Keeping a white horse looking white can be a challenge. Here are some tips to keep your white horse white, while still allowing them to live as horses.
Environment: The First Line of Defense
The first (and most often forgotten) way to keep a horse’s white fur brilliantly white is to pay attention to the area the horse lives in.
- To keep a gray or white horse clean while still letting them live normally, minimize their contact with the following:
- freshly mowed, wet, or very lush grass
If this sounds hard, don’t worry! There are practical steps that are simple to take, such as extra shavings in their stall to absorb urine and frequent stall cleaning if/when they are kept in their stall.
Try to keep your white horse out of pastures made up of red or clay soil.
HINT: If you can, have a load of sand dumped in the middle of your pasture (For safety’s sake, keep it far from fences and from the area where horses will be fed hay). Most horses will gravitate to the sandy spot to roll because it feels good, but dust and sand on the coat actually help prevent grass and mud stains and actually help naturally clean the coat.
If you are unable to provide a clean, sandy space to roll in the pasture, you can do the same with well-timed turnout in a clean area such as a roundpen or arena. After a ride, untack and allow your horse 5-10 minutes in the roundpen or arena before you turn them loose in their pasture. They’ll likely use the time to roll in the relatively clean footing of the arena rather than in fresh mud or grass.
Most horses will roll while sweaty and providing them after-exercise turnout in a clean space may prevent them from running to a mud puddle as soon as they are turned out.
Trick for Keeping White Horses Brilliantly Bright
One frequently used trick for keeping white coats brilliant is Laundry Bluing, which can be added to an all-over coat conditioner- such as EQyss’s Avocado Conditioner Spray. I like this spray for our horses because it doesn’t contain silicone and is meant for the entire coat, not just mane and tail. Dilute the conditioner 50/50 water, and then to the diluted solution add 2-3 drops of laundry bluing (no more than 3 drops).
Apply this mixture every time you groom to create brighter, whiter coats within days. Be careful not to add to much bluing, as bluing is a dye and can color hair and/or irritate skin if used in too strong of a concentration.
On show mornings
Both cornstarch and chalk are old tricks from the heyday of horse showing that will help coverup any mud, uring, or manure spots you can’t shampoo out. A product by Tail Tamer called “Pony Paint” is a liquid form of chalk that we like for it’s ease of application and how the efect is more natural looking than the blocks of chalk.
It’s well known among horse owners that bright sunlight can bleach black horse hair to brown, but did you know that UV can also alter the color of White and Grey horse’s coats? A recent study showed that
All hair types showed a substantial increase in protein loss in water after lamp and sun irradiation. The damaging effect of UVB was about 2-5 times higher than that of UVA plus visible radiation, depending on the hair type. Significant color changes were also observed in every hair type, after lamp and sun irradiation, being more pronounced for the light colored hairs.¹
You might think that white fur, often assumed to be “colorless,” would not be affected, but white fur can also change- sometimes becoming yellowed- in response to sunlight.
These changes are minor and will not be noticable on most white or grey horses, but if you are concerned, turnout with a UV blocking lightweight sheet may provide protection from both UV damage to the coat and also transferred stains from the horse’s environment.
Other tips for keeping white horses clean can be found on our articles about braiding in tail bags and keeping white tails in particular looking clean and bright.