How to plait your horse like a pro - Tips for plaiting from a professional!
They say practice makes perfect, but some helpful pointers can get you there a lot faster! Keep reading to learn the secret steps from a professional, for perfect plaits every time. Zoe Boyce is one of our super talented Hairy Pony Groom Ambassadors and has been working as a professional groom with performance horses for almost ten years, across three different countries!
Throughout her career, Zoe has worked in professional stables with both dressage horses and eventing horses, so we can’t think of a better person to take us through her plaiting routine, which she has developed over the last decade.
Zoe was born and raised in the United Kingdom, where she grew up riding horses and working at her local stables. At age 21, she flew all the way to the other side of the world, landing in New Zealand. She worked for two years in New Zealand with eventing horses, before jumping the ditch across to Australia, where she has been ever since!
Zoe told us, “For the last four years I have been based with McKinnon Sport Horses, where we have a team of beautiful dressage horses. I was introduced to Hairy Pony and didn’t look back! As a professional groom, I would be lost without the Hairy Pony Plaiting Apron and Hairy Pony Taming Wax.”
“Having a large team of horses away at shows, time efficiency is crucial. The Plaiting Apron keeps everything I need in one place, neat and organised. The Taming Wax helps keep my plaits in overnight to save me from having to re-plait every day.”
Now that you know a bit about Zoe, let’s get to it!
Here are Zoe’s steps to success for perfect plaits using her Hairy Pony products:
1. Wash your horse's mane
Make sure the horse’s mane has been recently washed to avoid any dandruff, mud, or dirt detracting from the look of your plaits. I love using the Hairy Pony Natural Shampoo because it doesn’t contain any synthetic chemicals or fragrances and cleanses the hair without causing irritation or stripping away natural oils.
2. Grab the right mane braiding tools
Grab your Hairy Pony Plaiting Apron. I always make sure mine is stocked up with; Taming Wax, Braiding Mousse or hair gel, Plaiting Bands, Plaiting Needles, Waxed Plaiting Thread, a stitch unpick, Sectioning Comb, and Fastening Scissors.
3. Keeping plaits even
I start by sectioning and dividing the whole mane before starting to plait, using a Sectioning Comb, which has three size options to choose from and ensures you section the mane evenly. Make sure each division line is super straight because when you pull the hair tight, a wonky line in the hair will become obvious. You want each plait to be the same size down the horse’s mane. I like to section the whole mane at the start, so I don’t end up with an in-between-sized plait at the base of the neck.
4. Be prepared in advance
If your horse’s mane needs pulling, trimming, or if they don’t have much mane to work with, you may need to add extra hair to plait into the mane. I use Hairy Pony Fake It, which is pre-tied synthetic horse mane hair extensions. They’re super easy to plait in with your horse’s real hair and can be reused over and over.
5. Sectioning the mane and plaiting down
When it comes to actually plaiting, I use Hairy Pony Taming Wax on either side of the base of the mane. I then use my comb to brush the wax through and smooth and flatten the hair.
Using a pea size amount of Braiding Mousse or hair gel, I coat the rest of the sectioned mane down to the tips. I then suggest recombing through the sectioned hair and dividing the mane into three even sections. Plait down as tight as possible, keeping the hair smooth and flush, banding at the bottom.
A good tip is to use two bands per plait for thick manes! To create a neat plait rosette every time, the plait should roughly be the length of your index finger. Fold the tail of the plait under itself and band to prevent flyaways or alternatively trim off. Plait the whole mane down into index finger long plaits.
6. Finishing off the braid
Using a long needle and thread, double up your thread and tie a knot in the end - This saves you from losing needles and means if you drop a needle you won’t risk a horse accidentally picking it up with their hay, or laying on it in their stable. My tip is to use Waxed Thread for extra grip holding the plaits together, in the colour of your horse’s mane. The Hairy Pony Plaiting Needles are designed especially for plaiting horses, to the ends are pointed enough to easily go through the rolled rosettes, but not so sharp that they’ll prick the horse or your fingers accidentally. They also have larger needle eyes to make threading quicker and are long enough to go the whole way through a chunky rosette. Regular sewing needles just aren’t long enough and can be so difficult to pull through.
7. Rolling the braids
The next part really depends on your horse’s mane. There are a few different methods of rolling:
- Method 1 – Fold the plait in half, tucking the end into the base of the mane. Using the needle and thread, make a stitch forwards and backwards at the base of the plait, near the plaiting band. Fold the plait in half again, creating a ball, and secure it with the needle and thread. Trim off the excess thread with scissors.
- Method 2 - Take the end of the plait, fold it in half, and roll it under from the middle section to create a ball. Stitch back and forth several times through the centre of the plait at the base of the plait making sure you can’t see the thread.
- Method 3 - Roll the plait up under itself from the banded base. Stitch into place back and forth several times. Trim off excess thread.
- Method 4 - Fold the plait in half and then roll the half you are left with. Add a stitch back and forth through the plait, then using the thread, sew through the middle and take the thread around the rosette, taking it turns from left to right side. Trim off excess thread.
8. The final step - Undoing plaits when your show is finished!
I suggest using a sewing stitch unpick to prevent cutting the mane. Quick, easy, and a lot less fiddle!
We hope you found Zoe’s plaiting tips helpful and learned something new! Be sure to refer back to this blog next time you plait and be sure to tag us in your finished result – We can’t wait to see you all plaiting like the pros!
You can find everything you need to achieve plaiting perfection on our website here. Happy plaiting!
Want to learn more from Zoe? You can follow Zoe’s Instagram account at @zoboyce and she has even started offering plaiting/competition prep tutorials in the Southern Highlands and surrounding areas or can travel for clinics. You can contact her at email@example.com for her full list of services!