Grooming tips for the sun-bleached horse


The sun-bleached horse often looks patchy – lighter yellow areas where sweat and UV light have partied and stolen your horse’s coloring.  You may see the sun’s damage on blacks, chestnuts, bays, and even palomino horses.  This may be one of the only reasons to have a gray horse.  So how do you keep your horse’s dark coat from becoming sun-bleached and looking like the cover of a hair-band tribute album?


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Sweat and sun-bleaching


  • Many horses of all colors, and especially black horses, will show some signs of sun bleaching. The most common areas for this are where the sweat accumulates – such as the saddle area and around the face in an oh, so flattering outline of the bridle. The degree of bleaching is determined first by genetics. Then you can add in a multitude of other factors, such as diet, mineral supplementation, and exposure to the sun.


  • A horse’s diet provides the necessary nutrients for a horse to create a gorgeous coat.  Minerals and fatty acids help the horse produce and deposit pigments on the individual hair shafts.  When there is sub-par pigmentation, you will see bleaching.  Sweat and UV rays add to this – the same reason that the sun will bleach our own hair.  


Tips for preventing sun bleaching


  • First things first, check with your equine nutritionist and/or veterinarian to be sure your horse’s diet is well balanced, especially with minerals linked to the hair coat, like copper and zinc. Here’s what our friends at Kentucky Performance Products can tell us about hair coat and how it relates to diet:

“Even horses consuming enough energy to maintain appropriate weight can be missing the vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins needed to support a shiny hair coat and healthy mane and tail. Certain nutrients, such as omega fatty acids; the trace minerals zinc, copper and iodine; the essential amino acids lysine and methionine (found in high-quality proteins) and the B vitamin biotin, must be present in the correct amounts in a horse’s diet or skin, hooves, and hair will suffer.

Access to fresh green grass is the best way to ensure lots of dapples and a luxurious tail. Feeding good quality hay is a must and choosing the appropriate concentrate (grain or pellet) to complement your hay’s nutrient contribution is essential. Proper nutrition is the best way to keep your horse’s coat looking good from the inside out. If coat condition is a problem, work with your veterinarian or equine nutritionist to review your horse’s diet and make the necessary adjustments.”

Fly masks can help prevent sun-bleaching. 

Daily preventative measures for a sun-bleached coat


  • When your horse is sweaty, rinse the sweat off.  After your horse is dry, groom away any residue.  Letting your horse dry completely before turning into the sun is best.  Well, even if it’s cloudy, UV light still makes its way down.


  • I also love the thin and inexpensive fly sheets to ward off sun bleaching! They are light, airy, and repel flies.  A fly mask will help also with the bridle areas. 


  • Shapley’s makes a super nifty EquiTone shampoo for dark bay, red, black, and palomino horses.  Any color-enhancing shampoo needs time to work, so lather up your horse and then let him marinate in the shampoo for about 10 minutes before rinsing. 


  • If you can, do your turnouts at night.  Many parts of the land do this anyway to avoid daytime bugs and temperatures.  


  • You can use some “sunscreen products”. There are great, all-natural products, like sprays, that can help your horse’s color stay true. 


What has worked for you?






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Big Hoss - Outlaw Nutrition

Omega 3's plus gut health support in a delicious cold milled flax formula. It's delicious and it will turn your horse's coat into a mirror.

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SHAPLEY'S 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo, RED

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Shapley's No.2 Heavy Oil

For deep conditioning and detangling - coat, mane, and tail.

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