I was riding my guy in my new fancy French braided reins...he spooked forward in the indoor ring, I was pulling myself back in the saddle and the the braided part broke and mean Mr. Gravity kicked in big time.
If by braided you mean plaited, I love the way those reins feel in my hands, but I have no idea which ones are stronger. In the old days plaited reins were terribly hard to clean but now that we have so many liquid cleansers (Effax Leder Combi for example, one of my favorites) I imagine it is just as easy to keep them clean as laced reins. You rarely see braided reins any more, they don't seem to be in fashion, but I especially dislike the current trend of using laced reins on pelhams.
I find plaited reins to be a bitch to hold onto in the rein. PITA to clean, too.
I remember when I was 14, I coveted a pair of plaits. I saved up all my allowance and chore money and bought a lovely pair from Dover, and I couldn't hold on to those suckers for nothin' when it rained or the horse got sweaty. They became a "spare set," and when a horse broke them almost 30 years later, I didn't replace them.
They were gorgeous, just beautiful, but not all that useful.
Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.
I much prefer braided/plaited over laced for the conforming to your hand issue already noted. I also think that braideds are easier to clean due to their flexibility vs the crevices on laced reins.
I had a lovely pair of braideds that went missing at my last barn, but to be fair, I left my stuff there to be used while I took a couple of years out of the saddle and any number of things could have happened to them. So if anyone has a pair that they aren't using, PM me and I'll gladly take them off of your hands...
Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.
I love plaited reins. But, finding good quality ones is very, very difficult. It is much, much easier to find good quality laced reins. I wouldn't bother buying plaited reins from anything but a really high quality maker.
As for strength, I would guess that strength is commensurate with the quality, not one type over the other. I have two everyday pairs of plaited reins that are gorgeous and going strong and they are both over 30 years old. Everyone who touches them agrees they are the cats meow. I've not had any problems with grip in the rain, again, that probably has more to do with the individual leather they were made from.
If anyone knows of a good source for plaited reins, I'm all ears.
Hadfields also makes them, they are gorgeous, and equally expensive as Country Saddler, I almost bought a pair at HITS last summer. The Hadfields ones are very long though, they are apparently popular with the Quarter Horse people.
I think Dover has them as well, or they did not too long ago, don't know what the quality is like though.
I have a pair of 15 year old plaited reins that I adore. After riding with them for so long I can't stand the laced reins anymore. I actually find them to have better grip, but they are harder to keep clean.
The laced reins are stronger than plaited reins. I have a pair of plaited reins form 1974. They have been around for a long time because I take good care of them and I use lace reins to school.
If you have a consignment shop in your area, try a pair of each and you will be able to make up your own mind about the difference in the two reins.
I have both pairs at home and I must say I really dislike the plaited ones - they feel very bulky and awkward in my hands -hence I never use them. My laced reins are too old now (don't see them around as much). Generally (off the top of my head) apart from my double bridles all my reins on my bridles are rubber covered.
I don't like the look of the braided reins BAC posted, personally, but I do love a nice pair of plaited reins! I've got a pair I use daily that were handed down from my Nana and are probably older than I am. I did have to replace the buckle, but other than that, they're going strong.
Stubben makes a relatively nice plaited rein for $160. Henri de Rivel makes a pair for under $100 that might be worth a try too. I can't remember which company it is, but one of the high end lines makes a really nice pair, except that they're super long to accommodate the AQHA hunter people. I did ask Arc de Triomphe about replicating the ones I have currently, and they said it was doable. I bet the quality would be fantastic from them!
It's funny; I find a lot of the crappy Indian-made bridles come with plaited reins, but that they're tough to find from high quality brands except as special order. I think it's also important to buy ones that are one piece, from bit through the braid instead of the ones that have the braid sewn into the solid bit - those ones are notorious for breaking at entirely the wrong time!