Monday, December 19, 2011

French braids or running braids

For the mane there is another braiding style for hunters and there are a number of different names for this style of braid. Essentially it is a French braid that runs the length of the neck. If your horse has a thick or double mane, you may need to divide it down the middle and braid it on both sides. 

There are also two ways to braid the mane, either adding the hair under the braid or from the top which translates to the left side of the braid or the right side of the braid.

Just as with hunter braids, you also have a few variations as to using yarn or thread, the full length of the braid or just at the end. I prefer to use it the full length of the braid as it helps to keep the braid tight as well as giving you something to work with through thin spots if the horse has been rubbing their mane or if it is just thin overall.

Exhibitors Labs has a nice step by step, with photos of the process, but their end result could be neater. Sometimes the 'ripple effect' is due to braiding too tight, then the horse puts their head down, pulls sections loose and when the head comes back up, the braid gets a bit wavy.

To keep the braid up near the crest of the neck, I like to pull each section snug once more before using one of the other sections to cross over or under it, securing the hair. I also like to use spray in conditioner which leaves the hair feeling a bit 'tacky' or sticky, which helps you maintain your grip on the hair as you braid it.  I also use my thumb to section off the hair as I add it to my braid, starting on the under side and going up and over to the other side of the neck.

I use small sections as it keeps the mane tight enough to the crest, but still allows the horse to raise and lower their head without pulling the hair too much.  If you can braid the horse with their head down about where it would be while riding, you can still get the braid tight enough to stay close to the crest of the neck without it being too loose and rippling when the horse puts their head down. Another thing you can do to help keep the hair and braid tight while allowing for their neck to stretch is to pull the hair towards the back of the horse and down as you braid.

When you get to the end of the neck you can finish the braid, tie it off and then either tuck it back up on itself at the end, or tuck it back up along the neck and tie it off. Either way is generally acceptable in the hunter ring. 

I tried braiding my big mares mane for the pictures here. Unfortunately between the rain over the weekend, the skies being cloudy and not offering enough light, the flash not going off because it wasn't dark enough for it in the cameras opinion... my pictures didn't turn out too well. Add in her dark color and a lot of the detail was lost. There was enough there for me to see that I personally, don't think the french braid or running braid is a flattering look for her. At least not right now. Maybe if her neck were more developed through work- the results would be different.  Do you agree or disagree?

What do you guys think? Is this braid a good look for her or not?

I used the tan string I normally use on Kat so it would show up, if in case the pictures had been clear enough to use them as a tutorial. Her mane is still pretty long, so I can pull it and maybe do a post on that, then one for the rosettes or button braids, which seem to be more popular in the dressage arena.

Since the French or running braid can pull the hairs when your horse puts their head down, you may need to remove the braid between classes and re-braid. You will definitely want to remove the braid overnight. Your horse can rub a giant bald spot in the middle of their neck where they used to have mane overnight. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hunter braids

My braiding needs work. I need to practice.  Although sometimes I manage to get it right and pull it off, sometimes I don't.  I can admit it. My braiding needs work. But I don't often get time to practice braiding just because.  Which is one of the reasons Why I braid for schooling shows. Why not? It is practice for everything else- why not include braiding?

I braided Kat on Friday night for the Pleasure Driving show on Saturday. In driving, braiding is pretty much necessary for presentation. Neatness counts and appearances are everything. It took me 2 hours to do (which didn't seem like it) and looked pretty good considering. It was still not perfect as I have seen others do and have pulled off a few times myself. Consistency is everything.  Even braids and a straight bottom line to all of the braids makes an impact in the judges eye and their first impression.

Lucky Braids- Ruthann has got it down to an art and a science. Her braids are consistent and gorgeous. Sign up for the newsletter, buy the disc, attend a clinic or ??? but she has nailed it when it comes to braiding. 

For those of us who haven't gone that route but still want to learn to braid- there are a number of forums, websites and blogs with 'how to' instructions. I had found one a while back that was excellent and now I can't seem to track it down again. I hate it when that happens. Usually I try to email myself a link for future reference... Woulda, coulda, shoulda....  and wouldn't you know it, the one time I don't- Poof!

LUCKY for all of us- I found it again at- Hunt Seat Horses 

Along with another excellent post at the Horse Grooming Supplies Forum

Both of these articles have a number of photos to show you how to achieve the desired end result. They also contain numerous tips and notes as to why they do something or don't do it. And now that I have linked to them- I have them here on the blog in my 'notes' for later use.