Perfect Plaits 101

Perfect Plaits 101

Perfect plaits are an essential part of turning your horse out smartly for competition. Taming a bushy mane can be a stressful start to a show!

How many plaits should a horse have?

It's generally considered correct to have an odd number of plaits on the neck, not including the forelock. Nine, eleven or thirteen plaits are most commonly seen, depending on the horse's size and conformation.

What side do you plait a horse's mane on?

Generally, the mane laying on the right or off side is considered correct. If you pleasure ride or show in low-level shows, which side your horse's mane lies on may not matter. At higher level shows, where good turnout is essential, your horse's mane should lie smoothly on the right side of its neck.

Bands or thread?

Plaits can be sewn or, if you are practising techniques or in a hurry, fastened with Lincoln Plaiting Bands. Many prefer to use the flat Lincoln Silicone Plaiting Bands instead of the more traditional rubber bands as they don’t break the way rubber bands can and they're really easy to put in.

What do I need?

You will need:

* NAF Plait It Up

* Supreme Products Highlighter Gel

* Supreme Products Sparkle

* HyShine Perfect Plaits

* Lincoln Plaiting thread co-ordinated to your horses mane colour or plaiting bands.

How to plait a horse's mane

1) Unless you’re blessed with a horse with a silky, biddable mane, chances are you’ll need a spray or gel to avoid stray hairs and keep plaits tight and tidy. So on a clean well brushed mane spray NAF Plait It Up onto a wet or dry mane.

2) Sectioning the mane correctly gives even plaits, so a good mane comb is a must.  HySHINE Perfect Plaits comb combines a comb which measures out each section, plus a clip to hold the next section of mane out of the way. It even has a rubber band holder so you don’t have to fumble for a band at the critical moment.  


3) Create a plait ensuring they are kept even and tight. Spray NAF Plait It Up when need to ensure a good grip on the mane hair.

4) When you reach the end of the plait, push the needle through the plait and wrap the thread around the base to secure it.

5) Take the needle up and through the middle of the plait from underneath, halving the plait as you pull the needle through.

6) Fold the plait in half again into a small neat ball.

7) Hold the plaited ball and sew up and down through the plait where possible ensuring the thread isn’t obvious. Once secure, cut the thread as close to the plait as possible.

If you prefer to use plaiting bands, put the band over the plaited ball. 

8) Spray NAF Plait It Up on the completed plaits to hold them firmly in place. 

9) Stand back and admire your handiwork! 

Top tips 

Have everything to hand: this sounds obvious but don't start until you have everything you need to do the job.

Preparation is key: while your horse’s mane needs to be clean for the show ring, avoid using conditioning products before plaiting, as this makes the mane slippery. 

Flatten the mane: Use a Lycra hood overnight before plaiting to lay the mane flat and smooth like the Weatherbeeta Stretch Hood with Zip.


Plait the day before: avoid putting yourself under pressure on the day of the competition and plait the day before.

Untidy or loose ends: smooth down the hairs with Supreme Products Highlighter Gel.

Add glamour: prior to entering the ring spray over with Supreme Products Sparkle to enhance the shine and appearance.     

What's the best way to take the plaits out?

When taking plaits out, it’s advisable to use a thread picker rather than scissors to reduce the risk of accidentally cutting the mane.

Bitz Plait Unpicker

Shop Plaiting and Show Preparation


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.

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