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Pro Grooming Secrets for White and Grey Horses

Reduce grooming time by controlling your white horse's environment
Reduce grooming time by controlling your white horse’s environment

Keeping a white horse looking white can be a challenge. Below are our best tips to keep your white horse white, while still allowing them to live as horses.

Keeping Horses Clean By Managing their Environment:

Stalls and Pastures: The First Line of Defense

The first (and often, most forgotten) way to keep a white horse’s fur brilliantly white is to pay attention to the area the horse lives in.

To keep a white or grey horse clean while, minimize their contact with the following:

  • manure
  • urine
  • clay
  • freshly mowed, wet, or very lush grass

If this sounds hard, don’t worry! There are practical steps that are simple steps you can take to help prevent stains and discoloration from ever reaching a horse’s coat.

Easy steps to take to keep your horse clean:

1. Add extra shaving in your horse’s stall.

Extra shavings can help absorb urine. When shavings absorb the urine, it can’t transfer to your horse’s white coat or markings when your horse lays down.

2. Clean stalls of white and grey horses frequently.

Frequent stall cleaning can also help reduce the opportunity for urine and manure to discolor a coat. If possible, pick up soiled bedding from your horse’s stall more often.

3. Reduce contact with clay

Dirt with a high concentration of clay is one of the most difficult stains to remove from the coat of a light-colored horse. Rather than investing your time in endless currying and bathing to remove clay stains from fur, minimize contact with this type of dirt. For horse owners who board their horse and frequently show, you may wish to evaluate the soil in turnout before moving your horse.

4. Create a grooming-friendly designated space for rolling

If you can, purchase a truckload of sand dumped in your pasture. Most horses will gravitate to the sandy spot to roll because it feels good, and will clean their coat in the process! Sand prevents grass and mud stains and actually help naturally clean the coat. Be careful to place the sandpile far from fences and from feeding areas (Sand can pose a risk if ingested, or if it causes the horse to roll too close to a fence).

5. Plan where your horse rolls.

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. Because horses tend to roll after being untacked, 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.

6. Manage grass in Pastures

Although grass can stain coats, grass stains tend to be easier to clean than clay stains. Minimize the transfer of clay-based mud and dirt by caring for the grass in your pastures. According to Pennsylvania State University, rotational grazing can improve the yield and nutrition of your pastures and help your grey, white, or pinto horse stay clean.

7. Use Blankets and sheets to prevent stains before shows

Because getting a light-colored horse show-ready can take hours, purchase a lightweight waterproof sheet so you can start show-prep the night before.

 

Getting White Horses Clean through Grooming:

Specialized Grooming: Tips and Tricks for Brilliant White Horses and Markings

Even with great horse management practices, good grooming practices are essential for getting your horse’s white markings show-ring ready.

8. Use a tinted coat conditioner

One frequently used trick for keeping white coats brilliant is Laundry Bluing, which can be added to an all-over coat conditioner. Keep reading for my recipe for a tinted horse-coat conditioner.

9. Adopt a regular grooming process

Grooming helps stimulate coats to create healthy coats that aren’t too dry or too oily. Healthy coats with healthy oil level resists stains. Use a complete grooming process of currying, brushing, and finishing.

10. Avoid Overexposure to Sunlight and UV Rays

In addition to a risk of horse sunburn, UV light can alter light-colored coats. 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 grey and white 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. (Read the study on PubMed

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 noticeable 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.

11. Wrap Tails

Wrapping tails can be a way to keep white tails from hollowing, read more in our article dedicated to keeping white tails looking clean and bright.

Show Morning Grooming for Light Colored Horse Coats:

12. Use artificial coat brighteners

Both cornstarch and chalk are old tricks previous generations of horse show competitors that still work today to coverup any mud, urine, or manure spots you can’t shampoo out. When I’m showing our curly horses in competitions or breed demos, I use blocks of chalk designed for livestock sow competitors.

How to Make a Mane, Tail, & Coat Whitening Spray for Horse Grooming

Fill a spray bottle with 50/50 conditioner and water mixture

Add equal amounts of water and leave in conditioner to a 16 oz. spray bottle.

Add laundry bluing to bottle

Add 2-3 drops of laundry bluing (no more than 5 drops in a 16 ounce spray bottle). 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.

Stir and Spray

Mix the contents of the bottle and spray on your horse’s mane and tail every time you groom to create brighter, whiter coats within days.

Estimated Cost: 10 USD

Supply:

  • Laundry Bluing
  • Leave in Conditioner

Tools:

  • Spray Bottle with fine mist setting

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.

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