Starting out with a mohawk and brushed out mane.
Clipped up, starting to braid and go for neatness. I shut the flash off for this pic since it was bleaching everything out otherwise, hence the blue-ish coloring.
I was a bit rushed and he can be a bit of a prick about things at times. For one, when braiding his forelock, when you reach the end of the braid and have a few hairs in each section to work with- he will jerk his head away to look at something. The whole time your braid is unraveling... When working on the braids near his poll, he will keep turning his head around towards you, trying to grab your sleeve if possible, etc. A well placed elbow usually works well for that but he still tries. Again this is usually by the time you reach the bottom of the braids and don't have a lot to hold onto.
Cross ties would put a stop to a lot of this, but we don't have them. Part of your job requirements as a good groom, you must learn to work with what you have and how to deal with each horses issues, while still doing a good job to make the horse look their best. Not everything goes as planned and this is not a perfect world.
Under the ADS rules, braiding the horses mane is optional. However many people agree when it comes to your turnout- it makes for a much neater appearance and becomes almost rather mandatory. Similar to the Sport Horse ring, tails are not braided. There are a number of different braiding techniques and I will try to address each of them as we go, making this a series of sorts. I will also address braiding tails.
For Kat's forelock, to maintain its length, I French braid it, then turn it under and pull it out through the top using the crochet hook. I then bring it back down , laying it on top of the French braided part, turn it under again, then bring the strings around both sides, tying it off on top. Depending on the length of the forelock, it can be turned under and tied off or turned up, then run under the French braid and tied off. It is all about working with what you have and learning how to achieve results when there is little to work with.
The mane can be braided into the small hunter braids,
rosettes or button braids,
french braids or running braids
and even 'woven', or what some people call a continental or diamond braids.
Some of the different types of braids go pretty quickly, but the small hunter braids, you you might be there for a while. Once you get a rhythm down and have done it enough, some people are able to braid a mane in hunter braids in about 30 minutes, some people manage to do it in 45 minutes while the rest of us might be looking at 2 hours to get it right... I didn't time myself, but it was around 11pm before I got back into the house.
And just as you may do a good job braiding the horse, not all types of braids work for all types of horses.
To me, this horse with this style of braids, it is just not as flattering as it could be. The horses neck development shows through a lot here. Notice the 'hollow' spot where the top of the neck and shoulder meet? Maybe a running braid, tight along the crest or even coming down a bit could cover that and make it less noticeable, changing the appearance and bringing different results.
If you are braiding for other people, you probably need to do the style of braids as they choose. If you can appeal to their better senses and do a different braid, you can change the appearance of their horse for them in a way they might not have imagined.
The main thing though is to practice. When ever you have a bit of spare time and just want to practice, do it. There is also a product available called the Braidpal. You can pretty much practice any time, anywhere and no horses will suffer.
This photo is someones first attempt at button braids, so while it doesn't look show ring ready- they are making an effort to improve and get it right. I cannot knock them for that. We all started somewhere and our first attempts rarely look great. I know mine didn't.
I will post more on braiding and move towards the 'how to' in future posts. Any style in particular I should start with?