Friday, May. 24, 2024

Make Your Gray Horse Shine

The grooms who put the polish on show jumper Robinson and eventer Courageous Comet share a few tips and tricks.

Gray horse owners everywhere are stuck with the daunting task of making that coat bright, shiny, and as white as possible. While it’s tempting at times to simply drench a gray horse in bleach and proceed to cover every part of him with blankets and wraps to prevent the inevitable, there are ways to keep a light-colored horse squeaky clean without running him through the local car wash on a daily basis.

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The grooms who put the polish on show jumper Robinson and eventer Courageous Comet share a few tips and tricks.

Gray horse owners everywhere are stuck with the daunting task of making that coat bright, shiny, and as white as possible. While it’s tempting at times to simply drench a gray horse in bleach and proceed to cover every part of him with blankets and wraps to prevent the inevitable, there are ways to keep a light-colored horse squeaky clean without running him through the local car wash on a daily basis.

More Than One Way To Wash

Tony Camarena, the man responsible for the impressive turnout of Richard Spooner’s now-retired international show jumper, Robinson, said the trick to keeping gray horses clean starts from the first grooming.

“Getting the horses clean the first time is the hardest part,” he acknowledged. “But keeping on top of it is easy.”

For horses with long winter coats, body clipping is a logical first step to remove stains, but owners can also invest in a good shampoo that’s developed for light coats, such as Quic Silver, White ‘N Brite, Cowboy Magic Shine In, Yellow Out, Gold Nugget Super Whitening or Silverado Silver Whitening.

Camarena said he dilutes Quic Silver with water before washing, but Quic Silver and similar products can be applied directly from the bottle. But be diligent, as the shampoos can turn the coat a faint shade of purple. Don’t panic, though, the tint is not permanent, and another good washing should remove any hint of color.

Investing in an equine-specific whitening shampoo isn’t always necessary. Quic Lights, a whitening shampoo for humans, works as well. There are also several shampoos designed for people with gray hair, such as Pantene Pro-V, that can be just as useful.

Non-whitening shampoos can also be effective, though some products work better than others. Orvus WA Paste is cost efficient and, as a bonus, can be used to wash just about everything. Another inexpensive option is dish soap, such as Dawn or Ivory. Since it’s designed for people, it is generally gentle on the horse’s skin, though as with all shampoos, users should test each product on a small area before using on the entire body, just in case there is a reaction.

“I generally only use Quic Silver on [Comet’s] body for special horse show occasions,” said Aubrey Dunkerton, Becky Holder’s go-to girl when her 2008 Olympic Games event horse, Courageous Comet, needs to shine. “His skin is fairly sensitive so on a daily basis I use Ivory.”

Out, Green Spot!

If a full bath is not an option, there are a variety of products designed for stain removal, such as Vetrolin Green

Other Tricks To Try (Or Avoid)

Laundry Detergent – Some horsemen swear that laundry detergent is the key to getting a horse super clean. Careful monitoring is essential, though, as detergent can dry out a horse’s skin and hair.

Laundry Bluing – An old-school method of whitening clothing, it isn’t as popular as it once was. Users should take caution, as the bluing will stain hands and can stain the horse if it’s on for too long. Unless you want a blue roan, use with caution, and follow directions on the bottle.

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Oxiclean – While the product is amazing for cleaning your kitchen counters and making your laundry extra fresh, test a small area on your horse before using. It tends to heat up in water, so use caution.

Baking Soda – Use in addition to normal shampooing. Get a stained area nice and soapy, then apply baking soda on top and let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse well.

Betadine Scrub –That blood-orange red shampoo has more uses than just disinfecting wounds. Similar to the whitening shampoos, you shouldn’t leave this on for too long unless you want orange socks.

Toothpaste – Gently scrub onto white spots or stains and rinse. It will at least leave your horse smelling minty fresh! Seems to work best for leg markings.

Hair Dye – Use caution. Hair dye is illegal on the body, according to U.S. Equestrian Federation rules, but can be used with care on the maned or tail.
 
