Sunday, February 21, 2010

101 Things: Number 96: Braiding

There is nothing more beautiful than the topline of an upper level horse.

Since, as dressage riders, we spend most of our time developing those and other muscles, it seems natural that we would want to accentuate it in performance.

Braiding is a fundamental grooming technique that shows off a topline. It also shows respect for the sport, the judge and the effort you prepared for the five to seven minutes in the ring.

It's something that everyone should try to pick up along the way. No, you don't need to be artistically inclined or have magic fingers to produce super braids.

You do need to practice.

A lot. Preferably once to twice a week. Of the guides how to do it, the visual learners would like Lucky Braid's guide, the reading group: Grooming to Win and the Pony Club D and C manuals.

The mane types of braids are: button, running, macrame and scalloped.

Buttons are the most traditional. Called for their button size and their four spot center, they are the hallmark of dressage riders. Visually, these are tricky, done well they show a full topline steadily pushing into the bit. Done badly well...

Running or french braid is traditional for breeds that naturally have longer, thicker manes and for owners who don't wish to part with them.

These are becoming more in style lately with the influx of baroque horses. It's an incredibly easy braid to achieve with practice. And while a good running braid can visually add length to the neck, a short chunky one can only detract.

Despite the long nature of the main, it's has to be thin enough to twist and work around, otherwise you will have to either shave half the crest off or do one on each side.

Personally, I prefer the long french braid, which I use every day in schooling (I braid every day). It's thrown together in about five minutes and suits Sinari's neck. Sincere will probably go in buttons (above style).

Macrame also known as the basket weave or the diamond pattern is not frequently seen in the dressage world.

You see it again in long mane breeds whose manes are too thick to do the running braid. It's achieved by pairing sections up and usually ends at the bottom of the neck. The sections are taped in the mane color (black, chestnut, white, ect) 

It's pretty neat to look at, but annoying to ride in.

The scalloped braid is also not as common. It was most popular in the early modern history of the sport, and was used extensively on a few horses in the 80's and 90's.

The braids start out like normal button braids, except instead of doubling under and banding they loop them under each other. It's almost a hybrid of running and button. It produces a neat style for a horse that has a thicker neck, shorter mane but still thick hair type.

Finally, a note about forelocks. Forelocks can be done several ways (a mini french braid or just a braid and ball). Traditionally, they should follow the sex of the horse to whether they should be braided or not. Unbraided forelocks are mature stallions. Braided forelocks are for mares and geldings.

There are different braids for different mane types, lengths and preferences. But for whatever your preference do it well. All good braids have these qualities in common: are tight, they emphasize the outline of the neck, braid sections are evenly proportioned over the space and they never interfere with riding. If you cannot do them well on the day you need to braid, find a braider.


Golden the Pony Girl said...

Thanks for the information. I am braiding challenged though I should really practice. I was thinking of pulling Bodhi's mane but it is still so thick. Maybe I will try a scalloped braid to see if that fits him well.

gina said...

Thanks for the rundown on the braids. I have been doing the running or french braid on my mare while her mane is still longish. For me, it's much quicker then button braids, plus the pulling upkeep for the mane to do nice button braids. Way to let people know that there's more then button braids!

Golden the Pony Girl said...

I am going to need more practice on braids then I thought... but you have an award on my blog!

Kelly said...

Trust me, it takes a bit! Thanks for the blog award.

Your welcome, and I understand.