Tips & Tricks for Clipping Your Horse

Clipping your horse can seem overwhelming. What’s the right clipper and clipper blade to use? My horse is turned out 24/7, does he need to be clipped, and if so what’s the right clipping pattern? Don’t worry, there’s no right or wrong answer to if you should or shouldn’t clip your horse. But there are some simple ways to figure out the right clippers, blades, and clip pattern for your horse.

How do you prepare and care for a horse for clipping?

Before clipping your horse, you’ll want to make sure you have all your supplies ready to go, a clip decided on, and the time set aside to bathe and clip your horse. Clipping is easiest on a clean, dry horse. Bathing the night before tends to yield the best results as a clean and dry coat will offer a more even clip. After bathing, do not spray and coat conditioners or similar products on your horse as they can dull your clipper blades. If bathing isn’t an option, grooming your horse well beforehand will also reduce the dirt and dust in your horse’s coat that can also dull your clipper blades.

Choosing the right clipper blades can seem daunting, but there are a few easy ways to know what’s going to work best. For most heavy-duty body clippers there is a set blade for each clipper model, so there isn’t room to mix and match with those. With Multi-purpose clippers, it’s best to stick to the same brand as your clipper but there are a few options for size/hair length. You’ll want to choose the blade based on how short you want the hair to be, the higher the number the shorter the hair it leaves. A #40 blade offers the closest clip and is often used for ears, muzzles, or surgical prep. For body clipping with a multi-purpose, it is recommended to use either a #10 blade or a T-84, the T-84 is a wider blade and leaves the hair barely longer than a #10 blade would.

Once you’ve chosen the right clipper and blade combination, you’ll want to make sure you have some additional supplies. Make sure you have blade oil, coolant, and wash to keep your clipper and blades clean and running well throughout the process. A set of extra blades is also advisable just in case your original set gets dull or too hot throughout the process. Take stock of where you’ll be clipping and what clip you plan to do. If you’re doing a full-body clip you may need a step stool to reach certain areas of your horse or if you may want chalk to outline a pattern for a trace clip. Additionally, keep your grooming tote and extra rags handy as you may need to brush excess hair off your horse, clippers, or even yourself.

Clipping Your Horse

When should you clip a horse's body?

There is no one right answer to when or even why you should clip a horse. Horses that are being ridden regularly, have grown a winter coat, and sweat when worked are generally candidates for some form of a body clip. Clipping horses that work regularly will allow them to cool down and dry more quickly. Horses with conditions like Cushing’s Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, or Anhidrosis may require clipping a few times throughout the year to keep them comfortable. Horses with these conditions may need help regulating their body temperature or ability to sweat throughout the year, this will require you to evaluate what kind of clip they will need a few times a year. In some warmer climates, you may not clip in the winter but will want to clip in spring and summer when temperatures skyrocket. When clipping in any season you’ll want to make sure your horse has adequate protection from the elements. In the summer, you may need to add a fly sheet while in the winter a heavier blanket may be needed for turnout than when your horse is unclipped.

What are the different clipping patterns?

Full Body Clip

Full-Body Clip

This clip removes all hair from the body, head, and legs. This is best for horses in hard work.

Hunter Clip

Hunter Clip

Best for horses in medium to hard work. This clip leaves hair only in the saddle area and on the legs. Some people will leave the head unclipped with a hunter clip or blend the clip onto the head.

Blanket Clip

Blanket Clip

Best for horses in medium work. This clip allows more airflow to the neck, chest, and belly while keeping hair on the back, legs, and face where your horse is less likely to sweat.

Chaser Clip

Chaser Clip

Best for horses in medium work. This clip removes more hair from the neck and head than the trace clip to allow airflow to the most common sweat areas but keeps the back and crest of the neck warm.

Trace Clip

Trace Clip

Another great option for horse’s being turned out in all weather or long periods of time. This clip removes hair from the front of the neck and chest and along the horse’s sides and belly.

