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Groom Guidance: Greys – Fifty Shades of Clean… by Kay Neatham

Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Groom Guidance

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Kay Neatham with a very famous grey: Cornado NRW. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Marcus Ehning's head groom Kay Neatham reflects on the subject of grey horses, and their tendency to be anything else but their real colour. Here's our new series called 'Groom Guidance'.

Probably the most famous grey horse ever is Milton, would he have been as memorable if he'd been bay – who knows? But, I will always remember this amazing thick white tail, his big black eyes that stood out so beautifully in the white face and as soon as he came on my TV screen I knew him, before he was announced, his color made him easily recognizable.

Today I have the feeling there are way more grey horses than ever before, and – yes – grooms work hard to keep their charges clean as there is nothing worse than having a colleague say "you missed a bit" – meaning a green patch, or stable stain!

A friend once said to me, as I was complaining about my grey horse that had worked very hard all night to make himself into an entirely new color – namely skewbald (for non English people, correct term for a brown and white horse) – "Kay, he's just following his natural instinct...” I thought about this for a minute, needed more enlightenment from my friend, so she said “Think about it. In the wild he's the easiest prey for any predator, you can see him for miles, even in the dense forest, he's camouflaging himself to stay alive, so don’t be upset, if he didn’t roll in his poo, he'd be dead in the wild."

There is of course no scientific research to this very clever statement, but thinking about it – it makes perfect sense. Foals are born black and then only go lighter gradually with age, more chance of survival. So if you ever wonder like me why it seems the grey ones lie more in their poop or mud than other colored horses there's a good enough logical explanation for it: Survival!

This however still doesn’t help the groom because nobody is going to buy the "I didn’t clean him today; he needs to survive"-explanation. Up to now I haven't seen a lion roaming around a showground!

So what to do? There are hundreds of methods and products available and it is all personal choice. For me the most important thing is to stop yourself from being frustrated or angry with a horse because you don’t have time or are sick of having to clean him. One: It’s not the horse’s fault that we want him stain free, and you cannot stop a horse from rolling just to save yourself work. So make time and keep it simple, laugh about it, I am sometimes amazed how it's possible to get poo on the tip of your ear or how they seem to have been using poo for a pillow, I suppose its warm – ewe!

At home I rarely clean stains off, my grey horses get brushed and washed the same as all the other colored horses. What is really annoying though is not separating blankets for grey horses and dark horses. When you throw a blanket on a dark horse that has been on a grey and you take it off, you see all the grey hairs on the dark horse’s coat and then they look like they haven't been groomed, really annoying! My opinion is to always keep blankets for grey horses separate to those for dark colored horses.

For shows, I like to check out the stain situation in the morning so I know more or less the amount of extra time needed for grooming. Personally, unless it’s a massive stain, I never take the horse to the wash box and wash him straight out of bed. I can think of nothing worse than being pulled out of bed, having my blankets stripped off and cold water etc. put on me for the sake of beauty. I use Veredus white strain removing spray 'Easy White', it's brilliant and a true friend of the horse. Spray it on, take a towel and rub off stain, sometimes a damp sponge is needed as well and its groom friendly cause its quick too.

After riding or longing, I always find is the correct time to wash the stain areas, manes and tails. The horse is warm and needs to be washed anyway. For the tails and manes, I use Veredus white horse shampoo 'Blue Snow'. For horses’ bodies I use human white clothes washing liquid, such as Perwol. It’s cheaper than horse products, works great and it's been tested for human ph skin so doesn’t destroy the natural grease barrier on the horses’ skin.

Never forget: Turning out of a horse at any time of the day is a reflection of one’s self and the pride you take in your job. I cannot remember how many clean and beautiful grey horses I've seen in my life, but I remember very clearly the shock of a rider – well known – coming on to the warm up to school his horse and it literally having huge poo stains all over and that then became the talk of the show. Of course shit happens, and sometimes there is no time – and yes it was actually quite funny – and much more important the horse was schooled, but I still can't forget that moment!

Greys can be fifty shades, and possibly have a much deeper instinct for survival than other colors – so enjoy your grey and try to keep his stain removing routine to a simple method of cleaning that is both quick and easy for both your sakes.

Stay alive, stay clean, stay grey!


- Kay Neatham -

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