Hunt seat mane styling...
My whole riding career, I've ridden and shown appaloosas that had little to no hair. It was easy to whip up about five sad little hunter braids and call it good. Now I find myself with the opposite problem. My current show horse is a shire cross. She is feathered and has an extremely thick mane and tail. I've spent the past two years hacking away at her with scissors and pulling her mane twice a week and it is still too thick to neatly braid. My sister owns and shows a gypsy vanner hunt seat and she leaves him hairy and french braids his mane for shows. That seems to go over pretty well but it's obvious that he is supposed to be shown that way to remain true to his breed standard. Would it be horribly inappropriate if I stopped shaving my shire cross' feathers and let her hair grow out in the same manner as my sister does with her gypsy? What is appropriate presentation for a draft cross? I have no previous experience with this type of horse, so I have no idea what I might or might not get marked down for.
I'd be guided by the show circuit you're showing in.
Is it a strictly hunter show? Or an open show with classes in a lot of different disciplines?
Is braiding a requirement or expected? In a typical class, how many entries are braided?
I would think in most shows, other than rated hunter shows, a neatly pulled mane laying over correctly and an impeccably groomed horse would be sufficient.
The problem I'm having is that there's no such thing as "neatly pulled" when my mare's hair is concerned. I pull it twice a week as it is and it is still extremely thick and falls on both sides of her neck. Because I've been pulling it, it gets this thick fuzz at the base as more tries to grow back. I suppose I could braid it. That would tame it some and contain the fuzzies. It would just take a while and I would need to put in a lot of braids to keep them smallish. The braids themselves would not be overly neat just because there is too much volume and texture to her mane to keep them as small and flat as I would like. This is why I'm asking if a french braid is appropriate for hunters. I've only ever seen it used on gypsy horses.
At the moment, we are showing open. There is a mix of disciplines at the shows but many of the hunt seat competitors are braided and very well turned-out. Braiding is not required but is preferred. The other horses are also mostly thoroughbreds, quarter horses or appendixes, so I can't really use them as a model for my own horse because my own horse is so different. It's not every day that you see a Shire or a Shire mix showing hunt seat so I don't have many examples to follow.
Not sure if you still need the information BUT
I always start with for the fuzziness and laying properly to put straight braids (the most basic 3 piece down braid you're taught in elementary school) for anywhere from 4 days to a week, or as long as you feel is necessary or as long as your horse will put up with. This is a easy way to flatten and tame those wild locks, much like your own hair when you change your part.
I would most definitely contact a board member of the circuits you're partaking in to see if you shall be allowed feathers and what have you that is breed specific. They are definitely going to give you the most accurate information, or check out the rules book.
If you find that you DO need to braid/plat then I always recommend hair gel and spray that you would use on your own hair, and when braiding to really dampen the fibers. This will assure you that all the hairs will fall into place properly and stay there. You can normally find out what type of braiding is allowed for your shows and sometimes with longer thicker manes a running braid is allowed, or bobbin braids are okay as well.
But most definitely tame the mane to fall to only her natural side by putting in basic braids down the neck. On average for hunter braids there are anywhere from 10-12 (minus or plus one or two) braids per horse so don't be afraid to do quite a few and just take small sections.
Other wise tame, then trim (yes trim) so the ends of her mane are of even legnth.
Thanks for the input. I am still looking for more input on the topic.
I've let my mare's feathers grow all winter so she is fully feathered again. I've decided to leave them for this season and see what happens. I figure that she has so much feather, it's obvious she is a feathered breed. She doesn't have those scraggly, wannabe feathers that are sometimes seen on crosses. If they weren't so full and long, I wouldn't even consider leaving them on. I also gave up on pulling her mane for the past two months and the extra inches have helped in lay better. The weight of itself holds it down and it doesn't look nearly as frizzy and it is easier to get it to lay to one side of her neck. Depending on how long it gets before the first show, I might try to put the hunter braids in or I might try a running braid and see how the judge reacts. I'm not too terribly concerned about placings at this point because she is still fairly green, and needs the exposure regardless. I'll let you know how it turns out, though I probably won't start showing until june.
If it is an open show you should be able to get away with breed standards (even though she is a cross, she sounds like she has the appearance of the draft breed rather than what she is crossed with).
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