The showing season is just around the corner; your entry forms are all filled out and awaiting posting, your horse is schooled to perfection and the smart new show jacket you had for Christmas is hanging waiting in the wardrobe – when disaster strikes; your horse picks up a minor injury which results in a nasty and very visible mark-losing scar.
Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of special, equine specific makeup. Most breed societies allow the use of makeup to disguise minor blemishes and uneven markings providing it is not too obvious, although there are one or two exceptions. Do check with organisers before spending time and money on makeup you may not actually be permitted to use in the classes you are intending to enter.
Practice makes perfect of course and it's always wise to make sure you are adept and confident in the application of makeup to your horse well in advance of your first competitive outing. You may find that you have to blend colours to achieve the exact shade you need. Always opt for a lighter shade rather than a darker one as this will reflect light and have a highlighting effect. A no-shine, matte finish is best to cover scars or even out markings. And just as with people, the golden rule for applying makeup to your horse is; "less is more".
There are many manufacturers of horse makeup and it comes in different forms – gels, crèmes, oils and sprays, powders and sticks. For fun fancy dress and novelty classes you can even buy sparkly hoof oils and coat sprays containing different coloured glitter!
It pays to experiment with different products and shades until you find the closest match to your horse's coat colour. You should be aware that some crèmes or gels may actually dye or stain the hair so always choose a small inconspicuous area to test first and allow a couple of months before your first public outing, just in case of calamity!
When show time arrives, go through your usual preparatory routine of grooming and bathing your horse. On the morning of the show apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to any scabs and leave it on for at least 30 minutes. Gently remove the petroleum jelly and see if the scab will come away. If it doesn't, reapply another coat of petroleum jelly and leave for a further 30 minutes.
Before you get your horse out of his stable, lay out everything you will need to apply his makeup. It's always handy at this stage to have an assistant to pass you items as you need them. Mix the colours you are going to use. Always wear disposable gloves and protective clothing for this as some products may stain.
Using a clean, lint-free cloth, wipe the makeup over the area you wish to enhance or disguise. Begin by applying a thin layer working against the direction of the horse's coat and ensuring that the colour reaches the skin and completely covers the hair follicles. You may need several applications to achieve the correct coverage.
Next, using a clean cloth, remove any excess by carefully blotting the area rather than scrubbing. If any makeup has spread or run, remove it gently using a wad of slightly damp cotton wool. Use a toothbrush to flatten the hair in the correct direction and apply a final thin layer of makeup. A hairdryer can be used to dry gels or crèmes if your horse will tolerate it but do make sure you don't have the temperature set too high and hold it at least 12 inches away from the horse's skin. Three or four minutes is usually sufficient to dry most products.
If your horse has white markings such as socks you can enhance them by using special chalk designed for this purpose. Dampen the area first using a small sponge then dust with the powder and use your fingers to work it through to the skin. As with all makeup, begin with a little and gradually build up the coverage until you achieve the desired result. Flick off any excess powder that has drifted onto the coat or hooves using a soft finishing brush.
You are now ready to apply hoof oil and a show shine finishing spray.
Finally, before you tuck your horse up for the night after his day out at the show, don't forget to remove all makeup thoroughly from your horse's skin and coat using warm water and a sponge.