Everything Else

What nobody told me about grey horses!

I have recently entered into the world of looking after a grey horse and so thought I would add my thoughts from someone whose horses have had  no white on them apart from their faces for the last 15 years.

1)      Cow poo, horse poo and rubber arenas stain badly! I recently had a lesson after it had rained in a rubber arena and the Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 17.01.31horse was pretty black. This sent me into a panic which resulted in me borrowing shampoo to scrub the horse at my trainer’s yard in order to try and remove the stains as much as possible. I still have stains a week later.

2)      That brushing a bit of wet mud means you have to change brushes or else you will transfer it all over the body. I have forgotten this several times to start brushing elsewhere and end up with a dirtier horse than I started with. This also applies to sponges and washing off.

3)      You will be late for everything. When I started with my grey horse, I allowed normal amounts of cleaning time before having to be somewhere. This has now changed into 30 minutes just for the horse. Even allowing time, I am always late as there is always a spot I have missed or the Russian roulette I play with mud means that when I go to catch her from the field, the horse is covered in mud and needs a bath. Then there is the additional time for wrapping the horse up to stop them getting dirty again.

4)      OCD gets abandoned. Following on from the above, I am OCD about turnout. Until now. Slowly my standards have slipped with the reality that stained will do in order to school or hack out. I now have the fun of playing guess the stain and buttercups seem to be the latest cushion for her out in the field.

5)      Lotions and potions are a daily reality. With my chestnut, I used to love looking at lotions and potions but the reality was we did not really need anything as any old shampoo would do and baby oil for his tail. I now am the proud owner of chalk, stain remover, two different types of shampoo, tail detangler (baby oil attracts dirt!) and soap flakes. I have spent more in the last month on lotions and potions than in three years with my chestnut. The thing I am saddest about though is no quartermarks. I am a quartermark obsessive along with a pulled tail and they just do not work on a grey horse. I am so sad about this!

6)      Stay away from purple spray. I purple sprayed everything in the past if they had a cut. Not anymore! Thank goodness for Hypocare as that is now my go to.

7)      Transferring dirt. I seem to have a real strength in this area. Everything now seems like a magnet for transferring dirt – brushing boots, rugs, headcollars, feedbuckets etc. So it now goes like this; I scrub, transfer dirt by accident and scrub again. I had a particular joy the other day of scrubbing the horse the night before, putting it in the stable overnight with a rug and neck cover and coming back to a yellow horse the next day. No idea how that happened and it resulted in yep another bath and scrub.

5Q9A18988)      Traffic goes past slower. Hooray a massive benefit for grey horses! I have not had a grey horse before and I notice a massive difference in traffic being more respectful of you. I wear exactly the same levels of high viz, hack in the same areas and ride a horse the same size. The only thing which has changed is the colour of the horse. I am itching to put a unicorn horn on my horses head when I hack out but that may make my traffic issues worse.

9)      Grey horses look better in photos. I now understand why you see so many on the front of publications. They just stand out in the photos better. I will never forget spending a season eventing and being missed by the photographer at events on my boring bay horse with no white, including his first novice! You cannot miss me now and I can find myself quicker! The only downside is the rider looks no better!

10)   Grey horses stand out. My grey horse is a  pretty average mover but I was told she will pick up the marks in the dressage arena because she is attractive (providing she behaves herself of course). She is a magnet for children and adults and when I have gone for a gallop on the beach, I know I am living many peoples dream of galloping a grey horse (slightly stained in places but hey who is looking?!?) into the distance. I just need that unicorn horn now!

About the author


An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.


  • I love my grey pony, she always has stains on her, but I have to agree she does come up lovely once clean, I think she looks cleaner as she is normally brown unless shes going to a party 🙂

  • Yep – am so with you after 19 years of a black horse! Grey boy is a dirt magnet so I have just reconciled myself to riding a slightly yellow/light brown spotted horse the majority of the time. My one saving grace is that he’s young so is still fairly dapply with some brown flecks – or maybe the flecks are just dirt…..

  • I agree 100 %!!!
    I have got a very white shewbald after years of blacks and bays. I can no longer do the clean the night before as he always needs a bath the next morning!
    He has an ‘at home’ headcollar and a ‘party’ headcollar. Otherwise we get stains on his head.
    I’ve told my instructor that he comes dirty to all lessons as I’m not washing him daily.
    However, quarter narks do show up on him! 😉

  • Agreed! I have gone the opposite way, i have had a grey for 10 years and was nodding along to everything above. I now have two additional bay horses…and i find myself being early with the bays because i can flick a brush over them and job done!

