottom to produce a tidy end with no hairs poking out.

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Next take a needle and thread and sew into the bottom of the braid. I usually make three loops through the braid and tug at the end to make sure the thread is in securely.

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Take the bottom of the braid and fold it on the underside to the base of the neck (you could sew the thread through the base once to help secure the braid, Fold the braid in half once more to make a neat button braid.

Sew the braid from the bottom ensuring you are going through all the folds and coming out the top centre of the braid. Always be careful with the needle, but the closest you can sew to the crest of the neck the tighter the finished look.

Repeat sewing thru the braid until you feel it is secure. I make three passes, you may need to do more. Cut the thread as close to the braid as possible.

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I hope this helps some of you on your quest for the perfect braid. Remember…practice makes perfect!!!

Huge thank you to Jessica Lynn for taking these awesome shots. Be sure to check out her site and Facebook page

Emma Ford
About

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

Posted in Ask The Groom

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