Author: Debby Stansell, Alaria Moss Gypsy Horses
At my last horse show, as my large, mostly white, Gypsy gelding walked into the warm-up ring, someone asked me, “How long does it take you to get him that white?” With a chuckle I replied, “Five years!”
Bottom line, you cannot get a white horse, or a horse with a white tail, or white feathers, clean and sparkling white by just bathing him a day before the horse show. The key to a clean horse is commitment and consistency. Get dirty hair clean before it becomes stained hair!
Start with the Tail:
Wet the tail well with warm water, then wash it with your favorite shampoo. The secret to getting tails clean is to wet every hair, which is not as easy as it sounds, especially with thick tails. You can take a bucket of water and dip the tail into it carefully. For a white tail, after shampooing and rinsing the tail, add an extra step with a special whitening shampoo and let it work its magic while you work on the rest of the horse.
Move on to the Mane:
The soaking each hair applies to the mane as well. I like to use a mounting block to get up and over the top of the neck. This allows you to wash the mane right down to the roots. Have dandruff to deal with? You can rinse the roots with an antibacterial mouthwash to easily clean out stubborn flakes.
Time for the Body:
When bathing the body, I choose a shampoo that is safe to use often. Vetrolin and the Officinalis Line of shampoos are great options. Wet the body with warm water, and use them as directed. For especially dirty spots on the body, like grass stains or manure stains, try putting shampoo onto a Grooma Soft Touch Massage Brush and work the lather into the stain. Let it sit while you work on the rest of the body. This works well with general problem areas as well, like hocks and knees.
Many horses have white legs, and in my case, feathers! For the sake of your back, train your horse to stand quietly while you pull up a stool and sit to work on his legs. I have one of those little garden stools with wheels that works great. Be VERY CAREFUL when you do this, even the most well-trained horses can surprise you with a sudden move. After you thoroughly rinse the body and legs, be sure to scrape off the excess water with a scraper. This is important because leaving water on the horse’s body creates insulation and will not allow heat to escape, which can cause your horse to overheat quickly in hot weather. Rinse and scrape both sides several times until you feel sure that all the soap has been rinsed out. A quick tip for the next morning when you find dirty spots on your show ready horse, or when you unload him from the trailer and find manure stains on his clean tail and legs, give the Shapley’s Easy Out No Rinse Shampoo a try!
And Back to the Tail:
Now back to the tail, which has been soaking. Thoroughly rinse the whitener from the clean tail and allow the tail to air dry. Some whitening products can be sprayed on a wet or dry tail and left on without rinsing. Again, check the labels for directions. At this stage, you can also condition the mane and tail if needed.
Finally, the Face:
The face is the last thing. Be very, very careful! Some horses just won’t stand for hosing the face; it can be a very dangerous thing for both horse and human. Use a shampoo that’s safe for the eyes, even human baby shampoo is a good choice. If the horse will not tolerate hosing the face, don’t push the issue. Wash his face with a washcloth and towel instead. If he allows you to rinse his face, a bar of baby soap is an easy way to wash his face and not get soap in his eyes.
Remember, the most important part of keeping a horse clean is that he has a healthy hair coat! Shiny coats come from the inside. Clean ones come from consistent work and elbow grease!