Horsemanship How-to: Brighten White Stockings

Nine steps to whiter white leg markings.

Cleaning a horse's white stockings
Whitening shampoos can help make white markings appear even brighter. Photo: Lesley Ward

A horse with white legs stands out in a crowd. But those flashy white stockings require some regular grooming to keep them looking their eye-catching best. White stockings can look dingy, dull and yellow for two reasons: The hair itself is stained from the barn environment (think urine, mud and manure) and the underlying pink skin is discolored due to layers of accumulated dirt. Here are some quick and easy steps for regaining, and maintaining, that flashy look.

  1. Using the regular shampoo you keep at the barn, bathe your horse as usual, paying close attention to his white stockings. Rinse well and allow him to dry without allowing him to roll. Spray his white stockings with a coat polish. This will repel dust and dirt and also allow the clipper blades to glide over the hair smoothly.
  2. Unless you’re preparing to compete in a halter or showmanship class, you needn’t shave each stocking entirely. You only need to clip away the permanently discolored hair. Most of this will be located on the front of the fetlock and along the back of the pastern.
  3. Use a medium blade (a #30 or #40 blade will give too close a shave for these purposes) and clip in the direction of the hair growth. If you clip too closely your horse’s leg could become sunburned. That’s because the skin beneath white stockings is usually non-pigmented. Plus, leg hair provides considerable protection against summer flies.
  4. To avoid leaving nicks and furrows in the remaining hair, lay the blade flat against your horse’s leg and maintain steady pressure as you clip.
  5. Now really cleanse the skin. Select a shampoo that enhances white coats and markings. These usually contain a bluing agent. Suds up the stockings. To make sure it penetrates all the way down to the skin, use a long-handled brush designed for household chores. This helps you reach all the nooks and crannies of your horse’s legs and it saves you from contorting your back. Just be sure you don’t scrub too hard. If your horse seems irritated or grumpy, you’re pressing too hard.
  6. Allow the whitening shampoo to sit for a couple of minutes. Then rinse thoroughly, otherwise the residue will make the stockings appear lavender.
  7. Use a clean towel to rub the stockings dry. Then apply coat polish once more to repel dirt.
  8. To maintain your horse’s fancy footwork, make sure his splint boots and polo wraps are clean before snugging them around his legs. Then, after each ride, spray his stockings with water from the hose nozzle.
  9. To dab away occasional spots and keep them from becoming permanent stains, put a little shampoo on a sponge and rub it in. Then rinse clean, towel dry and re-apply some coat polish.

Sure, keeping all that “chrome” sparkling clean takes a few extra minutes. But doesn’t your horse look fancy?

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


  1. Yes, i agree horses stockings get pretty dirty after a ride or so.I use (mane `n tail)-( spray `n white)for my horse so she don`t look so dirty it ROCKS!thanks horse channel.kilee


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