horse show braids, horse mane braids for hunter horses

Horse Show Braids for the Hunter Ring

Are you getting ready for your first hunter show? Hunter judges can be very particular about how the horses look in the ring. While you may not get marked down a specific number of points for leaving your horse unbraided, the judge can choose to leave you out of the ribbons. For your best shot at a blue ribbon, learn how to horse show braid. Horse mane braids look sharp and professional at a horse show. 

Start with a Clean Mane

clean your horse's mane before working on your horse show braids

Horse show braids take a long time and a lot of effort to complete. You’d hate for your hard work to be ruined by a dirty mane. Plus, a clean, freshly detangled mane will make your job easier, since you won’t be fighting through tangles and grime while you braid. 

You can clean your horse’s mane when you bathe them for the horse show. Use a high-quality shampoo, like  Mane ‘n’ Tail Original Shampoo, and work the soap all the way down to the root of the hair. Be careful when you use shampoo near your horse’s head. They may not like the hose to spray water so close to their face, which could make it difficult to get all the shampoo out. 

Make sure your horse’s mane is short enough and thin enough to braid. The mane should be roughly one hand width, or four to five inches in length. It should also be of even thinness. If the hair is too thick, or thick in some places and thin in others, the braids will look large and messy. To shorten and thin your horse’s mane, you can either pull it the traditional way using the  TuffRider Aluminum Comb, or you can use a combination of the comb and scissors to create the same look as a pulled mane. 

After your horse’s mane is clean and tangle-free, you can start to braid. 

Step 1: Three Plait Braid

how to create horse mane braids

The three plait braid is a basic braid that most girls know how to do, as it’s the same way many women braid their own hair. 

Start by sectioning out a piece of the mane that’s roughly a ½ inch in width. You may find that it’s difficult to keep the section of hair that you’re working on separate from the rest of the mane. If this is the case, a spare comb or hair clip can hold back the rest of the mane while you work on each section. Split this piece into three equal parts and overlap one piece over another, rotating between the three pieces, until you get about halfway down the hair. 

Be sure to pull each horse show braid tight while you work. Instead of a large loose braid, you want to get the smallest braid possible. 

Step 2: Braid in the Yarn

Once you get halfway down the length of the mane, take a small piece of yarn that’s roughly an inch or two longer than your horse’s mane. Hold the middle of the yarn back behind the horse mane braid so that the two “tails” of the yarn are of even length. 

Continue braiding and work the yarn into the two side pieces of your plait. This will build the yarn into the rotation. Once you reach the end of the hair, double knot the yarn around the end of the braid. This can be done by looping the yarn around the horse show braid and pulling the yarn back through the loop. Do this twice for added security. 

You should now have one long thin braid with two strands of yarn hanging off of the end. Before moving on to the next step, work your way down (or up) the mane until all of the hair is braided into neat, thin braids with yarn. Seeing all the braids together before moving onto the next step gives you a chance to check and ensure all the braids are the same length. 

Step 3: Pull Through

Now your horse mane braids will start to take their final shape! Grab your latch hook crochet needle or pull through and slide it through the middle of the braid at the base of the neck. Your hook should be parallel to the horse’s neck. 

Use the hook to grab the yarn knot at the end of the braid and pull it up through the base of the braid. You want the end of the braid to go through the exact middle of the start of the braid, as close to the base of the neck as possible. 

Don’t pull it too far, otherwise your yarn and knot will stick through on the other side. Instead, just pull until you feel some resistance– that’s your knot hitting the base of the braid. After this step, you should have a three plait braid that has been folded in half. The two tails of the yarn should stick out the back of the braid. 

Take the two tails and create a loop with a double twist in the middle. Slide the braid through the loop and tighten to secure the knot. 

Step 4: Create the Bump

beautiful horse show braids on a chestnut hunter horse

Now for the finishing touch– the hunter bump. The bump is what makes hunter horse show braids so iconic. Now that you’ve knotted the underside of the braid, it's time to create the knot on the front of the braid. This knot is what creates a fold in the braid, which turns into the bump. 

First, bring your “tails” to the front of the braid. Twist the two strands over and under each other twice. This will create a sturdy knot when you tighten the ends of the yarn. Before you do that, push with your fingers until a bump appears in the horse’s braids. Then slide the bump through the loop you created with the yarn and pull until your braids aren’t going anywhere. Use a pair of sharp scissors to carefully snip off the remaining tails of the yarn as close to the braid as possible. 

Repeat the process until your horse’s mane is filled with 30 to 40 horse show braids. 

Step 5: Tackling the Forelock

brushing the forelock before finishing the last horse mane braid

Next up, the forelock! The forelock is a simpler process than the mane itself, as it doesn’t usually require knots. 

Just like the mane, start by braiding from the base of the forelock down. Instead of doing a three-plait traditional braid, French braid until you’re about ¾ of the way through the braid. Then, just like with the mane, loop a piece of yarn around behind the braid and begin to work it into the braid. 

Once you’ve run out of hair, knot the yarn around the end of the braid. Use your latch hook crochet needle to reach through the middle of the base of the forelock and grab the yarn at the end of the braid. Close the hook around the yarn and pull it up and into the forelock until the end of the braid disappears and is snugly enveloped by the French braid. 

Tips & Tricks for Horse Show Braids

For the hunter ring, you want your horse to have between 30 and 40 braids, depending on the length of their neck. To get really petite and tight braids, wet the mane before you start. It helps to have a spray bottle on hand so you can wet each section as you go. Some braiders even add hair spray into the water for better grip and staying power. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Many braiders for young riders will place a “lucky braid” right where the rider’s hands should go during a crest release. This serves the dual purpose of adding some personality to your braids and to remind the rider of how high up the neck to place their hands. 

Find Supplies for Horse Show Braids on

At, we serve many disciplines, including hunters and equitation riders! Find the supplies you need to create high-quality horse show braids for your horse all in one convenient place. 

Check out the supply list:

TuffRider Aluminum Comb

Supreme Products Easy Plait

Tough-1 Mane Stay Spandex Hood

TuffRider Mane & Tail Comb

Mane ‘n’ Tail Original Shampoo


Latch Hook Crochet Needle


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