A four strand braid is a simple braiding style- useful for horse hair, human manes and tails, and the occasional friendship bracelet. It adds a bit of an extra challenge in the braiding process that pays off in a lot of extra “wows” on the finished result!
How To Braid a Mane in Four Plait Braids
Most people learn to braid so early in life that they can braid by muscle memory, without having to think too much about the process. When it comes to learning to braid with four strands of hair, there is technique to learn, but the hardest part might just be communicating to your brain, with each crossed plait of hair, that you are not actually completing a traditional 3 strand braid.
Learning this braid takes some practice and a horse patient enough to remain still while you learn. You’ll probably want to practice at home. The easiest practice is done with a soft old t-shirt cut into strips or, perhaps after practice on T-shirt rag strips, a false tail extension borrowed from your barn’s show tack.
There are some REALLY complex tutorials online for learning to braid with four plaits, case in point, the diagram below which makes my brain hurt. (This isn’t my diagram, but I was unable to locate the source- if you know please let me know!)
The best process for learning a four plait braid is the method I was taught- where you’re crossing strands in pairs. As I began to consider filming my own tutorial, I ran across this video from a paracord-braider demonstrating the same method I use for braiding horse manes and tails with four strands.
The video above shows what a simple process it can actually be- and with practice you’ll be able to put this braid in a wiggling horse’s mane or tail in just a few moments.
Different Braiding Styles
Because the four strand braid is a braiding method, not a style, per se, it can be incorporated any nearly any braiding style that typically uses the traditional three-strand braid. Once you are good at four strand braids, you can use this braid for traditional show braids, running braids, turnout braids, and dramatic horse show tail braids that are sure to have fellow competitors asking “how did you do that?!”
If you’re considering work as a professional braider at hunter/jumper or AQHA circuit shows, adding diverse braids to your resume can help you land the top clients. A four strand braid is the perfect skill to “wow” a horse owner, while remaining subtle enough not to raise eyebrows in ultra-conservative hunter/jumper and equitation show rings.
Four Plait Running Braid
The photo below shows a running braid braiding in a traditional 3-plait braid. Practice the 4 strand braid upside down (crossing strands of hair under, rather than over, each other) to create a dramatic braid that pops like this one- but with four plaits interwoven down the crest of the mane.
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!