1. Body paint. For parades and educational showcases, or even those days when your horse just needs a red heart painted on his rump, body paint is an easy and fun way to add color and design to your horse’s coat. Before applying, always make sure the paint is water-soluble, which means it will easily come off with water. Don’t use latex or oil-based paints, as these can be very difficult to remove, irritating to the skin, and toxic.
If you have a horse with sensitive skin, apply water-soluble paint to a small area first to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation. Although water-based body paint will fade off in a few days on its own, it’s best to wash off the paint after use. This will prevent your horse from potentially rubbing it off and damaging his coat in the process.
2. Hoof glitter. Hoof glitter is a fun and easy way to add some sparkle to your horse’s step. Depending on the color of the glitter and your horse’s hooves, multiple coats of this eye-catching accessory may be needed. Wait for each coat to dry before applying a new one, just like you would for nail polish. While safe for a day or so, it’s always a good idea to remove hoof glitter after a few days. After removal—either with water and a scrub brush or with hoof polish remover, depending on the type of hoof glitter used—make sure to inspect your horse’s hooves for signs of flakiness or irritation at the coronet band.
3. Mane and tail extensions. Colorful mane and tail extensions can be left in for quite a while. Many brands are “clip in” and can easily be removed or re-adjusted. Others are braided in at the base. Some extensions are synthetic while others are actual horsehair. Read the instructions for specific care; dyed horse hair can sometimes fade with regular shampooing, so this might need to be avoided to keep your horse’s extensions looking their brightest. Frequent conditioning and brushing can help prevent your horse’s natural mane or tail from becoming too tangled with the extensions.
Other extensions can include feathers and beads—and even fiber optics! Before venturing out on a ride with potentially distracting accessories, make sure your horse is used to them first, especially on a windy day.
Most horse accessories are easy to use and a fun addition to an otherwise routine grooming experience. With a little extra care, don’t be shy about adding some color or sparkle to your horse.
Anna O’Brien, DVM, is a large animal veterinarian in Maryland and a frequent contributor to Horse Illustrated magazine and HorseChannel.com. Follow her on Twitter: @annaobriendvm