View Full Version : Why do we plait?

27-05-03, 08:55 AM
I know this is going to sound a bit strange, but I was just wondering. Why do we plait our horses manes and tails for dressage in eventing? Now, I have skimed through my new printout of the rules of eventing off the EFA site, and it doesn't say in there that a horse has to be plaited to compete in dressage (unless I am blind and missed it). So why do we do it? Personally, I carn't plait for nuts, and I don't. I have not plaited any of my current intro to pre-novice eventers, and no one has pulled me up on it. I sculpute their manes, so they are neat tidy and I think very attractive, and also people have told me they are......but do I have to plait in higher grades and just didn't know it>>>>>>

Just intrigued to know if you guys can tell me......

27-05-03, 09:12 AM
believe it or not plaiting has a practical side.

have you ever ridden a horse with a long flowing mane? have you ever gone for a gallop or tried to adjust the reins and got a handful of mane?


that's why the tradition started to plait, you roll the horse's mane up, and when you go out hunting his mane doesn't get in the way. In the renaissance the dressage manes were simply platted and long (look at some old etchings of the renaissance riders), however in the english hunting field the fashion was to plait the mane and roll it up - so while' your out hunting you are not going to accidently grab a handful of mane instead of mane. The fashion of rolling up went from Britian to the continent as hunting became fashionable across europe....

then at the end of a day's hunting your hunter could go out into the paddock with his mane undone and the mane could keep the flys out of his face:-)

27-05-03, 10:35 AM
Also horses can get a bit sweaty under their mane if they have a long and thick one.

27-05-03, 10:49 AM
Both for practical reaspons and for fashion. The practical reason is to keep it out the way. The fashion is how you plait it. Lots of tiny ones, long folded ones, rosettes, fat long ones.

Have you ever looked at the Uk racehorses that come out for the Melbourne cup? Generally they are plaited. Certainly the steeple chasers often are.

Because my horses have really long profuse manes it is quite usual for me to plait them at home to ride, to keep it out the way. When they are ridden in dressage they may have the mane plaited not in the simple franch braid I usually use to keep the hair out the way, but in a braid that runs along the crest of the neck as it enhances the look of the arch of the neck.

Or like all the stockhorse people around here, you just keep the whole thing clipped off completely. Surely no one can claim that started for aeshtetic reasons, but you ask a lot of them and they just like the look and think a horse with a mane looks unfinished and messy.

Ali at home
27-05-03, 12:35 PM
To improve the look of your horses neck, a nicer neck (reaching into the bit, not short etc etc) means more marks!

28-05-03, 12:19 AM
I think it also has to do with showing respect for the judge. A plaited mane does look great but I'm with you, when I start my young horse at comps again I'm not going to bother plaiting anymore unless we work ourselves a fair way up. He'll have a lovely pulled mane though.

28-05-03, 01:23 AM
AAAHHHH......All very good reasons....but all recountable!

My horses manes are sculpted, it's only 3-4 inches long, so it doesn't get caught up in the reins, it's also styled down to sit on the horses neck.

Most poeple take the plaits out for cross country atleast, and alot for showjumping - isn't that where you would get your hands more tangled in reins then dressage.

I have two horses that look horrific with plaited manes, it does nothing for their necks at all, they look much better with the mane out.

I don't know about respect for the judge....I think surely a judge can see past pretty plaits and so by the horses performance....and horses can look stunning with their manes out...so it judges want the horse to look good and that be a mark of respect to them, I think it depend on the overall look of the horse.....

So, it looks like we don't have to plait......don't get me wrong but, I am not looking for horses out there to have 2 foot long shagging manes hanging everywhere; as I said my horses manes are sculptured to look elegant and pretty. Call me lazy....

But also, when I compete 4 horses on my own, with no groom or friends, I don't have time to plait and unplait and get ready for the next horse......so for me its practical....

Lastly, I honestly think I am better with my horses nice short laid down manes, rather then the messy excused for plaits that I seem to come up with anyway.....lol.......

Thanks guys.......

28-05-03, 01:30 AM
I never used to bother, especially at the lower levels until a friend who does compete at FEI told me that I should treat every comp like a big one. When I did compete at big comps I had my preparation down pat and nothing was different from the heaps of little comps I had already prepared for.

