Make Your Lights Bright

Horse showing with a light-colored horse? It's hard, but not impossible, to keep those whites clean.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Washing your light-colored horse is like doing laundry - just when you get caught up, you have to start over from the beginning. It’s not that light-colored horses get any dirtier than a sorrel or a bay, it’s just that they show every stain or spot.

We’ve all been there. You polish up your palomino, gray or buckskin and are ready for the show. You get everything packed and ready to go, and then you go grab your light-colored horse to load into the trailer. But when you get to your horse’s stall, you are instantly dismayed to see either stains you missed or new ones your horse just made.

Never fear, the Journal is here to provide helpful hints to make it easier to get and keep your light-colored horse sparkling clean.

Stain Stoppers

One of the best ways to eliminate stains is to prevent them. But often, that is easier said than done. However, a good way to prevent stains is to keep the stall clean. “You have to have good stall care,” says Robin Mitchell Forrest from Crosby, Texas. “But you would want to have that with any horse for health reasons.

Once you have your horse bathed and sparkling clean, it's time to get him clipped up. In the FREE Horse Clipping Tips report, AQHA Professional Horseman Randy Jacobs of Dover, Ohio, offers his tried-and-true advice on setting yourself up for clipping success, even if that's not what your horse has in mind.

“When I clean my stalls, I put about half an inch of real fine cedar shavings in the bottom of the stall,” Robin says. As the owner of Invest In Rodeo, a double-dilute perlino American Quarter Horse stallion, she knows how hard it is to keep a light horse clean. Cedar shavings are highly absorbent and keep the bugs out, she adds. “Then I go back and use shavings. The shavings I use are actually made for chickens, and they don’t have dust in them.

“If I use those curly shavings, they hold the moisture on top. They kind of pack, and they don’t dry out well because they are too thick,” Forrest explains. “But if I use a fine shaving, the kind that fall right through your fork, those shavings fluff up and dry better.”

Another trick in fighting stains is keeping the tails of light-colored horses clean. “On the tails of my palominos, I keep them up and keep them clean,” says AQHA Professional Horsewoman Vicky Holt of Argyle, Texas. “I never let them get to the point where they are dingy and stained.”


Sometimes you only have a small stain or sweat mark to get. Either pre-treat prior to bathing or just do a spot wash on your horse.

“Straight rubbing alcohol in a squirt bottle works great for spots or to rub down sweat marks,” Vicky says.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

The old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” can be applied when bathing light-colored horses. Sometimes the stain can be removed with a little elbow grease and perseverance. If not, a few of these tips might be the solution to your stain.

If you're unsure how to start clipping your horse for shows, download AQHA's FREE Horse Clipping Tips report today! This helpful report is sure to get you pointed in the right direction and teach you how to properly and quickly clip your horse for any event!

“I give my horses a bath every week,” says Cee Cee McDonald from Bernard, Iowa. “I also use a solution of vinegar and rubbing alcohol mixed half and half in a squirt bottle – like one you would put dye in. Next, scrub it down. It takes the yellow out. Then, rinse it off with soap. Because it doesn’t clean, it just cuts the dingy yellow.

Robin provides a couple of suggestions to use on palominos or horses with white manes and tails.

“I use any kind of shampoo that has bluing in it, because the bluing brightens the white,” she explains. “With the perlinos, you really don’t need bluing. But with the cremellos, you would.” Robin also will mix her own bluing shampoo by adding Mrs. Stewart’s bluing to her horse shampoo.

Please, No Harsh Chemicals

One of the worst things you can do to your horse’s skin is to use products that will cause irritation or allergic reaction. The Journal asked Dr. Sandi Farris from Chugiak, Alaska, about products to avoid using on horses.

“Anything not labeled or harmful for use on children or animals should not be sure to wash your horse,” Dr. Farris cautions. “Any time you use something new, make sure you spot wash to check for an allergic reaction.

With AQHA's FREE Horse Clipping Tips report, Randy Jacobs guides you through clipping giving helpful hints along the way. In Randy's opinion, you won't get anywhere with your horse, regardless of his attitude, if you don't have the right attitude. He also mentions that if you rush, you increase the chances of having a bad experience. Download your report today!

“Also, each horse should be treated on an individual basic,” she adds. Similar to humans and different products, a horse can have an allergic reaction to shampoos labeled for use in horses.

Products to avoid when cleaning your horse include:

    • Anything caustic
    • Tetri oil – it’s drying and causes allergic reactions
    • Anything not labeled for use in humans or animals

AQHA Shows

With a membership from the American Quarter Horse Association, you'll have access to information on all the latest upcoming shows and events. This will allow you to stay on top of everything and will help you to prepare for your upcoming show season.

Once you have your horse all clean, you might need to braid him. Watch this video for tips on how to make your braids look great!