Braiding for Local Shows?

Braiding for Local Shows?

First off, thanks everyone to your kind words about my little freak out post yesterday.  I am feeling better about the situation, but still not great. Trying to tell myself that just because my dogs no longer fit into the family model they used to, they can still be happy and healthy creatures for the rest of their lives.  Not there yet, but getting there.

Today I am genuinely curious about a topic I love – braiding.  Specifically hunter braids, and thoughts about doing them for rated shows.  See, I have always braided for shows.


Now for a while, these braids weren’t… amazing.  The picture above is actually one of my better attempts.  But I kept at it and got some tips from a friend, and eventually was able to braid well enough to actually get paid for it.



Those two photos were taken at an in-barn schooling show.  I braided then because I liked to, it made my horse look good and at the end of the day I still think proper turnout and braiding is a sign of respect for your judge.  At the show above, the judge actually commented to me later in the day “Oh you were the one with the nice braids!” and I kind of swooned.  The judge was a friend of my trainer’s and actually a big name in the AA hunter/jumper world.  So it made me feel good that he didn’t think I was an idiot for braiding.

That brings me to my showing life today.  I show in a local unrated circuit that is pretty damn competitive.  Some of the shows used to be C rated but they recently broke up with the THJA, which is unfortunate.  Even so, it’s not unusual for my classes to have 20+ horses in them.  The riders are all well turned out with lovely horses and fancy show clothes, but no one braids.

The past two years I have braided for one day of our special (held at an A show grounds) year end show, and I had the only horse there braided.


Some of the feedback I have gotten is that these local shows are for people who can’t afford the A show experience… yet the competition is tough.  Not A tough, but not shabby either!  Also, a lot of the riders do go to the rated shows so it’s not like we’re talking about a collection of backyardians here.

I understand not wanting to require braiding, but in my opinion those who gripe about required braiding are either too lazy to learn or annoyed by having to pay for it.  Plus, I don’t ever think a local show should require braiding.  Riders should not be reprimanded at this level for not having braided horses.


At the end of the day I kind of want to braid (when I feel like it and have time) for our local shows, but I don’t want to be an outcast who doesn’t “know the deal”.  What are your thoughts?  I created the poll below for those who have an opinion but don’t like to comment.

[socialpoll id=”2196917″]

Just genuinely curious on this question!  Please share.

58 thoughts on “Braiding for Local Shows?

  1. My opinion is that if you are going to wear “formal” show clothes – show jacket, rat catcher, etc, then you SHOULD BRAID. It looks sloppy and unkept to wear formal show clothes with an unbraided horse. However, if you are wearing schooling show attire – polo shirt, etc – then it is fine not to braid. Just my 2 cents.

    1. I second this and can get behind this reasoning.
      Sometimes, I don’t braid based on time contraints. Of course, I’m eventing, not doing hunters… And running from the stadium course directly to the XC course without UN-braiding is not so fun!!

  2. I wear a coat even for schooling shows, unless it’s a million degrees out. However, I hate braiding (no patience, I’m actually not that bad at it) so unless a friend volunteers to braid for me, I go unbraided. I do think it makes for a more polished appearance!

  3. You are asking the girl who didn’t Braid for a B a couple weeks ago…. lol I almost wish I hadn’t braided for that second B either, most people didn’t. Instead I just opted to do the braids but once and he kept them in pretty good lasted the whole weekend.

    1. I don’t think braiding is dumb at unrated shows, its unnecessary but not dumb. I wanted to add because I left my shit short that braiding at an unrated typically makes you look 3 ways to people there:
      1. You have a lot of money to waste on braiding for an unrated show.
      2. You are practicing for bigger stuff (schooling shows would be the best place to practice your braids)
      3. You are trying to make the experience special because maybe you can’t do a rated show.

