From Endurance to Dressage
I recently reached out to Cassandra Rabini, owner and trainer at First Gem Dressage, for some tips on grooming (here). I have since implemented many of Cassandra's tips, and Izzy's mane (other than the rubbed out parts) and tail are looking better and better. So is his coat, but that might be from the combination of flaxseed (one of Cassandra's recommendations) and the Prednisolone.
Hoping I wasn't bugging her too much, I reached out a second time and asked for some tips on braiding. Speedy's braids were always a thing of beauty, but Izzy's short mane has made that braid impossible. Cassandra answered all of my questions and even provided photos.
Here are her answers to my questions ...
How long and thick should the mane be to get the nicest looking button braids?
The mane should ideally be somewhere between 5-6 inches (see photo below). Thinner manes can get away with a shorter mane, but short and thick braids are very hard to get into a nice rosette shape (though not impossible).
The thickness should be something that makes a braid about a finger's width. The photo below is an example of what the braids should look like with ideal length and density.
I use a pair of scissors and go straight and upwards into the mane and that thins out without pulling or making the length shorter.
Which are better, banded braids or sewn in braids?
I do both banded braids and sewn in (+ band) braids! They both look pretty close but the sewn in ones look a little fancier and stay in better. The banded method can be done in 10 minutes which is great if you are lazy or in a rush!
How to Do Banded Braids:
Step 1 - Braid hair down, fold the "tail" under, then band neatly at bottom.
Step 2 - Stand braid up.
Step 3 - Fold under to about halfway.
Step 4 - Fold under again.
Step 5 - Band halfway through the braid, and voila! done.
How to Do Sewn In Braids:
Step 1 - Braid and band exactly the same as in steps 1 and 2 above.
Step 2 - Thread the needle; the thread should be about twice the length of the braid.
Step 3 - Push the needle through the bottom of the braid just above the band.
Step 4 - Wrap the thread once around the base of the braid.
Step 5 - Push the needle and thread through the back of the braid, about half way up.
Step 6 - which creates this fold ...
Step 7 - Push the needle and thread back down through the base of the braid.
Step 8 - Thread upwards through to the back/top of the braid, dead in the center.
Step 9 - Fold the braid again and tuck it neatly under as you pull the thread through. Keep it very tight.
Step 10 - From the back, push the needle through the center of the rosette.
Step 11 - From the front, push the needle through the center of the rosette. Repeat two or three times, back and forth.
Step 12 - Cut the thread at the back & top of the braid, as close as you can.
Voila! Finished product.
Banded and sewn in from the side ...
Banded on the left, sewn in on the right ...
Cassandra had a few last pieces of advice for me ...
You can find Cassandra in Southern California at First Gem Dressage. She can be reached at (858) 282-7898 or by email at email@example.com.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read