How to keep your horse’s tail white!
Tails can quickly turn yellow due to urine stains. And wet bedding. And rolling around in the dirt. It’s always a challenge to keep your horse’s tail white and bright. Start from the inside out, with good nutrition. A common theme, that nutrition. Then work on cleaning the tail, and preventing future stains.
This tail needs some detangling, cleaning, and conditioning.
- If you have a mare, your task will be a bit harder than if you have a gelding. The urine stream from mares sometimes hits the tail. This can happen if a blanket’s tail cover prevents the tail from lifting, or if the blanket’s back straps redirect the urine stream. Some horses with neuropathy in the tails won’t be able to lift them.
- You can also loosely braid a mare’s tail at the top, so the shorter hairs along the upper tail don’t fall into the urine stream. More on that here.
- The jury is still out on if you should use a tail bag or not. Some say if the tail bag gets wet with urine, it just amplifies the stain on the tail. Others say the bag gets every last strand away from the urine stream. Clearly, this is on a case-by-case basis.
Shampoo the tail
- Many of us like those blueing or purple shampoos, and have used them successfully. Strong whitening shampoos turn your horse’s tail lavender if left on too long. They may also strip any bits of natural oils that your horse has from the tail hair, leaving things more brittle and apt to take stains.
- I will wash my horse’s tail about once every 2 weeks, or even longer, depending on the ick factor. I used warm water to wet the tail, a mild shampoo to lather, and I worked from top to bottom, before rinsing with warm water. No matter the brand you use, I always suggest mild and gentle shampoo first.
- A rinse before and after shampoo with distilled white vinegar can help you remove stains and remove all remnants of shampoo. Although, some folks swear by apple cider vinegar as a rinse, too.
Protect the clean, white tail from future stains
- I can’t stress this enough – the tail needs a conditioner. This could be a cream conditioner or a grooming oil that penetrates the hair to create softness and repel stains.
- If you like a conditioner, try and choose one that rinses easily. I find that even a tiny residue can irritate the tail skin, and act as a magnet for dirt after the tail is dry.
Detangling the tail
- Opt for wide-toothed combs and brushes for mane and tail care. You may decide you want to pick out shavings, grass, and hay bits before using a product or a brush.
- For detanglers, I love them. They coat and protect the hair and will serve as stain-repelling goodness. Most are light enough that you can use them daily. You can do a deep conditioning treatment with a grooming oil, you probably won’t need a detangler in between treatments.
- Silicone sprays can help get wind knots and tangles out of your horse’s tail, but may dry things out. A conditioner or grooming oil is your best bet. You only need a quarter’s worth of oil to lightly detangle a tail. You want to add more oil directly to the tail with more knots.
More tail tips
- Make stall cleaning a top priority. Not just for your horse’s respiratory health, but because fewer piles of manure and fewer wet spots make for cleaner tails.
Keep the tail protected from stains.
- If you are tempted to use detergent, bleach, or laundry soap on your horse’s tail, I beg you to recover. This is a sign that your horse’s nutrition isn’t ideal, you need to step up your stall cleaning routine, and start to pay more attention to the tail daily. Detergents will strip hair and skin of valuable and protective oils, leaving your horse’s tail brittle, dry, and likely to break and soak up even more stains. For more on detergent, read this, and for more on household cleaners, read this.
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