Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

In this article we’re talking about braided manes- specifically, running braids and turnout braids. These two informal-type horse mane braids are perfect for helping grow, protect, and care for long, luxurious manes.

Putting a Running Braid in A Horse’s Mane

A running braid is a fun and sometimes very useful alternative to traditionally braided manes.

Long manes are lovely, but sometimes all that hair can get in the way of the rider’s hands or cause a lot of heat to build up during hot summer rides. A running braid is a perfect way to keep the mane tidy, cool, and out of the way- it’s a little bit like a french braid for your horse!

A curly horse being tacked up, showing a running braid.
Braid strands UNDER instead of over each other to create a braid that pops out like this one.

One nice thing about running braids is that they can be done on horses with a long mane without having to trim the mane. For traditional braids, a horse’s mane must be trimmed or pulled to several inches long.  But for a running braid, the horse’s mane can be almost any length! The longer the mane, the bigger and better looking a running braid looks.

Step by Step Running Braid Instructions

A running braid is braided into a mane very similarly to how French braid would be done into a girl’s hair- if you can french braid you’ll have no problem picking up the running braid! To make the braid “pop” like the braid below, you’ll be braiding UNDER instead of over with each twist. This takes a bit of time to get used to but creates a beautiful effect- especially with thick textured manes like the horse I’m demonstrating with. If you are working with a thin or fine mane, you can add a little human-grade hairspray or dry shampoo to add texture to make the braid look great for your event.

This unique braid is achieved by braiding each strand under one another.
This unique braid is achieved by braiding each strand under one another.

 

1. Begin by gathering a big handful of hair at the poll (right behind the ears, ar the top of the neck).

Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

2.  Now Segment that bit of mane into three sections- about 1″ wide each

Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

3. Cross these strands under (not over- as a traditional braid is done) each other to form the beginning of a braid.

It’s important to braid snugly, with even tension all the way down. Braid tight enough that the braid stays tidy but loose enough to allow the neck to flex freely (with practice, it’s easy, but you may need to redo a few braids in the process of learning- thankfully, they’re quick!)

Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

4. Once your braid is started it’s time to begin adding hair so the braid will trail down the length of the neck.

Don’t add more hair with every strand of the braid, only add hair each time you plait on the inside- the plait closest to the crest of the mane.

Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

5. Once you get going, it’s a very quick process to complete a running braid. If you horse has a double mane (a mane that parts down the middle), you can gather both sides into one braid or complete a braid down each side of the neck.

Step by step instructions to braid a mane into a running braid

6. When you reach the base of the neck and run out of mane to add, just finish braiding the length of the hair left in your hand with a traditional braid and finish with a rubber band. Tuck the ends up into a rubber band, like shown, for an even tidier finish.

Finish a running braid with a simple plait, band, and tuck.
Finish a running braid with a simple plait, band, and tuck.

 

[NOT PICTURED: For an even more dramatic effect, try completing a running braid with a four strand braid ]

7. The finished effect is dramatic and compliments the neck of many horses. This braid is best for riding, but should be removed for turnout. To keep manes untangled during turnout, check out our article on pasture braids.

When doing a running braid with a very fine or just-barely-long-enough mane, you may want to add a bit of hairspray to add texture and grip to the hairs. Just remember to wash the hairspray out so it doesn’t leave an itchy residue that might make your horse rub his main on a fence or tree.

 

The running braid is acceptable at almost all horse shows, and is actually preferred for some breeds including Andalusians, Morgans, Arabian horses, and more. Breed standards indicate we not trim or pull Bashkir Curly manes, so for dressage competition, we use a running braid. The running braid can be done tight against the crest (as this horse’s mane is) braided, or allowed to fall several inches down the neck. Because the longer running braid can “flop” at certain gaits, and trap heat underneath it during intense workouts, we prefer the running braid that follows closely the crest of the neck.


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!

braiding manual
human braiding manuals work well on manes.
braiding tools like this, designed for human hair, are excellent aids for learning complex horse mane braiding styles
braiding tools can make learning less challenging.

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!

 

Longer running braids, such as this one, may “flop” when riding, which irritates some horses and riders. A tighter braid- which is easy to do with practice- prevents this.

 

 


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