Image via iStock.com/nigelb10
By Helen Anne Travis
For many horse owners, clipping can be a quite the chore, especially if your horse is frightened by the process. But keeping your horse’s coat properly clipped is important for the animal’s health and comfort.
Here are some tips to help you feel more confident and in control when clipping your horse, including helpful information on buying the right horse clippers, keeping the animal calm and deciding which clipping style is best for your horse.
Why You Should Clip a Horse’s Coat
When horses’ coats are clipped properly, they are better able to regulate their body temperature.
“In the summer, an unclipped horse can become extremely sweaty when worked,” says Antoinette Daddario, a horse owner with 22 years of experience grooming and caring for horses. “In the winter, an unclipped horse can catch a chill if they are put away sweaty.”
Having a clipped horse also saves time if he is ridden regularly. When your horse is clipped, his coat dries faster after a bath or intense workout, she says. Being able to better see his skin also helps you find and address any cuts or injuries that could lead to infection down the line.
But keep in mind that you need to pay extra attention to insect and sun protection for horses that are clipped in the summer and to blanketing for warmth for horses that are clipped in the winter.
Finding the Right Horse Clippers
Having the right horse clippers can make clipping your horse an efficient and less stressful experience for both of you. But there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every horse.
To figure out which horse clippers make the most sense for you and your horse, you have to consider your needs as well as your horse’s, says Sally Morgan, PT, CST, a holistic physical therapist for people and animals and PATH certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.
You want to buy horse clippers that are light enough to hold for long periods of time and easily maneuverable so that you can move around your horse’s body effectively; one such example is the Andis ProClip AGC2 UltraEdge two-speed detachable blade pet clipper. You also want to consider how sensitive your horse is to noise and physical sensations. Some horse clippers are louder and vibrate more strongly than others.
Make sure to keep the layout of your barn in mind as well. If you do not have easy access to a power outlet, you will want to consider battery-powered horse clippers like the Oster Lithium+Ion Pro3000iTM cordless horse clipper or the Andis Plus ZR cordless detachable blade clipper.
Having blade wash on hand is also helpful in case hair and dirt start to stick to the blades. Be prepared to take them apart and clean them as needed if they get clogged.
Since there is a lot of surface area to cover while horse clipping, be sure to continually check that the blades are not getting too hot for your horse. A cooling spray can help ensure your horse stays comfortable and relaxed during the process, says Daddario. Andis Cool Care Plus is a blade coolant that also serves as a disinfectant, lubricant, cleaner and rust preventative.
A blade lubricant can keep your horse clippers in top condition. You should lubricate them as needed or whenever they start to leave lines on the horse, she says. And always wash and dry them after every clip.
Remember, it’s a messy process. Wear comfortable clothes that you can easily move in. You’ll be covered in hair by the time you’re done; Daddario and Morgan both recommend wearing extra layers. “I've found that a plastic rain slicker is one of the best materials for keeping the hair off of your skin,” says Daddario.
Preparing Your Horse to Be Clipped
The first step to successfully clipping your horses is to groom them thoroughly. Give them a bath, a vacuum or a good brushing to remove as much dirt as possible from their coat. Excess dust and dirt can get stuck in the blades of the horse clippers, slowing down the process and possibly damaging your equipment, says Daddario.
But if you opt to wash your horse, don’t clip him near the same location where you gave him his bath. “A lot of people don't consider this, but it’s very dangerous to have electrical equipment around standing water and horses,” says Morgan. Many horses wear metal shoes, so it is important to mindful of their safety.
Morgan also recommends introducing the horse to the clippers slowly and gently and waiting for a time when the barn is quiet to clip. “When clipping a horse for the first time, I tend to start with the clippers at a lower setting,” says Daddario. “I set the blades against their skin so they can get used to the sensation and sound. Then I slowly turn them up and begin clipping less sensitive areas, such as their abdomen and hips.”
Moving slowly and talking to your horse can help ease his nerves, says Daddario. You can also ask another person to hold the horse still and keep him distracted while you work.
Six Horse Clipping Patterns and When to Use Them
The most popular horse clipping patterns include full-body, hunter, blanket, trace, Irish and bib.
As the name implies, this involves clipping the entire body. It’s often used on show horses or those working in hot climates, says Daddario.
“This is the type of clip I use most often.”
A full-body clip makes it easier to bathe horses, cool them off after workouts and keep them clean. Just be sure to keep them properly blanketed in winter, she says.
A hunter clip is similar to a full-body clip, but the legs are left unclipped along with a saddle patch on the back and belly.
This helps keep them comfortable during long trail rides in dense brush, says Morgan.
“The hair remaining under the saddle helps to keep the back muscles warm and protects the back from bits of debris that may gather under the saddle pad,” she says.
Leaving the legs unclipped helps keep the horse warm during winter months, says Daddario, but you’ll still have to change their blankets as needed.
With this pattern, a majority of the horse’s coat is left intact. Usually only the neck, chest, lower belly and hips are clipped.
A blanket clip helps the horse stay warm in the winter while allowing areas that tend to accumulate sweat to dry quickly. With this clip, you’ll want to make sure your horse has plenty of time to cool down and dry off after a sweaty workout, says Daddario.
A trace clip is similar to a blanket clip, but less of the neck is clipped. You can modify the cut as needed depending on how much your horse works—the harder he works, the more of the neck you’ll clip, says Daddario.
Starting with a trace clip is a low-stress way of introducing your horse to the horse clipping process, says Morgan.
An Irish clip involves clipping the hair on the belly, neck and chest and leaving the rest of the body unclipped. It’s often used on horses who live outside in the winter but still need to cool off after working.
In this pattern, only the underside of the neck and chest are clipped. It’s best for horses who live in cold conditions and are ridden occasionally. But horses with this clipping pattern often need extra time to cool off after a ride or workout.