|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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Allow the whitening shampoo to sit for a couple of minutes. Then rinse thoroughly, otherwise the residue will make the stockings appear lavender.
- Use a clean towel to rub the stockings dry. Then apply coat polish once more to repel dirt.
- 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.
- 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.
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