Vinegar – Use as a soak for tails or as a spray-on spot remover.

Talc/Baby Powder/Corn Starch – Mix with a little water, and in paste form, smear it on white markings or stains. Brush off when dry. Can also be used as an emergency cover up in powder form. Just be sure the judge
doesn’t come by and give your powdered horse a big pat!

Please use caution when trying out any of these methods. Every horse is different and may be sensitive to ingredients in the products listed. Before dumping a bucket of vinegar on your horse, test a small area and observe for at least 24 hours to be sure the horse will not react to the product. Making your horse sparkle for the horse show isn’t half as important as his health and comfort.

Spot Out, Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover, Miracle Groom and Wow! Whitener.

“Rubbing alcohol works great, too,” said Camarena. Rubbing alcohol has the advantage of being quick drying and inexpensive but can be irritating to horses with sensitive skin or small cuts

“The main trick for getting the green spots off is cleaning the spots more than once,” said Dunkerton. “Even with a cleaner like Cowboy Magic, the green spot does not go away with one try. If I am tacking up and notice a spot, I clean it off right away, let it dry a little, then come back and scrub it again.”

Using most of these products requires a strong arm and a sturdy towel. Spray the product on the stain, let it sit for a moment or two, than apply the towel (wet or dry) as if using a curry comb. However, don’t use the nice dish towels you were given as a wedding gift, since the stains will transfer from horse to fabric.

“The best way to get the green spots off is the old-fashioned trip to the wash rack so that you can use soap,” said Dunkerton. “I normally do this, if possible, a few hours before he needs to be clean.”

For horses with spots permanently stained into their coats, Dunkerton recommended using baby powder.

“It’s really helpful because it does not irritate their skin and can be used on their legs or body,” she said. “If you apply baby powder to a stain, it is important to stand back and look at the area in the sunlight to make sure that it is not obvious baby powder was utilized.

“The best way to stay on top of the stains is to remove them on a daily basis,” Dunkerton added.

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Manes And Tails

“If a horse show is coming up, I start washing [Comet’s] mane and tail at the beginning of the week in order for them to look really good by the weekend,” said Dunkerton. “If you wait until the last minute to wash them, neither the mane nor tail will look as white.”

Both Dunkerton and Camarena said that using a bleach product works well on really nasty tails, but they cautioned that pure bleach needs to be diluted in water.

Camarena uses a bucket to mix the bleach with water, then soaks the tail for 5 to 7 minutes.

“You only have to do it two or three times,” he said, though he did mention that many gray or white horses have colored hairs in their tails, so in some cases a tail will never look clean no matter how many times you wash it.

“When I use Tide with Bleach [on Comet’s tail] I put the soap directly on and let it stand for a few minutes,” said Dunkerton. “I make sure that he does not swish himself with his tail, as I do not want the bleach to burn his skin.”

Another way to keep a tail clean is to use a tail bag, though if your horse has pasture pals, they may view it as a chew toy. Tail bags are effective, and owners can make them with a bit of fabric and a sewing machine.

Keeping Them Clean And Shining

“Persistence is really the best way to keep a horse white,” said Dunkerton, who recommended using a blanket or sheet with a neck to keep a horse blindingly white. “In warm weather I use a neck sheet that is part light cotton and
part mesh.”

While repeated baths can make a coat dull, a good curry comb is an easy way to keep a coat shining and healthy, said Camarena. Currying, and grooming in general, increases circulation and brings the healthy oil that the skin naturally produces up from the root to coat the hair.

“I don’t use a lot of products if I don’t need to,” he said. “It’s not hard to keep them clean if you groom them [as often as possible].”

Of course, Camarena had the foolproof, 100 percent guaranteed way of keeping those white horses bright and shining.

“Keep the stall clean,” he said with a laugh. “Horses love to roll, especially in fresh shavings. You keep the stall clean, you keep the horse clean.” 

Coree Reuter

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