      I know Lauren you know that coming from me #3 is not a mean thing. I could only do unrated shows for a very long time, and braids are something I hold very specifically as “special” for “special shows”, like taking out the fine china and waterford crystal for a fancy dinner (who owns fine china anymore though.. lol) . Anyways I never braided for my unrated shows, not even the championships because 1) No talent, 2) No Money. And frankly the braids aren’t going to help your round an unbraided horse who does all their lead changes and got all their distances will always pin over the horse who didn’t even if that horse had braids.

      1. Yes, Yes, Yes!
        I’m all about #2!!
        The horses know. And sometimes, they work differently in braids. Because they pull, and they sweat, and they feel different, and… whatever. If I braid at the smaller stuff to practice for the bigger stuff, then the bigger stuff won’t actually feel much different! 🙂

      2. No, I don’t think #3 is a mean thing at all. I would consider myself 2 or 3, mostly 3. Showing is special to me, even just a local one. I guess at the end of the day I don’t mind someone knowing that!

  4. If you enjoy braiding, have the time to do it, and are good at it (which you are!) then I say braid! Better to be over-dressed than under-dressed I always say.

  5. I was one of the few that braided for the two mini-trials I went to last year. I braid primarily because Fiction’s mane is a hot mess even when trained/pulled/cut. It has a horrid consistency and flies in every direction. I’m good at braiding. I enjoy doing it. I also think my horse looks beautiful in braids. Therefor I braid, no matter the show. I think it shows off the horse better and imo judges are more likely to take a second look at you because braids give you the appearance of caring/trying/honestly loving your sport.

  6. Bad braids are a million times worse than no braids, but good braids are a million times better than no braids. At the end of the day there are only two opinions that matter – yours and the judge’s, and I have never met a judge that didn’t appreciate someone going the extra mile on their turnout. It might not help you but it sure won’t hurt you – and if it makes the pictures prettier (we all know how important pictures are!) and it makes you happy, then hell yes. I think all the nay-sayers are jealous personally.

  7. I absolutely love braiding and the look it gives. I almost ALWAYS braid (the only time I can remember not braiding was for a ride-critique-ride so it was more like a clinic than a show) but I recognize that many people don’t. For example prior to where I board now I kept my horse at a very well known H/J/Big Eq. barn where there were juniors and ammies showing every single weekend, all over the state and beyond. This past weekend that barn hosted their first show, A rated, with big medals, and hardly anyone braided. I think they just do SO many shows braiding becomes more of a “formal” thing and is only done for finals.

  8. I think that it helps present the best of both of you. It shows the judge that you care what you look like and you took the time to look good for them. I always braid (even when I had to do actual braids and not just running 🙂 ). Plus… you get seriously adorable pictures when you are braided 🙂

  9. When I was showing 100% local, not having to braid, and not feeling out of place because I didn’t was a key part of the decision making process for me. As of right now, my braid bill at typical show for me is 180 for two manes and two tails. In order to have a braider on site, there needs to be a minimum number of horses that are willing to braid for it to make sense for them. My braids will never be good enough to be seen by a judge (except in an emergency situation, a whole nother story), and part of the huge savings for local shows is the ability to not braid and not feel pressured to braid.

    Side note, I saw a horse in WEF in the 3’3 performance unbraided. Now that was a for shame moment for me. I even took a pic.

    1. Usually for hunter/jumpers tails are only done for formal shows/classes, and I’ve been told you should always have the tail braided for equitation and under saddle. I actually STINK at tails (trying to improve) and don’t have an extension, so probably will not be braiding a tail anytime soon.

    2. I’ve been to several schooling shows where a girl braided the mane but not the tail…I guess my former trainer thought it completed the look. I’d love to learn to braid though…I see myself having a difficult time with tails.

  10. I braid for schooling shows when I have the time (ie, not leaving the barn at 5 am) because I desperately need the practice. Plus braids definitely help improve overall turnout, show respect for the judge and the show organizers, make for better photos, and its always good practice to keep your skills sharp. Braid away, my friend!

  11. I haven’t braided in a really, really long time… and even though all the local shows in my neck of the woods are rated now, I don’t plan to braid. I don’t know how, am definitely too lazy to learn and am too cheap to pay for it.

