Perfect plaits

It’s a good idea to apply a tail bandage to keep the plait neat

A neatly plaited horse looks professional when he enters the ring, and in many disciplines plaiting is compulsory. But is it always necessary and what constitutes the perfect plait? Certain styles, for example the use of white tape for dressage, go in and out of fashion, but for showing classes in particular, very little has changed over the years.

Some riders question whether horses are able to use their necks properly for dressage or jumping when plaited up, and you will often see eventers taking out their dressage plaits before heading into the country. Similarly, many showjumpers, even when competing on the world stage such as the Olympics or World Equestrian Games, choose not to plait. It is for this reason that dressage riders and showjumpers opt for many small plaits, so as to allow for more flexibility in the neck.

Discipline rules

The different disciplines all have their own rules about plaiting.

Dressage: The mane and forelock need to be plaited but the tail is optional. Plaits should be on the right-hand side of the neck, and there can be as many as you like. White elastics may be used but are considered a bit passé, so rather go for elastics the same colour as your horse’s mane.
Equitation: The mane and tail should be plaited but not the forelock. Elastics should match the colour of the mane.
Showjumping: It’s entirely up to you. If you do choose to plait, you can use any colour elastics and do as many plaits as you like.
Eventing: You have to plait for dressage as per the rules for dressage, but there is no need to plait for the cross country or jumping phases.
Showing: This is where perfect plaiting really counts. Showing classes require the well-turned-out horse or pony to be smartly plaited. The only exception is for some breed classes, for example Section A Welsh Ponies, where their long manes should be on display, or Friesians, where a running plait is acceptable.

Text: Jan Tucker

The full article appears in the April issue of HQ (121) > Shop now