If you’ve been fortunate enough to drive or hike near the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England you no doubt came upon a stunning white horse carved into the escarpment. This equine monument is a sight to behold but the time has come for the horse to receive a bit of a grooming.

According to the BBC , English Heritage announced it was undertaking tests to source a more “sustainable” paint to re-whiten the horse with. The charity said that the pandemic had delayed its plan to whiten the carving but has amassed an impressive £30,000 in donations to go towards the restoration.

“It will be the biggest overhaul we’ve ever done on the site,” English Heritage’s properties coordinator Win Scutt told the BBC. “At the moment it looks particularly grim because it hardly gets any sun at this time of year…We are really keen to keep it white and it’s a scheduled monument in the care of English Heritage, and we regularly clean it every two years, but it’s an expensive job.”

This image of the Westbury White Horse taken in 2005 shows just how dirty and weathered the unique carving can get.(P Smith photo/WikimediaCommons)

Apparently, part of the upkeep involves cleaning and repacking the gaps between each cement panel that makes up the white horse. As for the paint itself, Scutt adds, “We are trying to find a paint or a cement wash that will last the longest as a sustainable solution that will work out the cheapest so that we don’t have to spend vast sums of money every two years.” It also has to be eco-friendly so as not to negatively affect the local wildlife.

The monument was first restored in 1778 and dates back to 878 AD as a commemoration to King Alfred’s victory over the Danish at the Battle of Ethandune.

Standing at 175ft (53m) tall it is considered the oldest white horse carving in Wiltshire, but not the only one. Indeed, an engraving from the 1760s show a second horse facing in the opposite direction but there is no current evidence of it having been there.

Other white horses that can be seen carved into the English countryside include the Cherhill White Horse, also known as the Oldbury White Horse, the Marlborough White Horse and the Uffington White Horse.

And according to local legend, the Westbury White Horse is rumoured to trot down to the nearby Bridewell springs for a drink each night when the local Bratton church clock strikes midnight!