by Rachel Kooiker
While sitting in the stands at a major event, you may catch yourself admiring elite horse and rider teams as they stride into the pen. From seamless apparel to a polished hair coat, the look of a winner needs to be close to perfection. This includes the all-important mane. A correct, flattering mane job can make or break the overall presentation of a champion, and it takes hard work, dedication, and passion to be able to complete those flawless equine looks.
At an event like the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, which often boasts more than 17,000 entries annually, these worker bees are often unsung heroes of the horse show. We spoke with a few of the industry’s most in-demand braiders and banders to get an inside look at what it’s like to be a professional, and we scooped up some of the best tricks of the trade. Read on to take a peek at just who and what is behind those perfect manes.
You can often spot Shannon on the show grounds from dawn until dusk, and she is known as one of the most hard-working, dedicated, and knowledgeable set of hands that you could hire to prepare your horse’s mane. She’s been banding professionally for roughly 15 years, and, as she recalls with a laugh, she was sort of thrown into it. “I was at a futurity in North Carolina, and we had so many horses to get ready that I was just volunteered for the job. I had to band somewhere between 15-20 Halter horses. In the middle of that, here comes Ted Turner. It was the first time I’d met him, and he’s the Holy Grail of Halter horse trainers. Here I am, a complete wreck with bands in my mouth!” The North Carolina horsewoman stays busy banding, braiding, and showing, but she also owns and operates a custom jewelry business, Halt & Rein. “My hands never really get a break,” she admits with a laugh.
Fisher’s bands didn’t disappoint back then, and they sure don’t now. She’s known for short, tight bands that really showcase a horse’s neck to its best, which is ideal for any event. She’s slightly newer to braiding, as she’s been doing braids for just six to seven years. She happened into braiding by accident as well. One day, she found herself with a Hunter Under Saddle horse that her husband and trainer, Alan Fisher, had acquired for her. “I refused to be known as one of the best banders around who didn’t know how to braid, so I asked some friends to teach me. I watched and then I tweaked the braids to my style.” Fisher tweaked her style just right, because she’s known for impossibly tight braids that can even go from show to show without needing to be re-done. While it’s typical for some horses to need bands or braids to be taken out and done again at least every other day at a horse show, Fisher’s clients can often make her work stretch until the next event. “They go from horse show to horse show with my bands and braids. We were at the Martinganza for a show, and immediately following was the Virginia Classic, but some horses kept their braids well, so we didn’t take them out. It’s expensive to have your horse’s mane done, and I don’t want to do the same horse again and again if I don’t have to.”Click here to read the complete article