Bathing our horse is a pleasant task with clear results. However, we wondered if an added benefit could be achieved by using a color-enhancing shampoo. Several products claim to enhance and brighten coats, but we found only some have clear results.
Sunlight is necessary to get the full effect from some of these products, so you’ll to be happier with the results if you show outdoors. As with any grooming product, try a new shampoo at home first, and if your horse has sensitive skin, bathe a small area before using it on his entire coat.
Some manufacturers are straightforward with ingredients. Others claim “proprietary.” Many horsemen need to know what they are using on their horses, and no one wants to worry about potentially harmful ingredients. Nevertheless, we did not discriminate against those who claimed the need to protect their formula in this field test, and we noted no adverse reactions.
We’re not about to tell you how to bathe your horse. And no one needs to be told that you shouldn’t bathe your horse too often (hence drying out the coat) or that you must rinse thoroughly to stop harmful residue from irritating the skin. The characteristics of any good shampoo are:
Rinses easily (usually associated with low suds),
Reasonable price per bath,
Enhances coat brightness (and in this field test, color).
And because we think horses smell just great the way they are and don’t need to smell like fruit or candy, we prefer shampoos without fragrances.
For our field test, we chose horses with the coat colors identified by the manufacturers as those their products were designed to enhance. We chose horses who had been bathed recently, anticipating the difference between color enhancement and clean would become apparent.
We used the same black horse for all appropriate trials and tested each shampoo in a separate body area to minimize variables between horses and to allow clearer comparisons. We used the shoulder, barrel, haunch, etc. to make visual comparisons easier. We did not compare croup to shoulder, for example.
Our subject horses all had healthy summer coats. We followed the manufacturers’ instructions to the letter. We used warm water for rinsing. If you don’t have a warm-water tap, try setting buckets of rinse water out in the sun while you ride. We also let the horses dry completely before observing the results. We observed the coats in shade and sun — and from every angle — to determine the difference from the unbathed coat and to compare products.
We always look for value, and we determined that the price per ounce is not as significant as how much of the product you will use per bath. The shampoos that may be used diluted are all reasonably priced per ounce. While some of the products seem on the pricey side (see chart), if you like the results, the prices may not seem significant.
Animal Legends Silks Blue is a purple liquid with nearly no scent. Whether diluted or used full strength, it rinsed out well and left the coat squeaky clean. This product is the best among those tested in ease and thoroughness of rinsing. It is advertised to whiten and to enhance colors in general and is claimed to have a high-quality bluing agent. We tested it on a white coat with brown and black areas. The white was brighter, and there was enhanced contrast between the three colors.
BioGroom’s Show White is a blue gel with a soap-like scent that claims to be non-bleaching and does not strip the horse’s natural oils. It produced a high volume of suds compared to the other shampoos and was more difficult to rinse out than most of the others. It is advertised to enhance white and other light colors. It cleaned our black and brown spotted leopard Appaloosa’s coat effectively, but the colors were not necessarily enhanced. Our palomino was again beautifully cleaned, but we found no discernible difference in color. Our white/gray horse was so much cleaner after his bath that his dark skin was more obvious through his clean hair coat, but he was not necessarily whiter.
Exhibitor Labs Quic Color And Quic Silver shampoos are thick purple liquids with a fresh, light scent. When used full strength as indicated, they produced moderate suds and rinsed out easily. The manufacturer said they contain no bleaches, bluings or harsh chemicals and the color won’t rub off on your saddle pad. They use “light-refracting color technology” to intensify all the colors naturally found in the horse’s coat.
The product should not be left on the horse for more than 10 minutes or the coat will pick up a lavender cast. This will shampoo out with a plain shampoo or wear off with hosing in a couple of days. (The manufacturer says for sunburned coats, leave Quic Color on for another five minutes if there are no white areas. It may take more than one shampooing if the color loss has been extreme.) After using either shampoo, the manufacturer asks that you finish with Quic Sheen, a moisturizing spray that helps replace some of the moisture that shampooing removes and also picks up ultraviolet light.
Quic Color is designed for coat colors not covered by Quic Silver (chestnut, bay, brown and black). Our chestnut and black were slightly more shiny, possibly due to being clean. We found no discernible difference in the bay. The seal brown was slightly enhanced. Regardless of the name, the manufacture explains that this product is also appropriate to be used on horses with white areas. When used on our black-and-white Paint, we found the mare’s coat slightly more shiny.
