We are so excited to bring you this new feature to The Barn Rat! This week we interview Michele Powell, a braider who works up and down the east coast following her clients to some of the most popular shows!
TBR: What is your job title?
MP: Equine Braider
TBR: Describe your position and your average work day.
MP: I braid horses manes and tails for shows. I mostly just do hunter braids but on occasion I also do dressage braids and jumper plaits. As a braider you work all night long starting usually after the barns do their night check. Some people think the job is relatively easy work but what people don’t understand is that we are literally getting on and off a step ladder for sometimes over 12hrs with your arms up and braiding tiny insanely tight braids. It can definitely be hard on the body. The positive side is that we get to be around the horses when there is almost no one else around so they are usually very quiet and relaxed. For me it’s almost a calming, meditative job.
TBR: What is the best part of your job?
MP: I would say the best part of the job is being able to have day time hours to do with what you please. Also, a lot of jobs in the industry require you to kind of be at the beck and call of someone else almost around the clock. With braiding when the job is done you are done. I also really enjoy just being able to be around the horses without all the commotion of day time horse show life.
TBR: What is the hardest/least desirable part of your job?
MP: The hours. For sure. Working nights is hard and exhausting. Our sleep schedule is SOOO incredibly messed up! Sometimes we’re able to sleep a little bit at night and just go out suuuuper early (1 or 2am) if we only have a few horses to braid, and other times we only get to have a few hours in between one night’s work and the next because it’s so busy! You have to get used to sleeping during the day which for me is really difficult. I’m a total rise with the sun kind of girl, so I literally have to blackout my room as much as possible in order to be able to get any sort of good sleep. And then on the off nights you try to sleep at night... which TOTALLLLLLY throws everything out of wack. So yeah.. the hours are brutal but I think worth it. It’s just something you have to get used to.
TBR: How many hours a week do you spend working? What is the work/life balance like?
MP: It really all depends on how many days the horse shows run, and how many horses your clients have showing. Could be anywhere from 10-50+hrs a week. As for work/life balance, I’ve worked as a groom, barn manager, and also an instructor and I have more of a life outside the barn now than I ever had with any of those jobs. My opinion is that it definitely gives you a bit more freedom than other jobs in the industry do.
TBR: What advice would you give to someone wanting to do this job?
MP: Learn a basic braid and a basic French braid. Find a professional to teach you all the little tips and tricks and practice until you literally can’t anymore. It’s a skill like any other. Once you learn it you can be good at it with enough practice.
TBR: What experience or schooling did you need to qualify for this job?
MP: It’s definitely helpful to have horse experience (although some braiders don’t when they start) because you’re dealing with these animals when no one else is around. You need to know basic barn safety.
TBR: What is the range of pay for this position?
MP: Depends on how hard you want to work and what you charge your customers. I’ve found the going rate is$95 mane and tail ($65/mane, $30/tail). But it varies. And it depends on how many horses you are braiding a night.
TBR: What are 3 things you would want someone applying for this job to know?
MP: Don’t get discouraged. Don’t steal other braiders accounts. Basically just be respectful.