How to Make a Bun

Ever wonder how to make a neat, tidy horsemanship bun? Get the inside scoop from a former AQHYA horsemanship world champion.

Ever wonder how to make a neat, tidy horsemanship bun? Get the inside scoop from a former AQHYA horsemanship world champion.

ask_expertCarey Nowacek, the 2010 Built Ford Tough AQHYA Horsemanship World Champion, explains how to make the perfect horsemanship hair bun.


I compete in horsemanship and I understand that it’s important to have a nice, tidy bun, but I can never seem to get the hang of it. I enjoyed watching the horsemanship competitors online at the AQHA World Championship Show, but their tidy buns made me jealous!

How do you make a neat, tidy bun?


The perfect bun first starts with a good pony tail.

The placement of the pony tail depends on the shape of your head and where your hat falls. Usually you want a lower bun, but not at the base of your neck. There still should be a little bit of hair showing at the bottom. You should have about 2 inches of hair showing at the bottom of your neck under the pony tail. And remember, the top of your bun is going to hit right below your hat.

There are four things that you will need to make a tight bun:

  1. Hair spray (preferably lower-end hair spray because it’s generally stickier)
  2. Bobby pins
  3. Hair bands
  4. A good hair net

After you’ve made the pony tail, twist your hair, then continue twisting until your hair twists into a bun. Use a hair band to secure the loose bun.

Next, place the hair net over your bun and twist and layer the net over the bun until all of the excess net is used.

Finally, use the bobby pins to secure the edges of the hair net to your hair. Ask a friend to help you direct bobby pins so that you have a centered, secure bun.

Carey Nowacek

2010 Built Ford Tough AQHYA Horsemanship World Champion

Check out the December 2011 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal for all of Carey’s tips, including some great visuals, on how to make the perfect tight bun.

2 thoughts on “How to Make a Bun”

  1. I used to make buns for my daughters and their friends when they were showing saddleseat equitation. This discipline also requires a neat, tidy bun. I used a folded bun instead of a round one because it allowed me to place a small conservative bow matching the shirt or other accessory under the hairnet in the middle of the bun.
    BUT a very quick way to achieve a neat round bun is the use of a bun maker. Buy them at CVS in the hair aisle… it’s two attached plastic strips covered in black or tan velvet that pop into a coil with your hair wrapped around it. It stays put, may not even require a net, and in most cases of long hair, you won’t need a pony tail first. Practice before the show for proper placement and technique.
    The folded bun is a little more interesting… You’ll need an ouchless hair elastic, a metal clip barette, hair pins, a few oversized bobby pins for thinner hair, another metal clip barrette for thick hair, regular bobby pins, a invisible fine hair net (NOTE: nothing is as unattractive as a course, visible hairnet that isn’t the same color as the hair. Make sure you use the invisible fine netting!), a comb, and lots of hair spray.
    Brush hair and pull back into a low pony tail. Pull it up against the back of the head and clip it into the hair above the ponytail holder. Must be snug. Spray lightly with hair spray and tease the underside of loose hair. Starting at the end of the hair, begin to roll the hair under until the smooth bun that forms is just long enough to reach BELOW the hair tie. Using the oversized bobby pins, secure the bottom of the bun into the hair under the hair tie. Gently spread the bun out so that it’s about 4 inches wide and spray. Should look like half a ball but not as perfect. Start pinning hair pins into the edges to give it shape, careful not to take too much poof out of it. Now is the time to add a small bow to the bun, secure with a hair pin. Some prefer to have a little hair over the tops of the ears, others want the hair behind the ears. Make your decision before you apply the hair net. Pull the hair net over the bun starting at the bottom, and bring forward to the top of the forehead. There is often an excess of netting and I make a little knot with it on the forehead. It will be hidden by the hat. Secure netting around the bun, sculpting as you go. Remember, you want a distinct bun back there. Spray again making sure no loose hair sticks out anywhere. You want a very neat, refined look, no messy buns here! Small sparkling earrings are essential.
    By now, you should have enough spray in your hair to hold it through anything. It will even help hold your hat on but if you have any doubts, use bobby pins to secure the inside hat band into your hair above your ears.
    Very long, thick hair presents a different approach. Very few barettes will hold it into a folded bun but it can be done with practice. In these cases, it was easier to make the bun with braided hair. Very pretty and quick.
    On show days, it wasn’t uncommon for me to prepare my daughter’s hair and makeup (one for walk-trot, one for leadline) and the other girls from the stable as well. Each girl had their own ‘Caboodle’, just a name for their personal hair and makeup kit along with an emergency sewing kit, safety pins, and scissors for trimming numbers. We also used black tape to secure the cuffs of black gloves for a smooth look, and white tape for white gloves.
    The final picture we aimed for was sleek perfection…just enough makeup to accent lips and cheeks, easy on the eye makeup, perfect hair, and well-tailored clothing. You could be the best rider out there but if your hair is sloppy or loose, your clothes don’t fit properly, or your horse is dirty, you will be at a distinct disadvantage. Good luck!

  2. I also used to “do” my daughter’s hair into a bun when she was showing AQHA Youth shows. What I always noticed was that the buns for Saddle Seat and any of the high stepping horses was a totally different bun from the ones we used in AQHA. In AQHA, you want the bun to be neat, tight and up toward the hat with a bit of hair line showing at the bottom. Also, you NEVER put the net all the way up to the forehead. Always wrap the net around the bun and then pin in place. If there is excess (too little to wrap one last time and too much to leave hanging) then twist into a small ball and pin under the bun where is doesn’t show.

    Hair spray is always a necessity – even the boys used it to keep their hats on once they figured out the trick. If you put your hat on with the hair still damp with spray, it is like glue and you better not be trying to pull the hat off between classes – it will take hair with it and the smooth, polished look will be lost in about 2 seconds.

    But for the bun, I used to “rat” the hair and then brush just enough down to look smooth on the top. The ratted hair made the bun full and the smooth down hair made it look tidy. Then spray, wrap with net and spray again. (Never too much spray.) This ratting works really well with the layered styles. I never quite mastered using the bun rolls available at CVS – but if you can, that is a GREAT idea.

    Same tip for keeping the hat on with pins. But I did notice that when I pinned my hat on, at the end of the day I had a MAJOR headache from the pressure points caused by the pins. So most of the time I opted for the spray – no pressure points.

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