  • And I thought my grey appy was one of a kind who must have been a pig in her previous life as she always rolling in mud/dirt and has poo stains on her face

  • Such a good article. I’ve got 3 greys, not by choice. I have actively looked for any other colour but my trainer told me not to be so silly. Hhhmm. They’re fantastic, but still. So much work, just to look vaguely clean.

  • Friend of mine uses Cowboy magic on her grey and swears by it, and her horse is properly white!

  • My instructor accepts clean enough (Beige) on my grey for lessons, pretty much take it or leave it esp in the winter!!!!!

    I get loads of comments on how white she is at shows (home is a different matter), I use Pantene pro V which is great and then top the legs off with chalk and sometimes the cheeks when I find the mud stains hard to shift.

    On a positive, think of the time you have not doing the quarter marks…..

    Completely agree with the photo thing. Stands out loads more.

  • Another grey owner here, everyone loves and remembers my grey but i’m still lucky in that he’s holding onto the dappled stage for a while so I have lovely black legs and mane, god help me as they fade! Another plus for me is i abandoned white numnahs years ago, they look awful on a grey – so now I actually have less whites to clean! lovely navey numnahs for us!

  • I love this article and it holds very true! I, for my sins, have 2 greys although one is considerably smaller than the other. My shampoo bill is probably bigger than my feed bill. 🙂

  • Im a sucker for greys, I had one for 19 years, if there was any mud around he would find it to roll in, if we wrnt to an event he would come out of the lorry with his bum and rear legs covered in poo, but I would never have changed him for the world. Unfortunately I lost him last year aged 24

  • Lol made me giggle, i have a grey and coloured stallion, i now turn them in the paddock id people come to view, less cleaning of which ever stain it is today!!

  • Try a 16.2 palomino! Traffic actually stopped still when he arrived and we still get waved down by holiday people. Dressage judges love him which is frustrating when my less flashy but more accurate chestnut goes after. I joke I own a Barbie pony!

  • I agree with everything and have two greys. Another big advantage is that they are easily followed from a distance cross country. I have spent many hours following a big grey blob in the distance and listening for a tannoy for news!

  • Magic Potion for washing a white tail
    = parts of white vinegar and detergent. Lather in and leave for a few mins, then give a good scrub with hands – wash out then shampoo as normal followed by a good dose of conditioner. Once dry I often put baby oil on my hands and smooth through – particularly mid to end of tail where it tends to get quite dirty. I am told this can aid with washing in future.

  • I had a grey Shetland mare – now sadly no longer with us. She was a brilliant white colour, never rolled when turned out, avoided laying in piles of pooh when stabled & looked like a soap powder advert after a bath – the best thing to help keep her white was Show Sheen after any bath or tail wash – it stopped the dirt & shavings sticking!

  • Essential equipment for greys:
    Absorbine Superpoo (in much larger quantities than the bottle says).
    Absorbine stain remover for whites.
    Canter tail conditioner.
    Cowboy magic greenspot remover when you get to the show.
    and Several sponges!

  • Not as if I didn’t love greys enough to begin with, I now want one even more! I do love that you can filter by colour on most horse sale websites these days… 😛

  • All of my daughter’s ponies have been grey, from the small she started out with to the large we have now. And the latest one is our fourth! So I know exactly what you’re talking about. When she rode the small in shows, they really stood out from all the other bays and chestnuts. Audience members would always comment on her. (I lurked and listened!)Little girls would remark wistfully, “I wish I had a little white pony just like that one.” As the mama, I knew how much work it took to keep that “princess pony” looking like a star. Most of the time she was a pigpen! Now that my daughter is older (13), she washes her grey by herself. 🙂

    Tips we discovered: OxyClean powder mixed with the shampoo (Quick Silver) works miracles. Let both sit a few minutes (or scrub for a few minutes) before rinsing thoroughly. We let it sit for several minutes (10 or so) on her tail.

  • I love my grey and when in work he is kept pretty spotless. When he is on holidays though, cleaning him goes out the window. I let him get as dirty as he likes.

    Show prep involves a lot of Kohnke’s Own Kleen Sheen, Sard Wonder Soap and Blu-O, which is then followed by liberal amounts of PHP Top Tails. Luckily he isn’t a terribly dirty horse and once he is dry, he is rugged and then put back in his paddock for the night. Provided he doesn’t rip his rugs off, he stays pretty clean and rarely requires re-washing. 🙂