Braiding Manes for Hair Growth
Outside of the slight blood flow stimulation during grooming, braiding manes probably doesn’t make a significant difference in how fast hair grows, but what braiding can do is prevent hair loss from snags and tangles. There are several reasons to leave a mane braided in a special braid that’s perfect for turnout:
1. For a horse with a long mane, detangling can be a regular headache. With braids left in, the tangling is kept to a minimum.
2. Braids = No Snags. During turnout, manes regularly catch on tree branches and fences, with manes left in smooth braids instead of frizzy tangles, this problem is minimized.
3. Braids help protect a mane while it is growing out.
Pasture braids, demonstrated below, should be left loose at the top, where the roots of the hair connect to the neck, in order to prevent horses from itching to relieve discomfort. Towards the bottom of the braid, the plaits should be tighter so sticks and debris can’t get caught.
In the below photo of a mare turned out to graze, you can see how these braids look after being left in for several weeks- the braids will gradually come out and need rebraiding. This type of straight braid doesn’t pull on the hair like traditional show braids, and so can be left in for weeks at a time.
Mane Braiding Hints & Hacks
Young or old, most horse owners get a kick out of braiding manes and tails from time to time. Whether you are braiding for show, for fun, or as a way to keep necks cool and long manes tidy, it can be helpful to know a few braiding tricks. At curlyfarm we’ve written on running braids, pasture braids, Dutch braids, and 4-plait braids, but there are dozens more braids to experiment with. One of the best resources we’ve found for eye-turning mane braiding styles is actually instruction books for braiding human hair!
Our favorite resource, “Twist Me Pretty” has step by step instructions for 45 braiding styles, many of which can be transformed into even more dramatic looks by completing the braid with a 4-plait braid instead of a standard 3 strand braid.
Picking up the 4 strand braid can be a challenge at first, but we’ve found this braiding tool– designed to hold four strands, to be the perfect aid to make the learning curve much easier!
How to Do Pasture Braids:
Begin with approximately 3 one-inch sections of hair (varies by mane thickness). Loosely braid the strands over each other several times. Do not pull tight! A tight braid will irritate and potentially pull hairs out when the horse stretches their neck.
As you braid, begin tightening your braid after about 2-3 inches from the roots. As show in image below, braid more snugly at the bottom. This allows lots of comfort for the horse but keeps the braids in place.
Braid down until the mane starts to naturally thin and place a braiding band around the braid. If you want your braid to last several weeks, be sure and band tightly. Use multiple knots with nylon thread if braiding for long term turnout.
Many people braid to this point and stop, but for extra neatness and a bit longer lasting braid, we fold the remaining hair up under the braid, and band again, creating a tidier appearance.
Repeat this braid down the neck, always starting with a loose mane braid and ending with a tightly braided mane. We recommend leaving the hair at the withers loose, as it is the most likely to be pulled out and least likely to tangle. The finished braids should stay in place for weeks- keeping thick manes untangled and free from debris picked up in pasture or stall.