It’s inevitable if you have a light-colored horse: You’ve dealt with the problem of dingy, yellowed tails. Frustratingly, it’s a fact of life that all white horse tails will yellow as a part of a natural process of hair growth, but there are several grooming tricks you can use to keep your white horse tail bright and white:
Care for yellowed tails is two-part: 1. preventing the tail from picking up natural stains, like those from sleeping in contact with dirty stall bedding, and 2. using faint hair dye to counter the natural yellowing. Read on to learn about each of these methods.
Why do White Tails Turn Yellow
You might think that white tails yellow because of exposure to sun or to horse manure and waste, but actually the cells of a white tail are “clear” and since hair past the follicle is not living hair, the dead cells, when light shines through them, have a yellowish tinge. This can sound discouraging and like an omen that white tails will turn yellow no matter what you do, but here are a few of our best tips from showing a horse herd of mostly white and grey horses.
A Cheaper Alternative to Whitening Shampoos (AKA: DIY Hair Whitening Shampoo)
Good whitening shampoos work because the whitening process is actually achieved by a kind of dye that counteracts the yellow: a once common laundry additive called Mrs Stewarts Bluing.
Bluing doesn’t remove the yellow, but tints the cells slightly blue, which the human eye sees as white. There are many whitening shampoos on the market, but they are nearly all a combination of standard shampoo plus a blue dye agent. Save money and make your own with the addition of small amounts of laundry bluing to your shampoo.
Update 2020: Int he past few years I’ve switched from using Laundry Bluing to using color-depositing conditioner made for humans. It comes in a huge variety of shades (that can be used to tone or highlight darker tails or have some crazy fun with white tails) but the blue color depositing conditioner is perfect for keeping white horse tails brilliant, bright white!
Day to Day Care for White Tails
In between baths, I try to use a bluing spray, which helps with day-to day control of yellowing tails. Unfortunately, there’s no bluing spray on the market currently but I make my own by combining 2 teaspoons Mrs. Stewarts Bluing. added to a bottle of Infusium 23 Leave-in Conditioner. This conditions manes and tails while gently whitening.
Braiding your horse’s tail into a Tail Bag can help prevent staining from environmental factors. Please carefully consider when to braid tails- we only leave tails braided during the winter months (when tails aren’t needed for fly swatting). If you use a tail bag, unbraid the tail, wash it with whitening shampoo, and rebraid it every 2 weeks or so, and with a hot oil treatment every 6-8 weeks.
Static Electricity in Horse Tails
Sometimes static electricity can build up in the manes, tails or forelocks of horses during especially dry weather, during weather changes, or when a storm is rolling in. If static is causing the mane or tail to look disheveled, and you desire a neater look, you can rub the horse’s mane and tail with a dryer sheet (such as bounce, downy, or a store brand). Usually, this treatment will remove the static electricity from the mane or tail temporarily and allow the hair to tame and lay flat. Static electricity in a horse’s hair, coat, and tails is nothing to be alarmed about, but if your horse is particularly reactive you may want to remind yourself to touch something metal to discharge any static buildup in your body before touching your horse.
Read more about keeping white coats clean and bright.