Clips, combs, a big dull needle, gloves. Area VII eventer Lilia Haberman describes what most realize is a survival kit for braiders. And that’s exactly what she is: a braider, not to be mistaken with a groom. Grooms tend to be an all-in type, usually pairing the service offered with a specific professional and growing alongside a barn family—a right-hand man (or woman) for any event. But for Haberman, her braiding service goes wherever she does, whether that’s to events as a competitor or volunteer.
Born into a horse family, Haberman was riding before she knew how to walk. Once she turned seven, she was introduced to Misty Mountain Pony Club and sometime later, Carbon River Pony Club in Washington state. Both clubs gave Haberman the experience that other clubbers are familiar with—knowing and practicing good horsemanship and learning how to ride correctly, specifically in the eventing discipline. But there’s another side of the Pony Club coin: learning how to produce a well-turned-out horse.
“I rated up to C-2, traditional. That’s how you really learn about the turnout I think,” laughs Haberman. “Always having to be prepared for those darn inspections!” She learned how to braid as a simple means to an end for competition but there was more to it than that. Haberman remembers watching an instructional DVD that showed many different braiding techniques and studying it over and over until braiding became second nature to her. “I was practicing on my very naughty pony Dyna, she’s still kicking—she’s 37,” says Haberman. “I would braid for the shows and for Pony Club rallies. It was just for myself for a long time because I didn’t feel confident enough to braid for other people.”
When Haberman really got into eventing, some adult amateurs would ask her to braid their horse’s manes and then they’d “throw her a couple dollars,” which of course dangled a carrot of incentive for the young teenager who was trying to pay her way to events. So, an idea was born. “If I get good at this, I can charge for this,” says Haberman. For four years and through her transition to college, Haberman honed this braiding skill, collecting signature materials along the way. It was during her sophomore year—the year she finally had a car—that she attended the Spokane Sport Horse Farm Fall Event and began advertising her braiding service.
Now 26 years old, Haberman has developed her own preferences and also admits to adapting over time when it comes to what she uses on her own braiding belt. She prides herself on being able to tackle any kind of mane but she does offer some tips for the very best turnout possible.
“You don’t want to wash their mane too much because it’ll be too sleek and hard to get a grip on,” says Haberman. “A good scalp shampooing a week before, to let the oils build back up, is good. And if your horse has a thick mane, leave a little longer. If they have a thin mane, maybe leave it just a little longer so the braids can actually look more full and not just like little pea-sized dots on their neck.” Haberman also recommends trying out a braid on your horse beforehand, to see what you prefer and what looks best on your steed. Comically, Haberman says there is one snafu that is hard to accommodate, and that’s bald spots. “I’ve definitely made a fake braid from a horse’s tail to cover a bald spot,” says Haberman. “When I trim up something, I should really make a black, brown, and a white to keep on hand.” And that scrappy think-on-your-feet attitude is what keeps Haberman an area favorite for neat and secure braids.
“My braids are very tight and they will not come out overnight, even if they want to try to rub them,” says Haberman. “I braid with wax thread and I sew it in there. I tell people all the time if they show jump the next day they can just leave them in. I think in eventing we’ve all learned to stretch our dollar as much as we can.” And Haberman’s sentiment is a shared one across the eventing community. This side hustle has allowed her to cover the cost of coaching fees or any photographs she wants to purchase after an event, and every little bit helps. Her passion for the sport and devotion to her side job is the perfect marriage of time well spent both in the saddle and above the mane.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
This afternoon, USEA President Louise “Lou” Leslie welcomed U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors members, USEA staff, and USEA Annual Meeting & Convention attendees to the first of two Board meetings which will take place during this year’s Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, with the teaser that 2024 is going to be full of initiatives for more opportunities to access the eventing experience, some of which attendees might get first wind of during this year’s gathering. The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.
To accompany the 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention, USEA Educational Partner STRIDER has prepared Digital Resources to Maximize Education & Access for the Eventing Community. In keeping with the USEA’s mission to expand the sport of eventing, this webinar outlines ways in which digital tools can be leveraged to increase access and education across equestrian opportunities. As part of STRIDER’s popular Professional Development Webinar Series, this presentation aims to provide a quick overview of best practices and digital tools used across the equestrian industry to boost growth.