Hair color: It’s not just for humans anymore

Readying livestock for any kind fair or show is always a lot of work, but because I have chosen to own and show miniatures with Appaloosa patterns I always have more white to scrub daily during the fair than the average exhibitor.

I’m lucky because my draft horse is black, but she does have one white leg. To cut down on white areas that need scrubbing, I have always purchased spray paint for livestock and painted her leg during the fair, but the color constantly rubs off and needs reapplied.

This photo shows the leg before hair color was applied.
This photo shows the leg before hair color was applied.

I’ve known for a while that many folks in the draft horse world use human hair dye to color their horses’ coats, but I had never considered it as an option for me. I understand why they color the coats — it is legal at draft horse shows and really how often are you going to find six horses for a hitch class that match perfectly. Applying hair color to their horses certainly makes sense for them, but I was a little concerned about the work involved with turning a barn into a beauty shop for a day of horse pampering and coat coloring.

I finally decided to try coloring just the white leg on the black horse to see how it would work. I went to the Dollar Tree and bought a box of black hair dye. If you decide to try a similar experiment yourself, I suggest adding another set of gloves to your kit and finding a place out of the sun. I think you should also start with a clean animal.

I was excited about the result of my first try. The leg went from white to black and stayed that way for more than two weeks. I was tempted to try to dye her entire coat before the fair to make her more of a rich black, but I ran out of time, bravery and ambition. I could just see myself showing up at the fair with a purple rather than a black horse.

A friend of mine regularly dyes the coats on his horses so they match for their large draft horse hitch. He said that I need to buy more expensive and higher quality dye so the color will hold longer. He also said that for a full size draft horse they use about 10 boxes of hair color.

The color of this leg now blends in with the rest of the horse's body now that black hair color has been applied.
The color of this leg blends in with the rest of the horse’s body now that black hair color has been applied.

As for me, this year, I’ll be re-coloring my mare’s white leg with the cheap dye right before the fair. I only need the color to last one week, and I much prefer the process of coloring the hair on the leg to constantly washing it or trying to keep horse paint on it.

Now I just have to decide if while I’m at it I should go ahead and dye my hair to match.



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