Saturday, February 22, 2014

Supermodel of the World

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Lex has a high opinion of her looks. Watch out, Tyra Banks.

With good reason, if I may say so.

She likes to pose, and she loves to be admired.
It's hard to believe she was thisclose to slaughter, huh?
So when my rad barn owner said she was going to be hosting someone to do a braiding clinic for the Pony Club kids, I figured Lex would enjoy being the center of attention and beautification, and offered her up as the model. Plus her mane is in decent shape, which isn't true of anyone else on the place at the moment (the benefit of having only one horse to care for, not 20ish).

Lex has never had her mane braided before, but I expect she will in the future. Even though I'm planning to show her in the jumpers, she'll show in the hunters for awhile until she learns the ropes. And sometimes, jumpers braid, too -- for money classes especially. So I thought it would be good to see how she handled the process, and if she was the model horse I thought it would be less weird if I eavesdropped on the clinic. I am not a braider. I hate it. But I should probably brush off what little skill I had if I want to save money at shows in the future.

Before I get to the pictures, here are my general thoughts about braiding:
1. Practice a million times at home. If it isn't done well, it looks worse than no braiding at all.
2. Put the rubber bands down. Put. Them. Down. Go get the yarn.
3. If you are showing in dressage or hunters: do it. Even at backyard shows. It shows respect to the judge. I'm southern and I believe in symbolic forms of respect. Call me a formalist if you'd like. I can live with it. I also wear a jacket no matter what the weather in hunter classes, and I live in Florida.
4. If you're showing in a jumper class, you get a pass on braiding, but for the love of mice make sure your horse's mane is neatly pulled, trained to the right side of the neck, and that your turnout is tidy and your saddle pad is white. If you're in a classic, of course, time to haul out the jacket and call the braider.
5. I think the only kinds of braids worth doing are hunter braids. There. I said it.

If Lex was watching me write this, she'd tell me to hurry up and get to the part with her in it.

She was really very good through the whole process. In the very beginning, there was a little skepticism, but the crowd of adorable Pony Club kids and lots of snuggles from me chilled her right out. Before long, we had the floppy-eared chill girl you see before you. I really liked the braider lady a lot -- she was kind to Lex and understood that she'd never had this done before. And she was good at explaining what she was doing. I'm not sure I can replicate it exactly, but now when I have some kind of reference in front of me, I'll at least have seen it done recently. I had to hold her so I couldn't get pics of each step of the process. Braider Lady put in about six hunter braids and then moved on to other styles. I'm dying to see what Lex looks like with a whole neck of hunter braids. I'll have to practice for the walk-trot hunters we'll be doing this spring! Ha!

Next, she showed us how she does jumper braids. It's essentially the same as hunter braids, but more than twice as thick and she starts the yarn at the beginning, not halfway down, as she does with the hunter braids. She said she hates jumper braids. I do, too. They look less refined. These are also the kinds of braids typically used in dressage. I don't do dressage so I'm not sure why they're the convention there. In the jumper ring, unless they're really perfectly done, these often look like, "I'm not getting judged on my braids and I'm riding in a money class so screw it, big fat braids it is." I'm willing to admit that I might eat my words someday if I have to braid my own horse and run out of time or my horse is being a maniac about braiding, but I just don't like the way these look.

I mean, check these lovely braids out for comparison:

The difference is stark.
Side by side on her neck.

BUT, you do what you want. Seriously. I won't judge you for whatever your braiding style of choice, and even though I can find few things to get excited about in the hunter ring, I love hunter braids. Love.

Then the genius braider lady did her tail. I freaking love a braided tail. I dislike pinwheels - they seem distracting, and if the horse bumps her tail on something it can knock the whole thing off-kilter. Braider Lady, happily, agreed with me on that point also.

I've never quite mastered tails, but she gave us a lot of tips: don't bring in too much hair at once, don't pull the end up too far, be sure to maintain a straight line. 

She told me that the reason Lex's tail is so thin is because she has a tiny little dock and this is just all the tail she's going to grow. BUMMER. She seemed disgusted by the idea of tail extensions, especially weighted ones (agreed on the weighted ones, but sometimes tail extensions have to happen at the A shows, I guess. Beats drugs as the thing everyone's doing these days).

Do I look cuter now?
Lex stood really nicely on the cross ties for more than an hour. My baby girl is growing up. I tacked her up to ride and she was good for that, too. Even though I didn't get to lunge her because there were three other horses in the ring already. Two were being ridden by walk/trot kids who couldn't steer, and the other was a very nice TB gelding whose rider just got him on lease last week. Lex was a little fresh at first (the braider lady stood around to watch the kids for a bit and commented that she was better on the cross ties than under saddle, heh). But she settled in and we did the best we could considering one of the kids just randomly yanked her pony around the ring with no regard for where anyone else was or her pony's mouth. Annoying, but that's what warmup rings are like, too. Tomorrow we have another ride with D, and I'm excited about it. The excellent Tracy is going to come tape it for me! YAY!


  1. Yeah hunter braids all the way mane those other ones are well... odd.

    And yay video!

  2. Glad Lex was so good & hat she enjoyed the primping experience :)
    Hope you've a great lesson & I'm looking forward to video footage

  3. Oh braids. I am terrible at them and I just don't love how they look.

    That said, I like a braided tail more than that god-awful rat tail thing that eventers seem to be doing. Not on my horse is all I can say about that.

    1. I HATE THAT TOO. I don't get it at all. My horse does not have enough tail to lose even a single hair.

      I'm no good at braiding either. I need to practice or be okay with ponying up the dough. Alsooooo Lex is gonna be a jumper so until we're in money classes, it won't matter. That's years away!

  4. YOUR TAIL BRAID IS AMAZING! I have never got mine to look that good.