Clipping is essential if you will be training heavily during winter because it allows a horse to lose more heat during work than it can while it is wearing its winter coat. If the horse sweats too much, it will lose condition and will run the risk of getting chilled and becoming ill, especially if not dried thoroughly and properly. The type of clip used is dependent on the type of work your horse does. If the climate never gets hot enough for your horse to sweat, then it doesn’t need to be clipped. Most horses have sensitive areas and some take time to accept the noise of the clippers. Before you begin clipping, you should be given instruction by an expert, and should then be supervised when you begin clipping on your own. Clipping should always been done with a helper who will help calm the horse as you work.
Becoming Familiar with Clippers
Clippers have two cutting blades; one that is fixed in place and one moving slightly side to side, just enough to let hair enter the channels in the blades. When shopping, look for clippers that are quiet and powerful, and do not overheat. Most battery-powered clippers are quieter than electric models, making them less distractive to the horse and useful for sensitive areas such as around the head. The cordless design also prevents the risk of you or your horse tripping over the cord. You may find that you aren’t satisfied with one particular brand, so try a number of types and models before committing to one.
Adjusting the blade tension is essential because blades that are too loose rattle and pull on the coat, rather than cutting the hair properly. If the blades are too tight, they put a strain on the motor and tend to get very hot. To tighten them, slowly turn the screw on the tension adjuster. When the blades stop moving freely and the noise changes, you can slightly loosen the tension. You should oil the blades every so often while you are clipping to avoid the blades heating up and burning the horse’s skin. Make sure that the clippers are turned off before you oil them. There will be a small hole where a lubricating agent can be sprayed or dripped.
Types of Clips
There are three basic patterns in which to clip your horse; again, this is all dependent on the type of work your horse is intended for. The three types include the Trace clip, the Hunter clip, and the Blanket clip.
Trace Clip – Only areas where sweat accumulates should be clipped. If you want to clip even less, you can remove the hair from just the belly and the gullet; the clip covers the belly, the top of the legs and underside of the neck. It is named the “trace” clip because the border for the clip follows the line where the traces on a harness usually run.
Hunter Clip – For a hunter clip, only the saddle area and legs are left unclipped. The saddle patch protects the skin from friction with the saddle and possible sweat scald. The hair on the legs gives some protection from mud and cold. A horse with this type of clip should be equipped with a blanket at all times, except when being exercised. It should be turned out only for short periods, unless its head and neck are also protected.
Blanket Clip – With this clip, hair is removed from the head, neck, shoulders, belly and underneath the tail. This allows sweat to evaporate freely, yet the muscles of the hindquarters do not become chilled during long periods of slow work. As the name implies, the effect is the same as putting an exercise sheet on the horse for work. When it is not working, the horse should wear a blanket.
1) Draw the outline of the clip you desire with chalk. Don’t just start clipping and hope that the clip will turn out to be symmetrical with straight edges. Instead, take the time in preparation to ensure that the clip will not have any faults in appearance. It is easier if you follow the line of the muscles in the leg to make a nice shape. Bandage the horse’s tail to keep it out of the way.
2) The shoulder is the best place to start. Most horses will accept being clipped there and will slowly adjust as you move. Use smooth strokes against the direction of the hair growth. Keep the blade parallel to the skin. If it is tilted down, it may nick the skin, and if it is tilted up, it will not cut as effectively. Place yourself between the horse and the electrical cord, so there is no danger of the horse stepping on it. Also, have someone hold the horse’s head to keep it still.
3) In certain places the skin is very loose or, because of the body’s natural shape, the area to be clipped may be concave. These places can be difficult to clip neatly without nicking the skin. To avoid this, stretch the skin with the other hand so that the area becomes a firm, flat surface.
4) Difficulty also arises when working around the elbow. Have your helper hold the leg up in a flexed position. This will pull the skin tight and allow you to clip the area easily. This area may also be ticklish, so be prepared for some flinches or jerks of the leg.
Once you are done clipping, certain areas may need special attention and trimming should be done. You’ll need a comb and a curved, blunt-ended scissors. There are four general areas that are generally tended to by trimming. These areas include the ears, face, heels, and tail.
Ears – Hold the ear with one hand so that the two edges touch each other, then trim the hairs that stick out beyond these edges. Never cut the hairs inside the ear because they serve as protection against dirt and infection. Cut upward, away from the horse’s eye to avoid the risk of the ends going in the eye if the horse makes any sudden head movements.
Face – Long hairs under the chin and lower jaw can be trimmed with scissors. Do not trim the whiskers; they are part of the horse’s touch apparatus and are important for sensing nearby objects. Lift the hairs to be cut with a comb. Small electric clippers may also be used.
Heels – You may need to trim the feathers so that the skin can easily be kept dry and clean. This also helps prevent mud fever. Run a comb upward through the hair and cut the ends neatly, but not too close.
Tail – Neatly trim the bottom of the tail by cutting across, parallel to the ground. When the tail is carried properly, the end should be a hand’s width below the hocks. Have someone hold the tail up over one arm so that it hangs as it would when the horse is moving.