I ran into some technical difficulties with the editing software, and was unable to properly finish the braiding tips of this past Sunday’s edition of Jog-Up. So here’s the end of it, as a special Wednesday jog edition. (Missed Sunday? Benny’s Button Braids, Part I)
WHAT ABOUT THE FORELOCK?
The braiding video included instructions on the forelock braid, but I’ll expand on that a bit here. You may have noticed that Benny is blessed with a “Fabio” forelock… long, luxurious, and thick. I love a healthy forelock (my mare’s is pitiful), but I’ll be the first to admit they are not easy to braid. It takes extra dexterity to deal with the mass of hair, and it seems like you keep braiding…and braiding… and braiding… to get to the end of it. And the end is always thin, brittle, and wispy. Avoid braiding to the very end! Finish your braid with the “hogtie” one or two inches higher than normal. Why? The waxed thread has a tendency to melt into the frizzled forelock ends, making it difficult to remove when you unbraid. Leaving extra hair maintains enough thickness to pop off the hogtie, so you don’t have to try to cut it off (and end up cutting the end of the forelock entirely…not pretty). Note: when you leave this extra “tail,” it often tufts out beneath the forelock button. Be sure to “grab it” with your thread and tuck it neatly under the rest of the ball.
As noted in the video, well-endowed forelocks may have to be doubled-under multiple times to achieve a reasonable length for the button. It takes a bit of practice to figure out how to make it look good– there is definitely not one “right” way, you will develop your own tricks to handle it. I struggled with forelocks for a long time; they still are my weakness, but I’ve figured out how to conceal it (more or less). I have some groom friends who under-braid the French braid and it looks REALLY COOL when properly done, but requires a lot of patience and effort to master.
I’ve accepted the conclusion that many forelock braids often look silly. Most of them end up as either huge sausage-shapes (from the “Fabios”) or itty bitty pea-sized buttons from the nearly-bald-between-the-ears types. Thankfully, unless horribly disheveled, most forelock braids are easily overshadowed by a brilliantly braided neck. In some cultures, it is customary to pull the forelock…which just gives me nightmares, and I simply cannot entertain the idea. I’ll deal with Fabio, thankyouverymuch.
So, the braiding occasion is over and now it’s time to destroy the artwork you so painfully created. Unbraiding can be just as important as the braid job itself! Taking out braids can be deceptively difficult, unless you know how they were put in. Careless cutting will leave spiky sections that spawn up unruly in your next braiding effort. Take care to cut WITH the direction of the hair, to limit the risk of cutting mane itself. Take your time and spare the hair…until after show jumping of your last three-day of the year, before 2 months off, then feel free to HACK AWAY because it’ll grow back by spring season. Also, do not forget to wet the mane down (before/during the unbraiding process) to avoid CMS — curly mane syndrome. It just won’t do to be seen with a ‘fro!
Remember back in “A Close Shave” edition of Jog-Up, I severely stressed DO NOT overdo the length of your bridlepath? Let it grow out! I promised you I’d tell you how to make it look acceptable. Well, here’s making good on that promise.
If your “mohawk” bridlepath is fairly short, or a small section, you can probably incorporate it into normal wraps around the first braid behind the ears. If you have a more serious case of the stick-ups, you may have to get creative.
I also use this technique to tame the mohawk at the withers, where horses’ manes frequently get frizzed from blankets rubbing. Some people just shave it off and leave a very large empty space after the last braid. I prefer to braid to the very last instant of mane– I’m not a fan of cutting, as I have seen some horses develop sores (they NEED some hair for protection from saddle pads and blankets!). But, you can’t braid frizz that’s barely an inch long. For dressage, you can probably hide it beneath the saddle pad. But what about for jogs?
You have a needle and thread: use it! I tame the mohawk by sewing it down close to the neck, so that it looks neat and tidy. Begin with a couple stitches/wraps around the beginning of the section, and gradually work your stitches down. Occasionally, add a “backstitch” (change direction back towards the beginning) for security. Once you reach the end of the mohawk, finish the thread off by running it through a previous loop a few times, or a twisted half-hitch. This little bit of “knitting” is NOT very durable unless you get obsessive with your stitching; but it usually only has to stay in for a short trot-up, so it can last that long. However, this technique allows your horse to look presentable *now,* while allowing the offending section of mane to grow out to look nice in the future.