Braiding a Paint Horse Mane

By Terry Golson

Each sport has it’s look. With just a glance, you know if someone is a golfer, a fencer, or a rugby player. Within the horse world, the same holds true. The tack that the horse wears, the rider’s clothes, and how the horse is “turned out” all reflect your choice of activity. I ride dressage, which in competition requires that you braid your horses’ mane, to show off the muscular arch of the neck.

Over the years I’ve braided many horses. I’ve prided myself on my skill of plaiting up tight and elegant. But I met my match with Tonka’s mane!

Most manes lay on one side of the neck. Tonka has whorls and cowlicks that send his in all directions. I’ve tried thinning it, but I call Tonka the Harry Potter of horses. Do you remember in the first book how the Dursleys kept taking Harry to get his hair cut, but the next day it’d be back to long and unruly? That’s Tonka.


Making matters worse, the white hairs are thicker than the black, and the mane is thinner in some areas and very dense in others. This makes it difficult to braid nice, even buttons.


Also Tonka’s mane isn’t soft. It’s all bristles. Despite braiding as tightly as I can, the plaits sproing apart.


I have to use 

 – like spray-on dippity do!


I’ve always sewn in the braids, (using a darning needle and thick thread) but even with gel, Tonka’s braids popped open. I now use

. (Here’s a video tutorial from Denmark.)


One does what one has to. It still looks good from a distance.


Tonka doesn’t seem to mind the buttons. I know how to braid so that they don’t pull the skin at the crest of his neck. I’ve braided him the night before a show and he didn’t rub them out. As soon as the show is over, even before I trailer home, I take out the rubber bands. It leaves him with a rather silly hairstyle.


But it’s back to normal in a day. And we’re back to cantering around the field. Mane flopping this way and that.


*These photos were taken before the CRDA Schooling Show. There was a large turnout – three judges in three rings. I rode First Level Test 1. We achieved a score of 69.44, which was good enough for a first place in the class, and Open High Score Champion of the day.

(The white foam on his lips is from sugar cubes!)

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8 thoughts on “Braiding a Paint Horse Mane

  • Jan

    Cannot make out in picture, what do you do with the fringe on his forehead ? Looks like my hair do after a bad night !!
    Congratulations on the wonderful show result, you both deserve praise for all the hard work.

  • Judy

    Love the picture with Tonka’s curley mane and you with your blur ribbon. You both look very pleased with each other – congratulations!

  • GIN

    You must have much patience, and nimble fingers. I have never been good at braiding, would have to hire someone to do it for me if I rode in an event that required braiding. I watched the video you had a link to, she makes it look so easy, but I couldn’t quite figure how she made that button stay put at the end.

  • Michelle

    WooHoo! Great score and well-deserved, I’m sure!

    I’ve always used rubber bands but not that button technique; I’ll have to try that . . . if I ever get to show again.