Your best turnout at horse shows demonstrates appreciation and respect for your sport, the judges, and all the hard work you and your horse have put into getting there. Dazzling chrome completes any look by starkly contrasting with your horse’s coat — but only if it’s clean.
If you’ve ever spent hours bathing him, braiding his mane, and cleaning his tack only to feel a little dingy once you’re in the warm-up ring surrounded by the gleaming socks of your fellow competitors, these tips are for you. Hopefully, they’ll save you from a frustrating afternoon spent scrubbing and rinsing with only yellow socks to show for it.
It’s typically not enough to treat socks like the rest of your horse’s coat. The best clean is the result of a process and not a single step. Taking the time to pre-wash will take your socks from simply clean to glowingly perfect. Begin by determining what kind of deep-clean would be best for your horse by removing as much dirt as possible from the hair. Underneath, does he have grass, manure, urine, or mud stains? Is there brassy or yellow discolouration?
If his socks are miraculously clean and you’re only looking to shampoo and brighten them, skip this step.
To remove stains causing discolouration, pre-scrub the problem areas by spraying or sponging them with undiluted vinegar and allowing them to sit for ten minutes. Then take a clean, damp cloth and scrub off the stains, working them out of the hair as much as possible.
If your horse has sensitive skin due to bug bites or sunburn, witch hazel is a gentler option.
For a particularly stubborn stain, mix a few tablespoons of water with baking soda and apply the paste before scrubbing off with warm water.
Clipping the hair is another pre-wash option, and can provide instant results. If you’re lucky, with a good clip you can skip all but the briefest shampoo.
Wash and/or Mask
Blue-tinted shampoos are a time-tested, popular, and efficient way to clean white socks. They are designed to enhance the brightness of white hair and create a glowing quality. Remember to carefully read the label to know how much to use and how long to leave it on before rinsing.
In between conventional shampoos, switching things up with a natural product will help to revivify the hair. A different product can also give you a completely different clean by stripping the hair of build-up that can’t be removed by your usual shampoo. Vitamin C and Castile soap is another excellent and surprisingly effective option that can provide you with a starkly bright clean.
Castile soap, made from olive oil, is gentle and unlikely to damage hair or cause your horse’s skin to react. The oil loosens stains to the root without stripping moisture. To boost its power, try adding a dozen or so crushed, white vitamin C tablets into a half-cup of the soap. The tablets can be crushed in a high-power blender or with a rolling pin.
Massage the paste deep into the roots of the hair, making sure to coat the entire sock completely. Then take your horse out for a graze or go clean some tack while he finishes lunch in his stall. The longer you leave the mask on, the better the results will be.
Scrub it out slowly, taking care to work the paste and soap through the hair as you rinse with warm water. It takes several rinses to remove the soap completely, but it continues to clean as you scrub it out. You won’t believe the shine underneath!
Rinse and Condition
It’s important to thoroughly remove all shampoo to avoid irritation of the skin and discolouration of the hair. Try rinsing with a cup of apple cider vinegar in your bucket. It’s cleansing, gentle, and it will give the coat a beautiful sheen.
Conditioning the hair can provide a barrier to sand and dust and make re-cleaning at the show much easier. Showsheen and Cowboy Magic are excellent options. Apply them to the entire sock, but avoid over-using, as this can make it harder for boots and wraps to stay on the leg.
You can also try adding a few tablespoons of Argan oil mixed with a cup of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice in a spray bottle. Spray directly onto the socks, and let them dry under direct sunlight for the best results.
Add a box of corn starch to your grooming kit. Like baking soda, corn starch can be made into a paste with water, left on the hair and then rinsed to remove stains. Or, dry cornstarch can be worked directly into dry hair and then brushed out, as a substitute for dry shampoo. If you need a quick fix just before you go into the ring, use corn starch as a substitute for baby powder to instantly mask stains.
Deep-cleaning can be drying, and the more frequently you do it, the more likely you are to cause damage to the hair that results in discolouration. For the cleanest whites, only deep-clean before big shows.
Lastly, if you still don’t have the high-contrast white of your dreams, there’s one final thing you can try: darkening the hooves with polish. The darker the polish, the starker the contrast will be. Unless you have a very steady hand, however, make sure to paint his hooves before you bathe, and leave ample time to dry before you try washing the socks.