Last Updated: March 19, 2021
The mane is the section of a horse’s hair that grows from the top of the neck to the withers. The mane is made up of thicker, coarser hair than the rest of the horse’s coat and it is meant to keep the horse’s neck warm while potentially aiding in water runoff, too.
The mane can also offer some fly protection, along with the tail. Left to its own devices, a mane can become tangled and knotted, and it may become badly damaged. Many riders of different disciplines, therefore, choose to braid or otherwise style the mane. This can help keep the mane out of your horse’s eyes, while most people choose to plait and braid their horses for certain events like dressage.
Whether you’re braiding for fun or competition, protecting your horse’s coat, or are experimenting with new looks for your horse, we have included six mane styles that you can undertake and complete yourself. Some are more challenging than others, but they are all achievable with a little practice.
1. Hunter Braids
Hunter braids were traditionally used by hunters. Braiding the hair would have prevented it from getting tangled while out hunting in trees and undergrowth. The braid was functional, but the modern equivalent has evolved a little.
Also called flat braids, the hunter braid uses yarn, and it is common to choose a color that closely matches that of your horse’s hair. You will usually end up with more than 30 individual braids down the horse’s neck. The finished design is elegant and shows off your horse’s neckline.
It also provides a functional means of keeping hair away from your horse’s neck if you need to get to the skin underneath.
2. Button Braids
Button braids, which are also referred to as rosette braids, are very popular in dressage. They are a durable braid that requires the use of a needle and thread. They do take some practice to get just right, and if you are not competing, you can use rubber bands instead of a needle.
It is common practice to have an odd number of braids, and you will usually end up with between 9 and 17 braids in total. They give your horse a very clean and neat finish, as long as they are done right. If the braid does not go well, it will look worse than having no braid at all.
3. Running Braid
The running braid is a typical French braid that runs the entire length of the neck. It is popular with horses that have a long mane and is commonly used in shows for long-maned horses because other styles like the button braid tend to work better and are easier to manage than the running braid.
The similarity between this and a French braid means that if you can plait hair, you should be able to create a good-looking running braid for your horse. For the best-looking running braid, however, you will be braiding under rather than over.
Many owners apply a little hairspray to the braid to hold it in place to further improve the look for an event.
4. Continental Braid
The continental braid, or diamond lattice, is not really a type of braid but it is a staggering look for any horse. It requires a long mane and, once finished, it will look like a doyley or macrame style design. You need to section the hair, band the mane into equal sections, and then divide those sections into two.
Each section should be connected to the neighboring section, with the result looking like intricate netting. Once you’ve got the hang of this style of braiding, it is surprisingly easy to do, it just takes a lot of time. If you don’t section the hair equally, it can look uneven and appear too thick in some parts, too.
5. Mane Pulling
While you can cut some horses’ manes, pulling is often considered a better option because it not only shortens the length of the hair but it also thins the mane down so that it is easier to manage and care for.
Pulling is a long and tedious task, although some people do report finding it quite cathartic and a good bonding experience with a horse.
It involves taking small sections of hair starting at the withers and making your way up to the neck. Hold the hair at the length you want the hair to be, brush up above this level using a mane-pulling comb, wrap any remaining hair around the comb and pull.
The hair will break at the level of the pulling comb so it is important to ensure that the comb sits at the right level.
It is also important to make sure that you only work on small amounts of hair at a time, otherwise, it can hurt your horse and will not give the desired results.
If you don’t enjoy braiding your horse’s mane or you need to control insects or apply medication, a roached or hogged mane may be a better option than braiding.
Roaching a mane means to shave it all off. This will leave your horse’s neck exposed, which is one of the primary reasons that owners take this approach, but it will require minimal effort to maintain the mane.
It will take around 12 months for your horse’s mane to grow back, so be sure before you start shaving. Once done, the only maintenance required is just a quick shave as the mane grows back.
A horse’s mane serves several purposes in the wild. It would be used to keep the neck warm, protect from rain, and potentially also protect against foliage and insects. Domesticated horses may have less use for the mane, but it still looks good and is a major contributing factor to a horse’s good looks. In some eventing, a horse and handler will be judged on the quality, care, and decoration of a mane.
Above, we have included six of the most common ways to style a horse’s mane, that you can do yourself. Hopefully, you will find the style that befits your horse and best suits your needs.
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Featured Image Credit: navatu, Shutterstock
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.