Irish Clip

Irish Clip

Another clip best for horses in light work. Paired with a blanket suitable to your climate this clip allows your horse to stay warm. Hair is clipped from the neck and girth area leaving your horse’s back, haunches, and legs unclipped.

Bib/Strip Clip

Bib/Strip Clip

This clip removes the least amount of hair. Sometimes this clip can continue between the front legs onto the belly where the girth would sit. Best for horses in light work, new to clipping, or who are turned out in all weather conditions.

Where do you start when clipping a horse?

Is your horse a seasoned pro at clipping or is it their first time even seeing a clipper? Every horse is different and there’s no one right way to deal with clipping them. Many horses may be completely unconcerned by clippers or being clipped while others may end up needing to be tranqed or clipped by a professional.

The best way to test out your horse’s reaction is to start by turning your clippers on at the lowest setting. Allow your horse to hear and see the clippers without touching them. This may require a second person to hold your horse or the clippers if they are too nervous to be on cross ties. Once you’ve established your horse is ready to touch the clippers, start at the shoulder as it tends to be the best approach. The shoulder is less sensitive than the haunches, face, or belly can be. Once they’ve acclimated to the vibration you can move on to the more sensitive areas.

How to body clip a horse?

Now you’re ready to clip your horse. Depending on the clipping pattern you’ve chosen you’ll want to either sketch out the pattern or start freehand. For full or hunter clips, you can work in square sections. For trace and other similar clips, you will want to start at the lowest area of the clip. Clipping against the hair, in the opposite direction of hair growth, will help eliminate lines or uneven patches. Areas that are harder to clip such as elbows or the throatlatch will require you to lightly pull the skin so that it is flat and not wrinkled. Wrinkles in these areas can cause accidental cuts or excess hair to be left behind. Clipping times will vary depending on the clipping pattern you choose as well as your familiarity with clipping and your horse’s tolerance. Full clips may take a few hours whereas a Bib may only take a few minutes. Allow time to take breaks and don’t worry if you have to clip your horse over two sessions.

What do you do after clipping?

After you finish clipping your horse, you’ll want to brush them to remove any loose hair. If circumstances permit bathing your horse is ideal. Bathing will remove any remaining hair and residue from clipping oil, blade wash, or coolant. But that’s not always possible in the winter so wiping your horse down with a warm towel is a good substitute.

After all the excess hair is removed you may notice your horse’s coat is dull. This is common after body clipping. Spraying your horse with a coat conditioner at this point will help add back in moisture. The dullness will fade, and your horse will be shiny with some repeated normal grooming and conditioning or shining sprays added in.

Tips & Tricks for an Easier Clipping Session

  1. For clips with patterns that need to match on both sides, try using grooming chalk (or regular chalk) to outline your clipping pattern. This is also good for simple, fun patterns you may want to add to the standard clips.
  2. Always have a second set of blades, this way you can swap blades if the first set is too hot!
  3. Keep treats handy. If your horse needs reassurance or may get fussy, a treat can diffuse the situation.
  4. If you’re using heavy-duty body clippers, have a smaller multi-purpose clipper or trimmer handy for heads, legs, or hard-to-reach areas.

Top Mistakes When Clipping

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself or your horse: Clipping can be taxing especially with larger or more intricate clipping patterns. It’s okay to split clipping into two sessions.
  2. There are lines all over my horse: Even seasoned professionals can leave lines. They are caused by a variety of factors including dull blades, unclean hair, and even a hair coat that’s not very long. You can prevent lines by overlapping your strokes. You can also minimize or even remove lines entirely by clipping back over them in an “X” pattern.

Clipping your horse can be as simple as trimming a muzzle and ears or as complex as a full body clip, but the fundamentals stay the same. Whatever you choose must be right for your horse’s situation and benefit them. Let us know if you’ll be clipping your horse this winter and if you have any tips and tricks to share.