Horse Life

Dying Your Gray Horse’s Tail…A Cautionary Tale

This is a tale about dying your horse’s tail.  And it’s not pretty.

L from Gray Horse Problems posted a tutorial for dying your gray horse’s tail, and I immediately ordered all the supplies, because hello, Gus’ tail is magnificent.

Since Pilgrim is a disgusting creature, I try to purple shampoo his tail at least 2-3x/week. But I never feel like it actually looks clean. More than once I’ve threatened to just dye his tail all black. So when I saw the tutorial, I was super excited to try it.




First, I gathered up all the supplies:

CaptureCapture1Plus Latex gloves, plastic bags, and vet wrap. Turquoise vet wrap, naturally.


P knows I have no business near hair dye


Then I tied up the black part of his tail to keep it out of the way.


Then I mixed up the stuff (probably wrong), and slathered it in- again, probably wrong.


Then wrapped the plastic bag over it and put him in his stall so his tail could cook.


After 30 minutes, I unwrapped to wash the bleach out. It was a little shocking to see how yellow it was, but I didn’t panic (yet) because now it was time for the purple shampoo to get that gleaming white!



Now, I’m well-versed in the world of purple shampoo. I should probably own stock in Vetrolin White ‘N Brite. But I’ve never left purple shampoo in for longer than 5 or so minutes, and this called for leaving it in for 30 minutes.


Then I rinsed out with hot water and….behold:


Now I felt slightly panicked, but surely it won’t DRY this way. I’m sure it’s fine.


Nope, not fine.

Here are some more angles just to let this sink in:


Yep, that’s purple.

With nothing more I could do that night, I turned him out. Choking back some sobs as I watched him walk away.


And for the first time EVER, willed him to roll harder to maybe disguise it a bit until I could find a solution.


Grind it in, buddy


The next day I texted my salon-owning friend who does my hair.


Then she called me right away because I had forgotten to add that I had used the above process on my horse and not my own hair, and she was freaking out that I had burned off all my hair.


She recommended clarifying shampoo or, since it was horse hair, mixing baking soda and Dawn dish soap.



So I ran to the store and then to the barn, just hoping that maybe I had temporarily gone color-blind the night before and it really wouldn’t be purple when I pulled in.


No such luck, so I got to scrubbing.


And it worked! You can still see that the color has obviously been tampered with, and every once in awhile there’s a subtle hint of purple here and there, but it’s not OBVIOUSLY purple anymore.

So, what was the purpose of posting this? Well, just a warning to not be like me. I’ve never been a “test for color fastness” person. I mean, who has the time for that? And it’s always worked out for me. Until this. So if you ever get the urge to alter your horse’s hair color, maybe just take 90 minutes (or less) and test to make sure you don’t turn your horse into Barney the Dinosaur.





41 thoughts on “Dying Your Gray Horse’s Tail…A Cautionary Tale”

  1. oh my god. i am sobbing with laughter here. I LOVE PURPLE but yet not in a horse’s tail. OMG still laughing. Sorry but you have to have had the best post ever today!! Thanks I needed the giggle. OMG 🙂 THIS IS WHY I dont ever touch hair dye for me or my horse. 🙂 Thanks for the warning though. Poor P. 🙂


      1. Figuring out white hair is the worst. I’ll have to post some of my fails… for example, I used this product everyone on COTH recommended for extra white shine at Chatt and his hair turned to straw. It was so brittle and gross. Not sure if it reacted badly with something else in his tail but I’ve been afraid to try it again!


  2. LOOOOL that is a good one. Glad I’ll only ever have to deal with black dye, which I can just cover up with more black dye!! Not that Murray will ever let me dye his tail but… ya know.


  3. I had a gray horse before May that was pretty gross, and May’s “golden yellow” tail likes to be more “poop brown”. I am also the laziest person with a light colored horse ever and only really wash tails for shows. my secret? This stuff:

    It is literally a concentrated, powder form of purple shampoo. for really bad tails (yours does not qualify, just that stuff with water will work), I mix it with GOOP and make a purple paste. Leave on for 10 minutes. Wash out. Condition. and BLINDING WHITE TAIL.

    One day I’ll have to do a tutorial on it.


  4. As someone who went to cosmetology school I cringed through the whole post and laughed at your friend’s response. Clarifying shampoo might do a better job of getting rid of the yellow than bleach (yellow is the toughest color to remove from hair strands).
    Thanks for taking one for the collective blogger team though. 🙂


      1. You’ve damaged the hair with bleach (it’s just what happens when bleach or developer is used). It will eventually wash out but the cuticles on the hair shafts are blown out and will allow all kinds of junk to get in there possibly preventing the color from ‘falling out’ sooner. You can use the clarifying shampoo daily but I would also use a leave in conditioner to help the dryness the tail will now experience.
        I don’t know the life cycle length of horse hair (it’s years and years but I don’t know how many) but it will be a while before the bleach hair is all gone. However, the purple/blue should hopefully disappear in a few weeks.


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