Getting Gray Horses Gray Again

by Matt

Gray horses do not want to be gray. They make this clear to us every time we turn around, seemingly — gray horses want to be brown, green, or black. They let us know their preference by rolling in whatever camouflage they can find, whether it’s fresh spring grass, an alluring pool of mud, or sadly, manure.

Since spring grass, brown mud, and manure are not accepted colors by any breed organization that I can think of, it falls upon we horse owners to get our horses cleaned up and back to their original colors before anyone else sees them. Especially if we’re going to a horse show. So let’s look at a couple of great methods for getting our gray horses gray again.

Spot Cleaning:
Here’s a trick all resourceful grooms should have up their sleeves: rubbing alcohol and an old towel. When you’re getting a gray horse ready to go and he’s just got a few streaky stains that need to get buffed out, spray them with plain old rubbing alcohol and then lean into that stain with your towel. This is ideal when you don’t need a perfectly gleaming unicorn to prance into the show-ring, but just need to turn out a well-groomed horse for every day work.

Full-Body Bath:
Gray horses on their way to a show will get a special gleam to their coat, stained or not, with an application of purple shampoo. You’ll find a few different brands of whitening shampoo at the tack shop. What most of them have in common is that they’re purple, and they turn everything they touch purple. Your horse, your horse’s tail, the wash-rack drain, your hands, your t-shirt — everything gets purple!

This makes it imperative that you read the directions and time your shampoo-to-rinse time carefully. Because while purple horses are cute, they are probably not going to score any extra points in the show-ring for their fantasy-pony aesthetic. Two or three minutes is usually the longest you’ll want to let the purple stuff sit on the hair; you can go a little longer on dirty tails.

Some grooms will apply whitening shampoo full-strength only to stains and to lower legs, which bear the brunt of ground-in grime. For the rest of the horse, a good scrubbing with a plain shampoo (think Orvus or any other regular horse shampoo) and then a half-strength whitening shampoo to add a silvery gleam is attention enough.

Sealing the Job:
Just like sealing wood against water, you can keep a gray horse sealed off from the elements… for a brief period of time. A silicon hair polish like ShowSheen can keep coats and tails clean, warding away stains like Teflon. Just don’t forget that non-stick sprays are also very, very slippery – and keep them away from anyplace you want to put harness or tack!

These are just a few ideas. What have you tried?

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