    If I *did* know how, I think I would if I was showing in a special night class, like a Derby or Medal. And I think your braids are lovely, and if you want to do it, you should!

  12. After becoming best friends with a former pro-groom, I have definitely joined the ‘braids’ bus. I try now to braid whenever I have time. However, I am not that good at it and hoping to learn how to braid with yarn- one of my braids fell out half way through warm up at the last show and I was kind of mortified!

  13. IDK, I get the whole it shows respect for the judge in one sense, but in another way, for small, unrated shows, let those of us that have limited funds, knowledge, and time get our feet wet without going crazy. While I am confident I could pick up the skill, physically I could not do it right now with the condition my hands are in, and the cost of paying someone to braid, literally comes out of classes I could enter fund which is small.

    Big shows, even just little A shows and nicer B shows, sure, it looks so much cleaner, and I’d hate to see the tradition fall away completely, but I don’t think its at all necessary at schooling shows. Pretty, and if you have the time/talent, go for it, but don’t think those of us without have less respect for the judges or event.

    1. Definitely not insinuating that someone who doesn’t braid doesn’t have respect for the judge/showing. I can relate to hurt hands, when I did multiple horses mine would ache!

  14. I think braids and hunters go hand in hand no matter what the level or recognized/unrecognized shows. Hunters are supposed to be pretty and braids equal pretty. So that is my kindergarten level rationale behind my vote. 😉

  15. I needed to be able to choose multiple options for my votes. I agree that bad braids are worse than no braids. I agree they make you look more polished. I agree they are great for practicing for bigger stuff.
    I say – go for it, or don’t. But ride your horse!! 😉

  16. Interesting topic!

    I personally don’t braid for unrated (only have shown at one rated show in my life) because I’d rather that money go towards more classes or somethings else and well I am not a pony hair dresser 🙂

    If you want to do it, I say rock it but I appreciate that it isn’t mandatory 🙂

  17. It’s kinda funny when I thought about it more… when I evented, at least 75% of the people at the smallest, unrecognized horse trials were braided for dressage and SJ. Granted, button braids are easier than hunter braids, but I never recall any kind of judgement either way from the other competitors if you were braided or not. There were certainly no paid braiders on site at those events either, in those days. If people wanted to braid they learned how to do it themselves. If they didn’t – they didn’t. It was that simple, and so not a big deal. I don’t get why it’s a big deal at local h/j shows either. One person doing it doesn’t matter in the long run. I guarantee it will never get to the point where everyone is braided at the locals – a) very few people want to take the time to learn how to braid or actually put braids in on show day. b) very few people would pay a pro braider to do it. So the one random person here or there who chooses to braid their own really has zero effect on the other competitors, because as long as braiding isn’t required it will still come down to the quality of the trip. Let them have their fun, and I say more power to them.

  18. Since I don’t show (yet), I’m not sure how much my opinion counts. But personally, I much prefer the look of a braided horse and once I do start showing, my horse will be braided every single time. Of course, if you don’t wear a hair net or a neat coat, then you might as well put the same effort into your horse’s looks. 🙂

  19. I am a mostly retired braider. I started braiding because it showed respect to the judge, later it showed off my skills. I never had a riding horse of my own so I always wanted what ever was under my saddle to look its best, no matter a 4-H, local, AQHA or rated show, braiding completed the picture. Braiding should not be mandatory for local shows, but I do think that it has it’s place in 4-H where youth are supposed to be learning skills for later in life (like getting dolled up for big shows or delving into a fulltime career braiding for others). I really enjoy braiding for myself, making a career out of it was very rewarding and led to me paying off my school loans early and starting my own business. I no longer show, but when I do take my draft horses or oxen out in public, they are always clean, clipped and horses are often braided, it shows respect for all involved and they advertise for my business, so I want them to look and behave their best. Braid on I say!

    1. I agree braiding should be a big part of 4H, I am sure if I grew up in h/J land, learning this stuff early on, it would be no big deal to braid up now. It does look mighty pretty done right.