Quic Silver is designed for light-colored coats (grays, palominos and Appaloosas). The manufacturer said it can also be used on combined dark and white coats for a silvery white. Our black and brown leopard Appaloosa’s coat was definitely whiter. In fact, it sparkled. The dark colors were cleaner but not lightened. The black and white paint’s coat was slightly more shiny, but we questioned if it was just cleanliness. Our gray/white coat was definitely whiter with a sparkle. This product gave us the best white of all those tested. We found no discernible difference in the palomino.
Farnam’s White 'n Brite shampoo is a thick purple liquid with a light scent. It diluted well and gave low, but comfortable, suds that rinsed easily. This product is designed for light-colored coats. Our gray was clean but not significantly more white. The palomino’s coat had a slight enhancement. The only difference in the black and brown leopard Appaloosa’s coat was determined to be due to his being clean.
Healthy Hair Care’s Silverado Silver shampoo is a thick purple liquid with a soapy floral scent. When used full strength as indicated, it produced a very high suds level, but it still rinsed out easily. This product is designed for “brighter whites, shiny highlights, and silvery grays.” It is recommended for palominos, Paints, Appaloosas and grays.
We found our palomino, a medium dark gold, became slightly lighter in color. Our black and white Paint’s white patches were indeed emphasized more than what we attribute to being clean. Our leopard Appaloosa had a slight shine, but his white areas were not necessarily whiter. The gray’s coat had a definite shine. The manufacturer said this product contains optical brighteners. The maximum effect will be seen in sunlight.
Wonder Groom Whitening shampoo (Nature’s Own/Equine America) is a blue gel with a faint chemical scent. It gave moderately high lather that was not the easiest to rinse out. Marketed for light or dark coats, we tried it on four: The black was discernibly blacker; the palomino was discernibly shinier gold. The bay was a bit more shiny. We could not see a difference in the gray. The color was not enhanced, although the dark skin spots underneath were more obvious. The manufacturer says this contains op tical brighteners.
Shapley’s EquiTone Black Tone is a thick black liquid with the scent of licorice. It gave moderate suds and rinsed out easily. This product is designed to enhance black and bay coats. The bay was slightly more shiny. The black was definitely blacker. The container suggests that this product “rejuvenates sun damaged hair,” so we tried it on sun-bleached tail hair. The sun-browned hairs were darker, but not black, after shampooing.
With all its shampoos, Shapley’s recommends the horse be pretested for sensitivity. Use gloves when applying to prevent skin stains; in case of color contact with white hair or other areas not requiring color, rinse immediately.
Shapley’s Golden Tone is a thick orange liquid with a soap scent. It produced moderate suds and rinsed out easily. It is designed to enhance coat color on palominos and buckskins. We tried it on a buckskin and found no discernible difference, but our palomino’s gold coat was definitely more shiny.
Shapley’s Red Tone is a thick red liquid with a fruity scent. It gave moderate to high suds and was a little harder to rinse out. This shampoo is marketed to enhance chestnuts, sorrels and browns. It definitely enhanced our chestnut’s color. It clearly brought out the red in our brown horse’s coat, but since we want our seal brown to look more brown, we would save this for chestnuts.
Shapley’s Whitening shampoo is a purple gel with nearly no scent. It gave moderate-to-high suds and was a little harder to rinse out than others. It brought a shine to the white and bay parts of our Appaloosa, but there was no discernible difference in our white/gray. The whitening effect became more apparent upon drying.
Absorbine’s ShowClean Whitener is a light purple liquid with an apple scent. It produced moderate-to-high suds but rinsed out easily. This product is marketed to whiten and also to highlight any color coat. Our palomino’s coat turned a more shiny gold with this shampoo. We found no discernible difference in our black, gray or chestnut. The manufacturer says it has brighteners and no harmful bleaches or peroxide. For best results, the manufacturer recommends using ShowClean after shampooing with SuperPoo.
Absorbine’s SuperPoo Conditioning shampoo is a clear liquid with an apple scent that produced moderate suds and rinsed easily. This is designed to make coats shiny and bright, which it did. It brought out a reddish tint to our black horse in the sun, which we felt could be due to the product enhancing the bleached parts of his coat. There was no discernible difference in the gray or the palomino.
Some products do, in fact, enhance coat colors. If you have a gray/white horse, you’ve got the best chance of making a difference (and, since keeping white hair looking sharp is far more difficult than any other color, we think you deserve every opportunity!). Since some of the results were slight, and others varied with coat colors, we recommend experimenting some on your own, too.
In our testing, for the best sparkling white, we would first try Exhibitor Labs’ Quic Silver. For almost as sparkling a white, and good enhancement of other colors, we recommend Healthy Hair Care’s Silverado Silver. Our picks for black, palomino and chestnut horses are the Shapley products.