How to Braid a Mane and Tail for the Hunter Ring

By Katie Lenkart

Ever wondered how to hunter braid? Braiding is both a fun activity and a way to spend some valuable extra time with your horse. Just like with every other skill, practice makes perfect!

First, you will need the necessary tools. I use a fine tooth comb to separate the mane and comb through any tangles. For yarn I use Red Heart yarn from Walmart, but there are many other brands or yarn available. I have found that spraying a small amount of water on the main is very effective. It gives you a little added grip when pulling the mane tight. You will need a pull through used to make rugs, which can be found at Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics. You can also add a little hairspray to the water. It is a good idea to keep your scissors handy when braiding. I tied mine to lanyard, and keep it around my neck. You may also want to buy some clips to hold back the excess mane when braiding.

Before Braiding: Make sure your horse’s mane meets your standards of length and thickness. If you think it could use a little touch up, you can pull the mane or trim it. To cut the yarn, hold your arm like you are flexing your muscles and make an “L” with your hand. Begin wrapping the yarn around your hand and elbow, going in a circular motion. When you feel that you have enough, cut one side of the circle, and then you will have your yarn.

Step 1: Start at the top of the mane, by the horse’s ears. Run your hand through your horse’s mane to figure out the thickness. Wet the mane and comb out any tangles using your fine tooth comb. If your has has extremely thick mane like mine, you will want to section off a very small piece, around a ½ inch. If your horse’s mane is neither thick nor thin, you will want to make it just a little bigger than a ½ inch. If your horse has very thin mane, and may be in need of hair plugs, you will want it to be about ⅓ of an inch or an inch. You may need to play around with section lengths to find one that fits your horse. Hold back the extra mane using your comb or clip.
Step 2: Do you know what a rotation is? When you start your braid, your have three pieces. You cross one over to the middle, and then cross another over from the opposite side. That makes one rotation! Counting rotations is very important when braiding. It is what helps you make all of the braids the same length. Depending on the length of the mane, you will do 8-10 rotations. Remember that you do not want to braid to the very end of the mane, or your knot will not stay in. You want to introduce the yarn around halfway through the braid. Take the yarn behind the braid, and hold it with the mane. Start braiding like you would with mane, and continue braiding down.
Step 3: When you reach the end of your 8-10 rotations, separate the yarn from the mane. Make a loop with the yarn around the end of the braid, and pull the yarn through the loop. Do this knot one more time for a little added security.

Step 4: Time to use your pull through! Stick it through the very top of the braid, as close to the skin as you can get. Grab the yarn with the pull through, and pull it up. Make sure that the hair does not stick up through the hole. You should feel a little tug against the pull through when the end of the braid is in the correct place. Using both ends of the yarn, make a double twisted knot and tie it underneath the braid, nice and tight.

Step 5: After the knot is underneath, you make an identical knot on top, pulling it as tight as possible.

Step 6: Tie another double twisted knot underneath, and then finish it off with a double knot to make it extra secure!

Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6 until you are finished with the mane!

Step 8: Time for the forelock, my favorite part! Spray a little water on your hands, and rub it into the forelock. Most horses do not like getting sprayed in the face. With the forelock, you do not count rotations and french braid all the way down, braiding in the yarn around ¾ of the way through. You tie off the braid when there is about an inch of hair left. Pull through the forelock, and then take one side of the yarn and pull it under another chunk of mane, so that you can make a double knot on top.

Step 9: Tail time! Make sure to spray it with a little water and cob through the whole tail, as you do not want to be dealing with tangles at the end of the braid. I do three very little braids at the very top to make it nice and tight. Start french braiding all the way down until you feel the end of the tail bone. While braiding, make sure to pull very, very tight!

Step 10: After french braiding all the way down to the tailbone, start a regular braid and continue with it. You will want to use a longer piece of yarn for the tail, so cut one about twice as long as the ones used for the mane. Braid in the yarn about a ¾ into it. End this braid when you have it the preferred length, as you will use it to make the pinwheel, the coolest part!

Step 11: Next you start the pinwheel. Separate the excess yarn into two separate pieces, one on each side and the yarn in the middle. Pull the yarn through the braid very close to the knot at the end. Then roll the little wheel you have created, and pull it through again after one roll, when the yarn meets the braid. Continue this process until there is nothing left to roll.

Step 12: When you have finished rolling, pull on side of the yarn through the bottom of the french braid. Do the same with the other side of the yarn. Using both pieces of yarn, tie a knot underneath the pinwheel. Tie a knot on top, and the tie a double knot underneath to finish it off!

Step 13: This will finish off the tail. Cut three short strands of yarn, and pull them under the first, second, and third rotations. Double knot each strand, and cut off the remainders of the yarn.

Final step: Congratulations! You now know how to braid a mane and a tail. Don’t forget to wrap the tail, and pick up any yarn clippings that may have fallen on the floor, as you don’t want your horse eating them. Remember, practice makes perfect!