BY JESS CLAWSON
If you live in Virginia (where it’s been muddy for 12 months straight!) and your horse has a significant amount of white in its tail, you learn to become good at tail whitening hacks! When it’s time to go to a clinic or horse show my horse has to sparkle, and so I’ve researched some tail whitening hacks to share. Here are some common (and less common) methods, products and their pros and cons.
Washing it A Lot
One way to prevent stains from setting in is to wash a white tail consistently during times of the year that the horse will be out and about. A thorough wash with a gentle shampoo every week or two will help keep the tail white, although it may also cause some strands to break or fall out. Keeping the horse’s stall clean will help with this too–less manure and urine for them to lie down in.
If you condition the tail, rinse it very thoroughly, maybe even with white vinegar. Conditioner can encourage dirt to stick to tail strands and thus stain them. This is hard with thick tails because they really do need conditioner if you’re ever going to get a brush through it, so make sure to spend a long time rinsing.
What’s a grooming kit without Show Sheen, right? The jury is out on this as far as whether it helps with keeping tails white. Some say it repels dirt and therefore stains, while others argue that it just damages the hair by drying it out. I mostly use it to get burrs out of her tail (and mane, and forelock, and feathers…) but I’m not afraid of it, I just don’t use it every day.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
This is the recipe for everything in my life. Hard water stains on my coffee pot? Baking soda and vinegar. Litter boxes getting stinky? Baking soda and vinegar. Bored and wanna watch something fizz? Yup. You guessed it. Turns out my two favorite kitchen items are also useful for tail whitening!
To try this with tails, shampoo the tail like normal, rinse the shampoo out, and then make a paste of shampoo and baking soda. Let that sit for about 15-20 minutes. Then rinse the tail thoroughly with the white vinegar. So satisfying, and it works!
You can either use the bluing shampoo meant for horse tails, or any other horse shampoo with some of Mrs. Stewart’s laundry bluing added in (mix until it’s dark blue/purple). Bluing doesn’t actually remove stains. What the blue does is diffuse the yellow colors so that the hair appears whiter than it is. Science! Leave it on for about 15 minutes but no longer… unless you want a violet tail!
No, we’re not talking about the Gwyneth Paltrow brand… although we could ask her how she keeps her hair so pretty. We mean the automotive hand cleaner. Some swear that if you get the original version (and not a knockoff), apply it thoroughly to a dry tail and let it sit for a few minutes, and then work in shampoo into a kind of tail whitening magical gunk, and then rinse all that out and condition, the tail will be sparkly. Since Goop is about $2 anywhere, it might be worth trying.
This one I haven’t tried, but detergents like OxyClean meant for heavy stains have apparently worked for some people looking to whiten a difficult tail. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and condition after, because the detergent will definitely dry the hair.
This is very controversial. Some people swear by it and others see it as barely better than just cutting the horse’s tail off. Just as when we bleach our own hair, we risk the hair falling out and serious skin irritation if the whole process isn’t timed and executed perfectly. Will it get the tail white? Yes. Is it risky? Also yes. I’ve heard of people mixing bleach and Dawn dish soap, but that creates a dangerous chemical reaction that will hurt you if you breathe it in. I’d imagine it’s not good for your horse either.
Put the Tail Up
Some people swear by tail bags and others believe they just trap urine, especially on mares. What you can do is braid the tail and wrap it up to keep it out of the way. Braiding a white tail and leaving it down isn’t going to prevent the stains, but tying it up will. The downside is that it might not be super comfortable for the horse (make sure you know what you’re doing) and they won’t be able to use her tail to keep the flies off–a year-round consideration in some areas.
You’re going to find people everywhere who say this supplement or that solved all their horse’s problems, but there’s no denying that a well balanced diet is going to help your horse grow healthy hair. Some even claim good nutrition helps keep tails whiter. Tail hair takes a very long time to grow, but it’s worth ensuring the horse’s diet is balanced and appropriate for their needs regardless of the specific goal.
Have you tried any of these, or something else I didn’t think of? Head to our Facebook page and tell us what works for you in the comments!
About the Author: Jess is a professional historian and educator who lives in northwestern Virginia. They completed their undergraduate degree in English at William & Mary, and did their masters and doctoral work at the University of Florida. Jess is an event rider with a passion for thoroughbreds, and has extensive experience in community organizing around queer identities, racial marginalization, and labor.
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