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The Joys and Challenges of riding a Gray Horse

Gray horses are beautiful. Their eyes contrast with their coats in a captivating way. Many grays change colors as they age, from dappled to flea-bitten, and it’s fascinating to see the way they mature.

Gray horses are also high maintenance if you want them to stay a whiter shade of pale—as opposed to green, yellow or the color of dirt.

I don’t think I pick gray horses; somehow they find me. The pony I grew up riding is a gray; the horse I showed when I lived in Kentucky is a gray off-the-track Thoroughbred, and the horse I now lease and show in Texas is also a gray Thoroughbred.

I love all horses, but the special ones who make a deep, permanent mark on my heart happen to be gray. I’m reminded of this constantly. Not just because I look forward to riding and spending time with my amazing grays, but because their hairs come with me.

When I take a gray horse to a show, I’m likely one of the first riders at the showgrounds, especially if my class is early in the day. I need to bathe my horse, and the bath I gave her before we left the barn has likely become obsolete. One bath might not even get out those darn green stains. I’m prepared to scrub.

My current partner in crime, Q, has a habit of rubbing her head on anyone who isn’t paying attention. And those short, white forehead hairs don’t easily brush off.

If I’ve been with a gray horse, you can tell by the white hairs on my shirt. There’s a slight chance that a white shirt will camouflage the hairs, but I’ve likely allowed slime from a horse or paws from a barn dog to dirty my white shirt anyway.

Gray horse hair has this magic ability to transcend borders. Despite my best efforts to keep my horsey belongings (breeches, jackets, saddle pads, et cetera) in a corner of the laundry room, there are white hairs everywhere. In my washer, on my coffee table, next to my jewelry box … no place is safe.

My car suffers the worst. It’s the buffer between the barn and my house, meaning any hair I didn’t manage to remove before leaving the barn and getting into the car may end up floating around the car. If I offer to drive my work colleagues to lunch, I end up awkwardly apologizing when their black and navy slacks have white horse hairs on them. I promise I’m a clean person. I just ride a gray!

In the winter, my gray horsey partner is not gray, white, or a mixture of gray and white, but is of a yellowish hue. And it’s too cold for a full bath. So sometimes in the colder months, I ride a yellow horse.

And while it might seem that I’m complaining about grays, I promise it’s the opposite.

I absolutely love grays, and I think the evidence is obvious. I wear my gray horse hairs with pride, and if anyone asks, I welcome the opportunity to explain my horsey habit.

Allison Griest is a freelance writer based in Texas. Follow Allison on Twitter: @allisongriest.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Allison Griest

ALLISON GRIEST is a freelance writer based in Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @allisongriest.

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