What is the secret to mastering the perfect tail plait? Nimble fingers, a flair for detail, plenty of practice — and a horse who stands stock-still, certainly helps. When we asked H&H readers for their tips on creating immaculate plaits, we were blown away by the eye-catching creations that were sent in. You really are a talented bunch!
To celebrate the art of the perfect tail plait — and to enjoy some extraordinary masterpieces — here are 18 showstoppers. Prepare to be amazed.
1. At the annual Pony of the Year Show, Natalie Triggs wove ribbons in to this pony’s tail — in the show’s trademark colours no less — before the style and performance class.
2. Helen Reader and her Irish Sport Horse Tinahely Rocket certainly stood out at their Riding Club area dressage competition with this immaculate tail plait. Her top tip? “Be taught well and practice often. The route to perfection is years of Wokingham Pony Club rallies and camp from the age of five.”
3. “Practice, practice and more practice” says Amy Smyth, who shows Connemaras and competes in showjumping and eventing.
4. Catching the eye at this year’s Royal Highland Show was Sarah Johnston’s coloured non-native home-bred yearling Nelson’s Centurion (“Zack”) — his perfect plait was executed by her “best friend and supergroom” Jenni Cammidge. They were thrilled to finish second!
5. The Border Counties Draghounds’ horses must be some of the best turned out in the country if this spectacular creation on huntsman Darren Foxley’s horse is anything to go by.
6. What an accomplishment! Elizabeth Greenfield explains how to create this stunning plait — the correct style for Comtois draught horses: “The plait starts off as a French plait, incorporating raffia/bass. You continue to the end of the dock then plait down approximately six inches and tie off. Then form a loop with the plaited part. Divide the rest of the tail into three and plait to the end, but four inches from the end add a ribbon or bootlace in the plait and tie off with the ribbon/bootlace. Take the end of the plait and thread it through the loop at the base of the dock to form a bun then discreetly tie off the ribbon/bootlace and decorate with a ribbon. The flowers are my own personal twist.”
7. It seems a shame to have hidden this impressive creation from Hannah Underhill, but it was done for a Riding Club quadrille when the tail needed to be tucked away under the costume.
8. This two-tone work of art comes from Zara-Leoni Ford, who had entered her 20-year-old Hanoverian for a Veteran Horse Society showing class.
9. “Wet tails before plaiting and for each piece you add in, take as little as possible. Put on hair spray and a damp tail bandage as soon as you’ve finished,” says Sophie Woodyatt, who does a brilliant job plaiting hunters.
10. Mel Jolly has certainly perfected the art of tail-plaiting — full marks for this monochrome masterpiece.
11. For something a little out-of-the-ordinary, we are loving Caitlin Padgett’s spiralling effect — “It’s pretty simple, just a running plait collecting from the tail as you go and spiral down,” she says.
12. Thanks to Claire Turner for sending in this gem of a plait on Victoria Turner’s horse Rubiks Cube — shortly before she had to pull the tail for showing classes.
13. Hats off to Sacha Butlin — this beautifully neat plait must surely be the template for us all to aim for.
14. “Keep the plait tight and don’t use too much hair” says Megan Hay, tail-plaiter extraordinaire.
15. If you’re out with the Carmarthen Hunt, keep a look out for Eleanor Joseph’s exceptional work — 10 out of 10 on this one!
16. We’re not surprised that freelance groom Ireland Pearson won the best turned out prize with this beautiful finish on pointer Upton Centurion. “Practise on the hardest tails and don’t forget baby wipes and baby oil for that shiny finish,” says Ireland, who definitely learnt to plait the hard way — on a “hairy cob’s fat, thick tail”.
If you want show day mornings to go without a hitch, check out these useful tips to ensure your horse…
17. Jess Edwards says “Wet hands and plenty of thread” is all you need for a plait as perfect as this, created for a day’s hunting.
18. And finally… If you need a bit of inspiration as Christmas looms, Rachael Forkings has taken Festive fancy dress to the next level. She incorporated bells into her horse Tom’s tail plait — as well as flashing LED lights in his mane, while she (and her Wilberry/Wonkeyberry) dressed up as a side-saddle elf for the Border Counties Draghounds Santa Ride. Great effort all round!
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday.