Here we are! It’s that time of year when our horses turn into woolly teddy bears. Cute but not practical especially if you exercise your horse regularly. This blog is designed to inform you of why clipping might be an option for you. Along with advise on when to clip, safety and different styles of clips for your horse.
Why do we clip horses?
As we all know as soon as the cold arrives our horses grow a thicker winter coat. This is perfect for horses that live outside without any rugs, their winter coat will protect them cold weather elements. That said if your horse is in regular work a winter coat can cause havoc. Making them sweat excessively. Sweating then leads to issues of trying to cool your horse down. The last thing you want is for your horse to catch a chill from then not being able to dry and regulate their temperature.
Horse Clipping minimises sweating and will enable him to dry and cool off more effectively. Horse clipping will prevent your horse from catching a chill and it will also cut down on grooming time. Clipping is also a great way to encourage their coat to grow back nicer and glossier for summer.
If your horse is living out all winter, it is advisable not to clip and ensure that they have suitable field shelter. You may still want to rug up to protect your horse from rain scald, mud and when it gets really cold. Most hardy types have winter coats designed to protect them from the elements, but do keep an eye on how your horse is coping.
When to clip your horse?
Most horses are clipped in September or October. however, depending on the amount of work you do with your horse and the breed; will depend on when you will want/need to clip.
Some competition horses are clipped all year round to keep them cool, minimise sweating and keep them looking neat and tidy.
As the coat tends to grow very quickly between September and December you may need to clip every 3 to 4 weeks. For most people find two to three clips per winter is ample. You wouldn’t want to clip much later than February so not to interfere with the summer coat coming through.
Types of Clips for your horse
There are all sorts of clips and designs out there, some people like to get creative and design fun patterns to really stand out from the crowd!
Here are the traditional types of clips available:
Full Clip – all the coat, including the legs, head and ears are removed.
The full clip should only be used for horses in hard competition work and with no turnout throughout the winter months.
Hunter Clip – the majority of the coat is removed except for the saddle area and the legs.
The hunter clip provides protection from the saddle and leaving the hair on the legs provides warmth and protection.
The blanket clip is perfect for horses in medium work who get turned out during the day when the weather permits. This clip provides warmth without excessive sweating.
Chaser Clip – very similar to the blanket clip but leaves the hair on the top of the neck to provide warmth to the muscles here, again the legs are left on for extra warmth and protection.
The chaser clip is perfect for horses in medium work who get turned out during the day when the weather permits. This clip provides warmth without excessive sweating.
The trace clip is ideal for horses in moderate work and turned out during the day, as it removes the hair where excessive sweating can occur but still ensures your horse will stay warm.
Irish Clip – removes the hair from where your horse sweats the most which is around the neck and armpits, you can remove the whole head of hair and clip from the poll to the point of the stifle. Leaving the hindquarters, hind legs and forelegs with hair.
The Irish clip is ideal for young horses or horses in light work and those turned out during the day, a quick and simple clip to do.
The bib clip is ideal for horses in very light work and that are turned out throughout the winter.
Careful management of your horse is required to ensure they are suitably rugged once clipped. You should ensure they do not get cold, especially if they have a full clip as the horse will have no protection from the cold.
If your horse is turned out all winter careful rugging and shelter will be required and minimum hair removable is advisable.
Things to consider before clipping your horse:
- Has your horse been clipped before? Does he need to build his confidence with the clippers?
- Will your horse be stabled?
- Will your horse have any turn out over the winter months?
- How much work is your horse doing?
- How much does your horse sweat?
- Is your horse a cold or warm horse? How much does your horse feel the cold?
- What rugs do you already have and what rugs are you prepared to buy (budget)?
- Your clippers should be in full working order, it is advisable to have them serviced once a year.
- Check the cables, blades and tensioning before clipping.
- Your clipper blades should be sharp and clean, blunt blades are a nightmare and make clipping slow and uncomfortable for your horse.
- Clipper oil and brush at the ready to clean your clippers and blades whilst in clipping mode.
- Each manufacturer has different tension modes for clippers, always read the instruction manual and ensure you have the right tension setting.
- Make sure you have a circuit breaker attached to the clippers for safety.
- Sometimes you may want to tie some string to the ceiling to keep the wire off the floor and prevent it being trodden on.
- Have some surgical spirit or blade wash to hand.
- Make sure you have a spare set of blades. Never force blunt blades through the coat.
- Make sure your clippers and blades are oiled before starting your clip.
Horse Clipping Preparation
- Your horse should be clean and dry – it is a good idea to bath your horse the day before you intend to clip.
- Ensure your horse is fed before you clip, this will help to keep him settled.
- Some people tie up a net to help entertain the horse throughout the clip.
- Choose to clip at a quiet time to limit distractions.
- Ensure you have a well lit stable to clip in or find somewhere undercover and out of the wind.
- Mark out your clip with chalk as this will save time and prevent mistakes.
- Use a tail bandage and band the mane to ensure you do not accidentally catch them with the clippers.
- Ensure you have a grooming brush ready to brush away stray cut hairs.
- Ensure you have a clean rug ready to put on your horse once your clip is complete. If giving your horse a full clip or hunter clip you may want to clip one half of his body and cover him up while you clip the other half, this will prevent him catching a chill.
Young or Nervous Horses – Preparation for Clipping:
- Stand your young or nervous horse next to an experienced horse while the experienced horse is being clipped, this will help the younger or nervous horse get used to the noise of the clippers without approaching him with them.
- Spend time in the stable with your young or nervous horse – run the clippers over his body with the clippers switched off.
- Once the horse is comfortable with the clippers switched off, switch them on and place the clippers on his body with your hand between him and the clippers, this will allow him to feel the vibrations with a minimised hum.
- If the horse is comfortable with the vibrations through your hand, start by moving the clippers along his body in the direction of the coat, without cutting, repeat until he is comfortable with this.
- Ensure your horse is comfortable with the noise, vibrations and sensations of the clippers before you attempt to clip – when the day arrives to clip he will know what to expect and will accept it willingly.
- Start with an easy clip for your first clip on a young or nervous horse, ideally a bib clip to build his confidence.
- Positive experiences will ensure that the next time you clip you can go for a larger clip.
There are clippers on the market specifically for nervous horses – i.e. they have low noise and vibration levels, these may be worth thinking about if your horse is really scared. The Heiniger Progress Clippers are ideal for the nervous or young horse.
Most horses find clipping a relaxing pamper session and will sometimes fall asleep during the clipping process! Ensure your horse has a good experience, as one frightening experience could lead to a difficult or dangerous horse to clip.
How to Clip your Horse:
Clipping is an art form and it comes with time and experience, if it is your first time clipping then it is best to learn on a horse that is good to clip and start off with something easy like a bib or neck and belly clip. Ensure you are prepared, your clippers and blades are clean, sharpened and serviced. Your horse is clean and dry and you have a suitable space to clip in which has good lighting. You should be prepared with:
- Suitable clothing – when clipping horse hairs get everywhere, I would advise buying an overall such as the Harry Hall Draycott Coverall, this lightweight, waterproof suit will help keep all those itchy hairs from sticking to your normal riding clothes. The hairs should just run off this suit, rather than attach themselves like little needles!!
- Wear your riding hat to protect your head, especially if you are clipping a horse you do not know or a horse that is nervous.
- Wear rubber soled boots, you will be working with electricity so this is a necessary precaution against an electric shock.
- You may need an assistant to help handle the horse, or keep him occupied for tricky areas.
Top Tips for clipping your horse:
- Always switch your clippers on away from your horse before calmly walking towards him.
- Always start at the shoulder and use long, overlapping strokes that go against the direction of the hair growth.
- Always pull the skin tight with your spare hand around folds or wrinkled skin.
- Change the angle or direction of your clippers when you come across whirls / whorls.
- Check your blades are not getting too hot by testing them on the back of your hand.
- Oil and brush your clippers every 10 minutes to help them stay cool and work at their best.
- Always have a spare set of blades, do not force blunt blades through the coat.
- Sometimes it might be ideal to use a trimmer for areas such as the head and ears, it will be easier for you and more comfortable for your horse.
- Never get angry or frustrated with your horse, use your hand over his eye like a blinker when clipping his head or ask your helper / handler to feed him some nuts to keep the horse occupied and settled.
- When you have finished brush away any loose hairs, once you are happy you haven’t missed any areas give him a final wipe down with a cloth and hot water to remove any grease.
- Remember to rug your horse according to the weather and how much he feels the cold.