I've also pencilled for judges who have taken presentation into account if they are deciding between two marks. I'd prefer to plait and get an 8 instead of not and get a 7.

Ali at home
28-05-03, 03:03 AM
I agree, short neat manes look much better than the fuzzy golfballs that are my poor excuses for plaits. I don't plait for little comps either, same reason as you, no help, but plaiting is a necessary evil for higher comps, it's part of the whole professional picture I think. Lets say you have your first big piano recital at carnegie (sp?) hall, you'll play just as well in casual clothes as in a nice formal frock, but would you really wear tracky dacks?! hehe!

Big Red Car
28-05-03, 03:49 AM
I always plait even though I only compete at PC level - my reasoning is that if I don't practise plaiting now, when I eventually compete at higher levels I'll be doing the fuzz balls that I do now then. Much rather go through the embarassment of them now than later on LOL. Also just shows the judge that you've made an effort. Doesn't matter how bad they look, at least you tried.

28-05-03, 04:55 AM

Why get yourself cleaned up, with polished boots, white breeches, shiny gear... the works, then look at the horse, unplaited....Hmmmmmm It looks a bit out of place.

If your not going to plait you may as well not wash the horse or yourself. It does give a better outline to the judges point of view, you can see the frame of the horse if he is working correctly, the same with a nicely plaited or pulled tail, you can see the engagement in the hind quarters and the hocks moving nicely. You have to present your horse to the best advantage.

I'm all for plaiting.......I wouldn't call myself an expert plaiter but at least my horses are well presented on every occasion.

28-05-03, 05:45 AM
Valid point....but my horses are always presented to the best of my ability. Washed three times before an event, coats totally shinny, checked, the works......and they still look brilliant with their manes.....if it's all about presentation and how good the horse looks, what about these horses with dreadfully long scrawny necks that just look so ridiculeous when plaited up, but when a small amount of mane is left down it looks quite smart. Doesn't the opposite work too, shouldn't you try to make your poor horse look better by giving him every advantage, like leaving his mane out.....

Maybe I should put up a picture of how my boys look with their manes.....anyone seen the world cup showjumping in Europe, most of those horses have the scultured mane, not plaits, you carn't tell me those horses don't look stunning and well presented....(I know dressage is different)

Some of you might think I am just being lazy with my horse presentation, but I am not by no means.....it takes ages to sculpt their manes, and alot of maintenance to keep them looking that way and laying the way I need them too.....

If I was competing at levels higher then Novice I would probably plait, or atleast get someone else to do it for me...lol....but at Intro - Pre-novice..... it's not in the rules, my horses still look good.......

28-05-03, 08:38 AM
I will 2nd anyone that plaits!

As a rider my horses do not go in the ring without a plaited mane. As a judge (pc & HRCAV) I always try to put a comment on the test about a well presented (plaited) horse even the kids with tennis ball size plaits....least they have had a go! I was always taught there is no excuse for poor presentation, once you are practiced it only takes 20-30 minutes. (and Im not fast!)

28-05-03, 08:45 AM
This is the bit that gets me, plaits are not stated in the rules, you can not be marked down for not having them or be disqualifed for not having them. It is not that I don't "have a go", it's that some horses just don't suit plaits....I defy anyone to tell me my horses are not well presented "with" manes, and it's quite insulting to be told that unless my totaly spoilt excellent presented horse is plaited, it's unsatisfactory or poorly presented....

I opened a can of worms here hey.....lol

28-05-03, 08:54 AM

For argument sake if -
both first place getters where equal and it came down to final blow, the horse which was the best presented would most probably win.
If the judge has taken the time out to judge for the day, you can do the same by having both yourself and horse well presented.

Thats what I think anyway.

30-05-03, 09:03 AM
I agree with you horseandme, i dont think it is a necessity to plait especially at the lower end of the scale. I judged dressage the other day at a Horse Trials and believe me plaits on a horse that is poorly fed, & groomed does not look good & certainly does not look better than a horse that is well turned out with a neat mane. If you want to get really anal wait until you get to do a 3DE where they expect you to plait for the trot ups, now that is a waste of time!!!!!!!
Now tell me what is the difference between a sculpted mane & a pulled one.

