Braided Horsehair Frequently Answered Questions

These are Frequently Asked Questions about braided horsehair and custom braided horsehair. Please read through to see if I have already answered your question. If I have not, email me with your question and I will possibly add it to the list to help others. To help you through this very long page, there are links to jump you to the answer to your question.

1. How long will my order take?

Usually the braiding takes one to two weeks. There are times when it can take longer, though. If you are ordering many braided horsehair items, or you are ordering something unusual, that can take more time. Also there are times of the year (like around Christmas) when I have many custom orders in at once and things get a little busy. At those times of year, braiding your horsehair jewelry can take longer.

2. Why does it take so long?

There are a couple of reasons for this, the main one being that I must do all this work myself. But first, I do the jewelry and braiding work in the order I received it. If there are a lot of orders before yours, it may take me a little while to get to yours. First, I must wash the hair and get it very clean. Then, I have to actually count the hairs out that I will use in making the braided horsehair item. The hairs must be of a similar length and are tied into bundles. In addition, there is a slight taper in the hair. I must turn half the hairs upside down to counteract the taper. Only then can I begin braiding the horsehair. The braiding itself can be tedious, especially at first when all the hairs seem to want to go in their own seperate direction. And of course, there is only one of me! I must hand-make every single braided horsehair item and jewelry item by myself. Why not hire someone to help, you say? Well, most of my neighbors are cows and are not suitable for the work. You might also try counting out horsehair some time. This ought to explain everything!

3. How long will my braided horsehair item last?

Generally speaking, braided horsehair lasts many years, but there are factors that are out of my control that can affect the life of a braided horsehair item. The first would be the care it receives, so be sure and see the answer to question number 6, “How do I take care of my braided horsehair item?”. The other factors are the health and genetics of the horse who provided the hair for the braiding. Just like humans, horses have different hair – some is coarse, some fine, some brittle, some with split ends and so on. Take heart, though. Even if your horse had brittle hair, with reasonable care it should still last for many years. And the truth is, most of the hair I get in for custom horsehair braiding is in great shape.

4. Why can’t mane hair be used for braiding?

Mane hair is very fine, compared to tail hair, and the individual hairs are not very strong, plus they have a very strong taper to them making it extremely hard to count. Since they are so thin and weak they simply make a very bad product. In addition it takes a great deal of time, somewhere around 4 times as long to as much as 10 times as long, to work mane hair, and then when I am done it is a bad product anyway. I just finally had to accept that mane hair makes excellent tassels.

5. What happens to the hair that is not used?

All unused hair left from making your custom horsehair item is returned to the owner, unless you explicitly tell me, in writing, to keep it. I even return the rubber bands. Just imagine what would happen if I kept the unused hair – we would have to move out of the house and into the barn!

6. How do I take care of my braided horsehair item?

Horsehair is very similar to your own hair and can take much the same treatment. It is perfectly safe to get braided horsehair jewelry wet. Any shampoo you use on your own hair or your horse’s hair will be safe to use on your braided horsehair item. The enemies of braided horsehair are abrasion, heat and chemicals. These are things that would damage your own hair or skin. The worst for braided horsehair is probably abrasion. If you are going to be working around cinder blocks be sure and take off your braided horsehair jewelry item! If a hair does break and starts to poke out, get a pair of fingernail clippers and very carefully cut back the offending hair so it is level with the rest of the braiding. Obviously if this happens a lot it can start to weaken the braid, so try to avoid abrasion.

7. Do you coat the hair, or treat it in some way?

It surprises me how many times I get asked this, but no, all I do is wash the hair very thoroughly. It is naturally strong and shiny like that. The reason it feels so different is because it is braided. Human hair also feels different when braided.

8. How do I collect the hair for a custom order?

Before you start you will need: a very sharp pair of scissors, a rubber band and a plastic bag. Lift up the tail of the horse and select a lock that is about half the way up the dock, and yet goes all the way down into the brush of the tail. You want the longest hair you can find on that particular horse. Snip the lock off as close to the skin as you can and put the rubber band around the cut end right away. Put it in the bag and send it to me. Piece of cake! For each item, it will explain about how much you need. Usually a piece as big around as your finger will do it. Remember, I need tail hair for braiding.

9. What if my hair is too short, or there is not enough?

If you are not sure, the best thing to do is just send me the hair. Once I see it, I can give you a better idea of what can be braided from that hair. I will always be able to do something with the hair, even if it is to use a little bit of it in the knots. If all you have is mane hair, it can make some very nice tassels.

10. Can I put more than one horse in a single project?

Yes, I can put the hair of many horses in a single project. After all, in an 8-strand bracelet, there are 160 hairs! So theoretically I could put 160 different horses in that bracelet. Most people don’t have that many! But if you do, I would be willing to accommodate you.

11. What if I want to learn how to do this myself?

I taught myself how to braid horsehair, so I think anyone could learn if they really really wanted to. I will warn you though – it is not easy! You will have to work very hard at it, practice diligently and stick with it. The very best thing you can do is learn how to braid something else first. Then, when you really know the ins and outs of braiding, tackle braiding horsehair. That way you are only learning one skill at a time. Horsehair is not a cooperative substance! The braids look very different in horsehair, and the hair will not want to stay where you put it. It will determinedly fly off in many directions. Also, the braided knots are difficult to tie in horsehair. As far as I know, I am the only braider in the world who ties braided knots in horsehair. I have been looking my whole life for someone else who does it, so I could have someone to talk to about it. I have never been able to find anyone.

12. Will you teach me how to braid?

I’m sorry, but it is not possible for me to teach you how to braid, especially over the phone or the internet. So sending me an email, or calling me, asking me to do this will not work. You would have to see it done not have it described to you which means living right by me – and since I don’t already know you, then I know you are not my neighbor! Aside from this, I have to say I am not highly motivated to teach everyone else how to do what I do, for free. I would never get any work finished, the chores would not get done – the horses would riot in the streets! No, I’m afraid you will have to either teach yourself like I did, or find someone in your area to teach you. I suggest that you find a book or two on braiding and learn from that. There are some very good books out there, just look on Google or Amazon. I’ve also heard of a woman in California who teaches braiding. You could possibly contact her and then go to California. I also hear there are some good videos or DVDs. I have never seen them myself, but hear they are excellent.

13. Are you part Indian?

I am surprised by this question, as I certainly don’t look part Indian! I guess people think that the Indians are the only people who do horsehair braiding, or that it would be part of my heritage. Actually, many different cultural groups braided horsehair throughout history, but I did not learn because of my heritage – I learned because I am quite stubborn and really wanted to learn! And Native Americans, although quite clever and resourceful, are normal people just like anyone else. They would have to learn it just like I did, one step at a time. No one, no matter how cool or smart they may be, is born knowing how to braid horsehair.

And in case you’re still wondering – No, I am  not part Indian!

14. What is the history of braiding?

This is tough to answer. As far as we know, the original braiding was done by people who sailed the sea in the Mediterranean. They transmitted their braidiing culture to the Moors, who then conquered Spain. The Spanish applied this braiding to the horse, and then headed to the new world, bringing the horse with them. However, nearly all ancient cultures practiced some form of braiding. It was a way of making things work without metal buckles and rings, a way of making belts, harnesses, collars and so on, that even poor people could do. To this day, people in the highlands of the Andes braid slings to use in their daily work of herding llamas, and so do sheep and goat herders in Europe. Braiding is a universal language that transcends cultures. Anyone who thought ancient people were not clever should try and learn a braided knot, and reflect that these very smart ancient people invented it all.