It is not every day that we can glean the advice of braiders and groomers with as much experience as Emma Ford and Cat Hill.
As professional grooms, these two have traveled the world for nearly every type of equestrian endeavor, from the Olympics to the Pan American Games, morning fox hunts to county fairs. They have also written books, hosted clinics, and have had their hands on every type of mane and tail imaginable.
In early April, Ford and Hill appeared on HN Reads to talk about their new book World Class Braiding—Manes and Tails and shared excellent advice about all things braids. Below are just a few of their show-worthy hacks.
Perfect for smoothing down fly-away hairs and locking the braids into place, Hill swears by beeswax. Her favorite is the brand Jamaican Mango & Lime Locking Creme Wax.
“[The creme] tends to be my go-to grip.” Hill explains. “We have pictures of that in the book because I’ve been using it for about 15 years. I used only to be able to find it in South Carolina, so I used to stock up on it in the winters.” Creme wax is now available in most grocery stores and on Amazon.
2. Shapley’s Mane Mousse
Ford’s go-to product is Shapley’s Mane Mousse. “I mean, it’s literally just mousse, but it doesn’t create that super sticky, greasy feel,” she says, adding that it also doesn’t freeze. “At events we could be in 25 degrees, freezing rain, and you don’t want water on your hands. But this mousse is so good you can use it any temperature.”
3. Crocodile clips
“Ultimately, how you braid is going to dictate what tools you use,” says Ford. “I would say any braider, though, should have a crocodile clip.”
These 1990s fashion statements are perfect for evenly partitioning out the ideal chunk of hair for each braid, the tongs also work like a comb if needed in a pinch, and you can clip it to your shirt when you are not using it. Equi-Essentials makes one with a comb attached.
A fine-tooth comb
Think back to the black plastic combs that became treasures after elementary school picture day and you have found Hill’s other favorite tool.
“I buy them in a big multipack at the store,” she shared. The very fine teeth are perfect for smoothing out even the thickest manes, and they create “real clean, crisp lines in between each braid.”
Lastly, Hill emphasized that a braider’s best tool is time and practice. “People make the huge mistake of not giving themselves enough time to braid. Braiding is extraordinarily time-consuming if you’re not doing it all the time.
“A lot of the amateurs will only give themselves 45 minutes. It takes me 45 minutes to do a nice job,” she said.
“Often at competitions, the first few braids look nice, and then they get sloppier and sloppier and sloppier. And I think people start looking at their clock going, oh my gosh, I have to go.”
To avoid messy results, give yourself the gift of time, patience and practice.