How Many Plaits


Is there anyone who knows the showing rules concerning plaiting of horses for shows. We are doing priamry school shows. How many plaites must a horse have for Performance riding? Some people say only 12, and others say any amount, as long as it is an uneven number. Can someone help us?


Great question! There are no set rules about plaiting, however there are a few ‘tricks’ that you can use to make sure that your horse looks his best as well as a number of traditions that everyone sticks to! (Those annoying ‘unwritten’ rules of showing!)

What you are aiming for is a ‘combined effect’ – in other words, your tack, turnout and preparation should all be focused in the entire picture you are presenting at the show. That is very important, because simply by paying attention to all the detail, you will present much better at the show, and with showing – God really is in the details!

Traditionally, plaits are done on the right side of the horse and there should be an uneven number of plaits, so that with the forelock plait you get an even number of plaits. (9 or 11 plaits along the neck are the ideal, but every horse is different)What you will need to decide is how you are going to do those plaits. For example, if your horse is a little lacking in topline, you might want to raise the plaits slightly, which creates the illusion of a little more height on the front end. You would also do that if your horse is a little croup high. (common in young horses that are still growing!) The type of mane your horse has will also dictate the kind of plaits you might have to end up with. It is important to start off with a good base – in other words, a clean mane, evenly pulled to a length of about 15 cm (depending on the size of your horse!) and remember not to use any conditioner or mane spray before you start plaiting – it will make the hair very slippery! Ideally, I wash the mane at least a day or two in advance (and keep the horse out of mud and dirt!) which makes it even easier to plait on the day. If you want to cut a small bridle path, do so, and if your horse has a very long neck, a slightly longer bridle path will create the illusion of a shorter neck. (slightly! Not cm’s please!)

Plaits that are sewn in are generally tidier than those plaited with elastics, so I would recommend that you sew them in.

You can simply do a plain plait down the forelock (as opposed to a French plait) and sew it up – especially if your horse is a bit fidgety. If it is done neatly on a good forelock, it will present as well.

Tails should be trimmed to below the hocks – remember to lift your horse’s tail before you trim so that the line is level and the tail looks good! I would use a clipper to trim the tail, as it gives a neater finish than a pair of scissors. Tails also need to be plaited and sewn up.

Performance classes are not as strict as tack and turnout classes, for example, however by presenting really well, you immediately draw the judge’s eye and show them how proud you are of your horse!

Don’t forget your other things like trimming excess hair on the legs and face, trimming the ears and ensuring your tack is SPOTLESS and shiny and shows off your horse’s best features.

Good luck and enjoy your show! The judges are really nice and if there is time, they are always happy to give advice at the end of the class. Also, study the riders who do well and see what they are doing differently to you to try and improve.

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