  20. If I see someone at a schooling show with nice braids I always think positive things like “boy, their horse looks nice.” I’ve never once thought something like, “they must think they are better than everyone else.” Even if the braids don’t look the best I figure they are trying to learn and good for them. I definitely don’t see why it is a big deal one way or another. Do what you enjoy this stuff is way too expensive and time consuming not to!

  21. I braid for all shows regardless of what kind they are. It does show respect and it is a good way to learn how to do it. My braids have improved a bunch over the years!

  22. Love this topic! I don’t know how to braid (and am too busy to learn at the moment) and am cheap. That being said- if the field is competitive and I feel that braiding will give me an edge- I’ll pay to have it done (no tail).
    When I was leasing Ben at Sonoma Horse Park and we had 8 A shows in our backyard I braided even though we were showing in unrated divisions because I knew the caliber of horses that would be competing.
    Clearly Ellie was not braided at our KMT local show. BUT we are taking her up to Sonoma in September and my plan is this…..
    She’ll go in the Baby Greens with Kelly( braided) and if she’s a super girl, gets all her changes, and is a rockstar- I’ll braid her for our unrated divisions.
    If she goes in and has green bean moments all over the place, I’ll probably pass on braiding for my part of the show since I don’t want to spend the money when we’re really just schooling her around.
    I guess that’s how I look at braiding with my youngsters- if there’s a shot at satin they get braids.
    Lauren- if you want to do a braiding webinar- I’m in! I’d love to learn!

  23. I almost always braid. It’s a respect thing for me, plus I like dressing up. I don’t have a problem with not braiding for schooling shows, though. Consider that I show dressage right now, and even at schooling shows most horses are braided in some way. I’d say only 10% of horses come out unbraided.

    I’m surprised the h/j world isn’t more into braiding. I always assumed the braiding rules were more rigid there.

  24. I haven’t ever braided hunter braids, but I do fabulous dressage button braids, so I’m confident I could pull it off. However, I only do unrated shows and I also have a mane challenged horse (pretty much nothing to braid 3/4 way down) so last year, about 1/2 way through I decided to go the mohawk. It was just long enough to still stand up and it really showed off his neck – and I spent quite a bit of time shaping the arch in just the places. Very clean look for a horse with kinky hair 🙂 Never seen a braided horse at the H/J shows I go to.

  25. Aaaah. A topic near and dear to my heart.
    I don’t even leave my property unless I have a sparkling clean horse. If I’m showing at a schooling show in schooling attire, the horse is clean and clipped and all loose hairs are taken care of (legs, tail, whiskers, etc). If I’m wearing show clothes, even at a schooling show, I braid.
    And obviously at rated shows there is no question there. I don’t expect the judge to take me seriously if I don’t take myself seriously enough to properly turn my horse out to the standards of my discipline.
    I have a bud who is doing eventing this year and doing well, but her horse has a long mane and feathers and huge hairy whiskers. I feel completely itchy every time I look at him! I don’t think it’s respectful in the slightest – your discipline calls for a certain kind of turnout and if you’re serious about it that’s what you do.
    Then again, this is coming from the girl who hates flyaway wispy hairs so much that she keeps her mare roached year round because even just having a pulled mane is not militare enough for me. I like order!

  26. I’m of a similar mindset, Lauren. I always braid for shows and I’ve shown both locally and at rated events. I think others have said it better than I could – there is something about a gleaming, trimmed, braided horse that just says something a horse without the finishing touches doesn’t.
    Now, another issue entirely is whether or not to pull my Arab’s (ok, Half-Arab’s) mane. I’m totally torn because I want to ultimately show her in dressage like her daddy but she looks Arab-y so she can pull off the running braid (which I am very good at). Decisions!

  27. Eh, I think braiding for unrated “C” or even some “B” shows is just unnecessary. When I showed in the children’s 3′ even at “A” shows sometimes I didn’t braid and I still won classes. I have ten fingers and every last one of them is a thumb ;), so I don’t have the talent to braid. If I do want braids they cost me $40, so I figure it’s just not worth it.

