How to keep a grey or coloured horse clean (this could transform your winter…)

  • Sometimes no amount of scrubbing can shift the stains on grey coats or white socks. Horse & Hound asks the experts to reveal their most dazzling tips

    As every owner of a grey or coloured horse knows, it is a fact of life that it will find the sole pile of dung in an otherwise spotless bed to lie in, and the resulting stains can defy many cleaning products.

    Although there are commercial shampoos designed specifically for white socks and coats, some experts opt for a less conventional approach.

    Washing up liquid

    Julia Woods, a mountain and moorland producer who specialises in (grey) Connemaras, says that her secret weapon is a bottle of washing up liquid.

    “Mares’ tails are the worst, because they become stained with pee and go yellow,” she says. “I mix up Fairy Liquid in hot water and soak the tail hairs below the dock in it. It’s the end of the tail that stains most and as long as the pony is used to having it washed, you shouldn’t have any problems — keep the dock area dry so that the detergent doesn’t come in contact with the skin.

    “I soak them for as long as I can hold up the bucket. This means putting on the radio and trying to last out the length of a song!”


    Sandra Lawrence, a partner in Wulfstan Stud, opts for Persil when keeping the white tails of skewbalds and piebalds sparkling. Both she and Julia stress that it is important to rinse out all traces of the cleaning agent and, if necessary, use a conditioner afterwards.

    Plaiting and bandaging

    Prevention can be better than cure. Minimise stains by doubling up or plaiting tails overnight and bandaging the lower half while the horse is stabled or in transit.

    Coat shine spray

    Another tip from Julia is to use spray products meant to give a gloss to the coat. These work by coating the hairs and making them slightly slippery – so while they should not be used in the saddle area, they do mean that muck is more likely to slide off, than penetrating the hair shaft.


    Driving enthusiast Geraldine Gardiner, who has a snowy white Welsh section B pony, opts for a Lycra stretch cover-all the night before a show.

    “This covers him from head to tail and if I put it on just before it gets dark, and hopefully before he lies down, he doesn’t get too hot, even in summer,” she says.

    Tail bag

    “I also use a tail bag. You plait the tail hair, put the bag over it, pass the fastening strap at the top through the plait and fasten it back to the bag,” adds Geraldine.

    To make a travelling bag, cut the leg and then the toe off an old pair of tights. Pull the nylon tube over and up the tail and apply a tail bandage as normal.

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    Hackney enthusiast Tom Girden has a bay with four white socks. The night before a show, he covers the legs with a chalk-based product, mixed with water to a paste, then bandages over the top.

    “Next morning, brush off the excess and put on clean bandages to travel”, he says. “Make sure you cover the hocks and coronets with padding and the horse’s legs should stay clean.”

    This feature first appeared in Horse & Hound  magazine (26 August 2004)

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