30-05-03, 11:59 AM
A good reason to not plait??
Ever seen a GP showjumper stretch over a fence and actually rip
tight little plaits right off his neck.
I have :(
The owner/rider of the horse won't plait his showjumpers anymore.

31-05-03, 01:25 AM
Ok Louis. My horses manes are not pulled at all. They are totally full and natural thickness, be it thick or thin. What I do is like being a hairdresser. You cut the underlengths just a little bit shorter then the top lengths, so if the mane doesn't stay in place and ends up dropping on both sides of the horse's neck (like it does with my fine maned big boy) it looks even length still from front to back. It's a straight blunt cut from the bridle path to the saddle path. You have it slightly longer in the centre so when the horse's neck arches it actually still looks the same length front to back. People who think they can not see a horses neck outline for mane with a cut like this don't know what a neckline looks like, it hightlights it, not hides it......I was taught how to do it by a friend that worked as a groom in Germany for three years, with Grand Prix showjumpers.....try telling them their horses are presentable or good enough.....

31-05-03, 02:24 AM
Well actually... I always look at the tails of the top German dressage horses and thnk "why couldn't they just tidy them uo a bit, a little trim here and pull there, maybe some plaits?".

31-05-03, 05:19 AM
I agree with deliveryhorse, its all about presentation. No, its not in the rules to plait, but personally I think plaits look better than a loose mane. All our horses get plaited manes and tails from intro right through to advanced. If plaited correctly, then whatever sort of neck the horse has can be made to look more correct. If your horse has a short little neck, than lots of little plaits will do wonders in making it look longer etc etc, same as quartermarkers can enhance the shape of the rump (which was why they were originally done, not just for fashion) and as with most things, the more you do it, the better you become. When I first started grooming, to plait one mane would take me 40 minutes and they looked horrid, now it takes me 20 max, and they look great (if I do say so myself, but then I have been grooming for 10 years...)
Each to their own, if we all did exactly the same thing, things would be pretty boring.


31-05-03, 11:40 AM
deliveryhorse, if you're talking about showing, that's a fair enough comment regarding presentation, in fact it would be almost expected. But we're talking about dressage here I take it?

Any dressage judge worth their salt should NOT add/subtract a mark just for the sake of a plaited/not plaited mane. If the performance of the horses are equal, then they should be placed as such.

And I'm afraid I must agree with Horsesandme, from a JUDGE'S perspective (!), that a 'sculpted' mane looks just as good as plaits, and better in some cases.

Hey, I've been 'sculpting' my horses's manes for years, and I didn't even know it! Only I cheat, and cut mine shorter, but I really like the line that a nice, neat, short mane gives the neck, especially when the horse is working properly into the bridle.

I must say though, that in high level dressage I prefer to see the horse plaited and presented as though it's dressed to the 9's, and I fully intend to do so myself when the circumstances warrent it (:-)), but I've spent too many years in the showring and plaiting up for that, that I'm taking advantage now of not having to plait up for HRCAV dressage!!!

What an interesting debate!

31-05-03, 01:38 PM
Well Dragoness sweetie darling - you MUST come work for me !!! You have ALL the right attributes for a groom because you quite obviously have your priorities totally correct!! 20 minutes huh?? Absolutely fabulous!!!

What else do horses have manes for if not to plait them??? I sit in my impressive and very important judges box (me not the box) and see these absolute CRETINS trotting up to me with their FREE MANES flowing all over the place and .. and ... well ... pass me the smelling salts!! I mean ... they look like SHOWJUMPERS!!! ugh!!

Plait 'em all I say!!! Plait 'em in the paddocks, in the ditches, in the stables, in the hedgerows, plait 'em on the high seas, in the low valleys, in the mountains, in the heavens. Up the trees and up the Khyber. Go ye thereforth and plaiteth the earth!!!!

haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaheeeeeeeeeee eeee

e & o e

disclaimer: I am not sane. No offence is intended.

Ali at home
31-05-03, 01:53 PM

But seriously, if your horses necks look yukky plaited then you are not using the right style, there are so many diferent ways of plaiting. I sometimes stitch and sometimes do the rolly little ball way. But admittedly I only have one end result and that is yukky! Back to my original analogy of your recital at carnegie hall, that's what plaiting is all about.