    I’ve scribed with a few judges at local shows and they DO always comment if a horse is braided… it just depends on how well on what exactly they say. My favorite comment for one particularly colorful “r” judge was “Oh. My. Goodness. Look at the size of those suckas” at a fat haffy with braids the size of my fists. I don’t remember if she pinned, or how her trips were… just “oh my goodness, look at the SIZE of those suckas” LOL I crack up even now

    Bad braids – like really really terrible ones are eleventy billion times worse than not braiding. It just does not look good. So if you are “practicing” braiding, do it a home a few times before taking the artwork out on the road. 🙂 Or else you might have some poor little scribe biting her hand in order not to snort at a judge’s reaction! 😉

  28. I am a stickler for good turnout in general, but the braiding thing makes no sense to me. I mean, some horses look nice with them and I braided Cuna for our last show together to see how he would look, but other than that?

    Just not my thing.

  29. I braid. Period. BUT — the caveat here is that I’m a dressage queen, and if I’m going to take the time and effort to get ready for a show, I always bathe, clip, and braid. Always. Even if it’s a schooling show, even if it’s a ride a test clinic, even if it’s a local open show. I believe that you should always respect your judge, your horse, yourself, and your Sport. Admittedly, a lot of people think I’m stuffy and only braid for big recognized shows, but I have always done it, and my horse is always kept ready to be in the show ring (mane pulled, tail clipped and banged, legs booted up, etc.) so all I have to do is wet the mane and put the braids in. 🙂

  30. I think that for me I will always try to braid for every show I go to, schooling or my local fair (the biggest show we’ve done so far) simply because I want to get better. Braiding definitely doesn’t come naturally (to me at least) and I want to be better for when I need to so them for bigger shows (hopefully I’ll get there some time!). Where I live there aren’t very many riders though, and i think I try to make the experience of showing against two or three other people feel a bit more like ‘special’,

  31. I am definitely okay with braiding if you want to. I like braiding because… It’s fun! If it’s not a rated show, sometimes I have fun with multi-colored bands and such, but I always do something. I just feel like hey, just because it’s not rated, doesn’t mean your horse doesn’t DESERVE to look his best hehehe. Or her… Anyway! If I put an english saddle on my pony, he gets braided or his mane pulled.

  32. I don’t show much but I can barely get our crap together enough to get to the (schooling) show and get through classes. Clipping? Braiding? Hell I had to have someone explain to me the reason for a hairnet and I still just ended up just pulling my hair into a pony tail. I think I might be the person that everyone hates at shows 🙂 Also, I dream of just roaching Fawkes’ disaster of a mane. He hates having it pulled, I hate pulling it, I can only imagine the fight over braiding! You neatly presented people are my heroes.

    1. Ha, you and I can ride next to each other. I’d love to wear super nice show clothes, have my pony dressed and cleaned to the nines, but I’m not that sorta gal. I see a hair net, and think , what am I supposed to do, cut my huge mob of hair to fit it all in there?

  33. Always, always, always braid. I was with a barn for many years that flat-out required students to braid whenever they showed – schooling, recognized, whatever. Braids.

    The caveat here is that Tristan has a long mane, so I do a running braid, which takes less than 10 minutes to do. So I can do it right on the grounds just before I get on for warmup. It’s not the time investment that hunter or button braids are.

  34. I always braid – it’s the Pony Club way. Plus I love how it looks – takes me 20 minutes and I do it myself so no cost for me.

  35. I love braids. I learned how to braid the old school way with yarn, and to me there is just no other way to braid. I used to braid for dressage schooling shows and this seemed to be common at the time. I would never think ill of someone who braided their horse. I used tho braid the night before and had pretty good luck with it.

    I love long, running braids, too, but I don’t think those are seen in your discipline. They are quick! I have never braided a tail, but I think it would be fun on a whim.

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