Sun Bleaching

Sun Bleaching

Sun-Kissed or Sun-Bleached?

By Ruthann Smith
© 2011, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Gypsy Horse Journal

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Gypsy Horse

With sound practices, the sun may just kiss your Gypsy horse's coat by highlighting its richness, no matter the color or season.

We will never be as strong as the sun, but we certainly do not need to give it the reins, either. There are lots of things that can minimize the sun's impact on a horse's coat. Simple practices can eliminate drying agents while enhancing the coat's own defenses. Gypsy horses have plenty of hair, which we love to celebrate. Burned and brittle does not have the same effect as big shine and lofty, soft hair. For that, hair needs to be healthy and supple. Adjust your grooming routine early, and your Gypsy horse can sport a rich coat, mane and tail all summer long.


Parched coats are vulnerable to getting burned, as well as irritated. Most sun-bleaching is perpetuated by agents that dry the coat or attract rays, which maximizes damage. The most common causes are salt, mud and petroleum products.

Drying Agents: Salt from sweat and dirt from mud draw out natural moisture and oils from the coat. Think about it. Epsom salt soaks can pull out an abscess or clean a deep wound. Poultice is a mud pack we use to pull heat and swelling out of legs. Left on the coat, salt and dirt deplete moisture. Salt (sodium chloride) is also a very common additive in horse shampoos. Pay mind. That ingredient is a sure bet to washing away the horse's natural protective oils.

Attractors and Suffocators: While the skin's natural oils protect the horse from elements and irritation, synthetic ones can burn and suffocate the hair. Imagine if you wore baby oil at the beach. You'd be scorched in no time. The same goes for the horses. Hair not only gets bleached, but also brittle. Many products marketed to repel bugs, create shine, and detangle are petroleum- based. Instead, use products that promote the coat's resilience and the hair's strength. If you choose well, it will be easier than ever to manage hair.


Your best strategy is to enhance the horse's own defenses. The coat's natural oils protect hair and skin. Unlike applied oil, they let it breathe, which is pivotal to growth and sustainability.

The very best thing you can do to improve your horse's coat is to curry it vigorously every day. This not only rids it of damaging salt and dirt, but also brings oils to the surface and exfoliates to release them. Currying and brushing help move oils down hair shafts to fortify and seal them. Doing so refines hair as well. When coarse hair is dried out, it's porous, so stains readily penetrate. A vigorous grooming routine protects the coat as well as makes it easier to keep clean, especially if you use a shampoo that actually improves the condition of the coat. Stuff just does not stick as much to a healthy, silky coat.

Motion is pivotal to healthy hair. Just as good grooming creates circulation to stimulate natural oils, motion helps carry the oil down the hair shaft. That is why I advocate against leaving braids in. Kinks impede nourishing oils from sliding down the hair to fortify it. So, if you choose to leave braids in, be sure they are super loose and that you take them out to give the hair a chance to flow every day.


To avert sun-bleaching, be discerning. Some products make claims that are not realized. For instance, manufacturers tell me sunscreen in shampoo is a marketing ploy, since it rinses off. Shampoos that strip natural oils not only take away the shine, but stripping the oils actually leads horses to get dirtier. Spray on shine can never simulate a deep-layered glisten, nor rich color. Over time, some detanglers can make hair brittle, leading to breakage. Conditioners that just coat hair are not fortifying to promote well-being. Look for detanglers and conditioners that contain ingredients to help strengthen the hair.

Natural fly sprays may include essential oils, but are water- based. I prefer that to a poison and petroleum mixture. If you have the opportunity to turn your horse out at night, that most definitively minimizes sun damage. It generally results in fewer insects to contend with as well. A good equine all-in-one shampoo should gently clean, condition, fortify and detangle any coat, mane, tail and feather.

Shampoos should specify: pH balanced for horses, otherwise, they will be very difficult to rinse and likely leave a film that attracts drying sun and dirt.


Hair that glows and moves a lot is not only stunning. It's healthy. A vigorous daily routine of lots of currying and brushing are key to a luxurious and resilient hair coat. Coarse hair has more texture and dries out easily. Curry, curry, curry to maintain a deep color and glimmer. A sound daily grooming routine has a ripple effect on your horse's health.

Soft brushing and toweling facial skin makes it shine, indicating its natural defenses are in full force. If needed, human sunscreen can prevent pink muzzles from burning.

Manes, tails and feathers can be easiest to keep full and flowing if you use a good all-in-one shampoo and comb hair when wet. For manes and tails, twist the length and hold the bottom to protect roots. Then, comb from the bottom to your grip as you work your way to the base. When it dries, hair will want to separate instead of make ringlets. Therefore, it will be easier to maintain as well as move lots, pulling oils down the shaft as it does. So, hair is not only more beautiful, it also easier to maintain.


Rich coats and full, flowing hair turn heads. They make us smile and relish the gorgeous Gypsy horses in our lives. No one likes to admit that his or her horse is sun-bleached. Now it may not need to be true! Take these tips to heart and you will have some leverage. Instead of bleaching, let the sun ensure that your horse glistens!

Bio Pic

Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.

As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.

The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.

Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.

It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.

*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.