Knowing how to remove stable stains is a crucial skill for every owner of a grey or coloured horse. It is a fact of life that these horses will find the sole pile of dung in an otherwise spotless bed to lie in. And it’s not just the manure – grass stains and mud can be equally hard to shift.
There’s no point hoping stains will fade, rub off or magically disappear from your horse’s white coat, and the same goes for yellowed tails. Instead, tackle them as soon as possible. You’ll need elbow grease, some good brushes and the best shampoos and stain-removing products for your horse.
How to remove stable stains: step-by-step
Initially, use a curry comb or grooming mitt with rubber pimples to lift up the dirt, before brushing off with a long dandy brush. The excess mud or muck will now have gone, but the white coat is likely still to be stained and will need some products to return it to its former glory.
The best shampoos to use on greys have a blue or purple tint and UV brighteners, which help to highlight the whiteness of the horse’s coat, neutralise stains and reflect light. These whitening and brightening shampoos are specifically designed for washing grey and coloured horses, and white socks, such as Carr & Day & Martin Gallop Stain Removing Shampoo, a concentrated purple formula. As with your own hair, apply the product directly to a wet coat, work in well with a brush or sponge to create a good lather and rinse thoroughly. For stubborn stains, repeat the process.
Stain removers are particularly useful in winter, when it’s too cold to give your horse a full soaking. They are also handy on show days when you need a last-minute touch-up. They are no-rinse products which you can spray directly on to the stain, massage into the coat and then brush or wipe off, such as Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover. This also contains conditioner to strengthen the hair and condition the skin, plus shea butter to give a shine to the coat.
The finishing touches
A thorough bath is all very well for everyday stains, but when you need grey horse or white socks to gleam brightly at a show, a whitening product is the answer. These can be used both on the coat and for super white socks to wow the judges. There are different formulas – some come as a powder which can be added to the final rinsing water and allowed to dry on the coat; some can be applied the night before under leg bandages; some come in a paste form. Here are a few options:
- Supreme Products Leg and Body Whitener is a non-sticky powder which can either be diluted and left to dry or brushed on to last-minute stains with a damp brush.
- Absorbine Showsheen Stain Remover and Whitener Spray contains oxi-eraser stain lifters, designed to clean the stain and whiten in one go.
- Gold Label Chalk Powder is another popular choice – it just needs to be applied with a dry cloth and the excess brushed off.
How to remove stable stains if all else fails…
Some owners take a less conventional approach.
A household washing detergent, such as Fairy liquid or Persil, in hot water is said to work wonders on cleaning grey tails, especially for mares, whose tails can become stained with urine. Detergents are not recommended for use on horses’ skin, and can strip the natural oils, so make sure you only clean the hairs below the dock so that the detergent does not come into contact with the skin. Mix up a bucket of hot water with a squirt of Fairy or a couple of tablespoonfuls of Persil, put the bottom half of the tail in and hold up for as long as you can. Rinse thoroughly, if necessary using a conditioner to ensure all traces of the detergent have been washed out.
A coat shine spray can help minimise the traction of dirt and manure on to the coat. By making the coat slightly slippery, the muck is more likely to slide off instead of penetrating the hair shaft. However, take care not to use them in the saddle area.
How to prevent stable stains and keep the dirt away
We all know that prevention is better than cure. For stabled horses, skip out as regularly as possible. Rugs, stable sheets and hoods will protect the body and mane. Plait or double up the tail overnight and bandage the lower half while the horse is stabled the night before the day when it absolutely has to be sparkling clean. Simpler still, buy a tail bag, or make one out of a leg of an old pair of tights.
They say that the best way to keep a grey horse clean is not get one in the first place – but there’s a reason Desert Orchid, Milton and Avebury stole our hearts.
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