Grooming the yellow horse back to white
Ah, the yellow horse. Common yellow areas are the manes, tails, and bellies of gray and white horses. Sort of an ombre look – from yellow to actual horse color. It’s sort of a mix of what causes this yellowing – urine, manure, dirt, air, and your horse’s natural aura, all mixed up into a distinctly yellow color on your horse.
Here is what I know for absolute certainty about dingy horses:
- It takes time to get that way, so it will take time to undo.
- Avoid going all out on detergents. You will end up with a more brittle hair coat and tail which will just soak up stains more easily.
- It’s the long game here, folks. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your bright white horse won’t be either. Building great grooming habits that focus on the curry comb, clean bedding, and conditioning the hair all help.
Tips to stop your white horse from turning yellow-sish
- Use ultra-clean and ultra-deep bedding if possible. Clean your horse’s habitat as much as possible.
- Let your horse be oily. His natural oils protect the hair and provide a natural barrier to stains. Stripping oils (the sebum) with harsh shampoos or ultra-frequent bathing removes these oils.
- When you do shampoo, rinse out thoroughly! And then rinse again! And you can follow with a white vinegar rinse if you like. The vinegar also brightens the hair a little.
- For mares, find a way to loosely braid the shorter tail hairs at the top of the tail so that the urine stream misses them. You don’t have to braid like you are going into the hunter ring, keep it loose and comfortable. More on that here!
- Keep the tail clean and conditioned. Healthy hair doesn’t take stains as quickly as brittle and damaged hair. Grooming oils are a fantastic leave-in conditioner. You can use a dollop as needed, or use enough to drench the tail before putting in a tail bag. After a day or so, you can rinse out what’s left, and if there’s still some residual oil use a mild shampoo.
- Don’t be afraid to bang the tail, if it’s appropriate for your discipline. This removes the super icky stained parts. You might notice a huge difference with just an inch or so. For directions on banging a horse’s tail, read this.
How to get that yellow out of your horse
- Curry like there’s no tomorrow. And then curry some more. Your elbow grease takes your horse’s sebum and smears it, coating more hair and boosting shine. That protective layer of natural oil also repels stains.
- Try lifting stains with a steamy washcloth – if your horse is naturally oily this typically works and you don’t need to add product. You can add a spot remover like Easy Out, a no-rinse shampoo if a damp cloth alone doesn’t lift the entire stain.
- Groom your horse daily. Attend to the stains daily.
- You can use white vinegar to try and remove the stains on the tail and mane. I have read (but not tried) a baking soda paste to remove stains, then rinse with white vinegar. Yes, you are creating a stain-removing volcano.
- You can try ketchup – again, I’ve read about it but not tried it. Also know that the smell might make you retch, and you will have to shampoo it out. In which case, why would you try it if you have to shampoo it out after? Another thing about ketchup – a primary ingredient is vinegar. Try the vinegar first, which you don’t have to wash out.
- You can use bluing shampoos. Use delicately and diligently. Know that most of these change the color of the stain, the blue/purple blends with the yellow to brighten the hair. Much like a toner would at the salon.
- For Pete’s sake – skip the laundry detergents. Your horse’s body and tail are not a pile of socks and skivvies. The harsh chemicals will set you back even further as the brittle results soak up more stains. Detergents strip away oils, leaving a wake of dryness as a result.
- Keep the tail conditioned! You can use a conditioner for horses at bath time, or you can use a spray-in conditioner or detangler. You may need to experiment with how much to use, as sometimes too much creates dirt glue.
- And then curry some more. And then some more.
Try oil buffing your horse to repel future stains
Oil buffing is a technique to work a grooming oil into your horse’s coat to act as a condition and stain repellent. There are tons of ways to do this, it depends on the season.
In warmer months, you can add some grooming oil to a bucket of water. Sponge onto your horse, either after a bath or anytime you need a shine boost.
In cooler months, use hot water and oil to hot-towel your horse. You can lift dirt by using your cloth (which you will wring out every last drop) as a curry comb, adding a touch of grooming oil.
For more on oil buffing and all of the ways to do it, read this gem
You can have a non-yellow horse – but it takes time. Keep at it daily and be smart about not stripping your horse’s hair and skin. Happy Grooming!
General gray horse grooming tips
Oil buffing goodness
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For all colors - to add shine and help lift stains.