Being a Horse Show Braider
Get Career Info on Job Duties, Salary, and More
Professional horse show braiders plait equine manes and tails for competition. Horse show braiding is both a skill and an art. Mane braiding involves the creation of dozens of separate plaits to cover the entire neck. These braids are often sewn in with yarn or secured with rubber bands. There are several different styles of braid including “button braids” for dressage, traditional knotted braids for hunter/jumper events, and banding for Western events.
A braider may braid and re-braid a horse several times during a multi-day show, or provide touch-ups when certain braids are loosened or begin to frizz. Braiders use equipment such as yarn, heavy thread, bands, combs, hair gel, clips, and step stools to assist with the braiding process. Many braiders wear a customized belt or apron that holds their equipment within easy reach.
Professional braiders should be sure to maintain a photo book or website featuring examples of their workmanship. It only takes a few moments to document a successful braiding job, and that documentation can be invaluable when soliciting new clients.
Those looking to get involved in professional braiding must be prepared to get up very early in the morning (or work all night) to ensure that clients are ready for competition. This is also a travel-intensive career, as braiders must visit clients at many different locations on the show circuit.
Professional braiders can specialize by offering one particular type of braiding, or they may choose to offer braiding for several different types of competition. Each discipline has a different standard “look” and it can take some time to master each style.
It is possible to have a full-time braiding business, but most professional braiders operate on a part-time basis. The part-time practitioners supplement their income by providing additional grooming services (such as clipping or mane pulling) or having another sideline equine business (teaching lessons, boarding, etc). Some braiders also give clinics to teach others how to braid or make their own instructional products and braiding kits to sell.
Education & Training
Braiders must learn by experience and extensive practice. They may learn more quickly by shadowing a skilled braider and assisting them at shows, especially if they have already mastered the basics. There are also many DVDs and books on the subject that can demonstrate the best braiding techniques. In the end, repetition is critical in developing the skill necessary to create polished and professional braids.
Braiders must have excellent horsemanship skills and a strong knowledge of equine behavior. Their horse handling skills must be top notch, and they need to be comfortable working alone in a horse’s stall at night with minimal or no assistance available.
This career path also requires excellent networking, marketing, and communication skills to interact effectively with riders and trainers. It is a reputation-based business, so it is particularly important that a braider provides excellent and reliable service to build up a solid client base that will lead to additional referrals. Many braiders start by doing their own horses (or those owned by a friend) at lower level shows, working their way up to top-level shows as they gain experience and recognition in the community.
The cost for braiding a horse (both mane and tail) usually ranges from $50 to $100 depending on the show circuit and accepted going rates in the area. Salary is, of course, dependent on how many horses a braider can schedule, the quality of their work, their reputation in the business, and how efficiently they are able to complete a braiding appointment. Those working at “A” level shows can expect to earn top dollar for their services. Most pro braiders can complete a mane and tail in well under an hour.
Horse shows continue to be big business in the equine industry, and professional mane braiders have become more common in recent years. A skilled braider should have little trouble finding at least a few clients to begin carving out a niche business, and this can certainly develop into a full-time career option over time.