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Clipping Your Horse

16 August 2011 One Comment

Q. Should I clip my horse for winter?
We asked horse training expert Dr. Jessica Jahiel, whose teaching goal is to develop balanced, willing, forward horses and thoughtful riders. More on Jessica

From: Mina

Hi Jessica,

First, I would like to thank you for the great advice you give.

I am not sure if I should clip my horse for the winter. I am currently blanketing him which has helped him not to grow a really thick coat but he still sweats a lot when I ride him. I ride him six days a week for at least an hour. When I am done riding him I walk him for fifteen minutes to let him cool out but he still remains sweaty so I have to put a cooler on him for twenty minutes. I am concerned about clipping him. It just seems that his neck would get really cold. What are your feelings on clipping a horse for the winter? What type of a clip would you consider the best (full body clip, blanket clip, hunter trace clip)? Thank you in advance for your help!


Hi Mina! If you plan to continue riding all winter, you will probably have to clip your horse. The lack of hair doesn’t have to be a problem — you can blanket the horse to compensate for the missing coat. The real potential problem is that if you DON’T clip and you DO ride hard enough to get your horse very sweaty, it will take you hours to get him cool and dry.

If I were you, I would begin with what we used to call a “pony clip”, which involves clipping the hair on the underside of the horse’s neck and down the chest to just behind the elbows. This takes hair away from the areas that tend to sweat the most. Sometimes this is all that’s needed; a horse clipped like this won’t get as sweaty as quickly, and will cool down more readily. You’ll know in a few days if this is enough to make your horse more comfortable. If that’s not enough, do a low trace clip.

If THAT isn’t enough, do a medium or high trace clip, then a blanket clip, and finally a full body clip. It sounds elaborate, but it isn’t really. It’s quite practical, for several reasons. First, you can always clip more later, but you can’t put hair back on the horse. ;-) Second, it lets you clip gradually and systematically, evaluating each clip as you go. And third, Murphy’s Law (Sod’s Law in the UK) applies to clipping just as it does to everything else. If you clip conservatively and carefully, doing a little on one side f the horse, then a little on the other, then on the first side again, etc., so that the clip is always even or nearly even, your clippers will probably take you through the complete clip without a problem. If, on the other hand, you clip one side of the horse first, several things will happen: your clippers will become dull and stop, you will be unable to buy replacement blades locally or get them sharpened without sending them away, and while you are waiting for ten days until they come back, you won’t know how to ride or blanket or cool out the horse. Plus (in case you care) he will look silly. ;-)

The more coat you remove, the more blanketing you will need to do. A deep-sided New Zealand rug, or a weatherproof blanket with a warm lining and a belly flap, would be ideal for an outdoor horse. If your horse lives in a stall and spends his turnout time in an indoor arena, you have a lot of options when it comes to blankets as you won’t need the weatherproof ones. But you DO need them if your horse is turned out in an outside paddock or field.

Aside from that, just be sure that you are ready to clip! It’s a long process, especially the first time you do it.

First, be sure that your horse is comfortable with the sound and feel of the clippers.

Have a comfortable, well-lighted place for you and the horse to stand. Rubber mats are wonderful.

Have a muck basket and broom handy, so that you can clean up as you clip — the hair gets everywhere, and it’s very slippery, so you don’t want to be stepping on piles of it.

Be sure that your clippers are running smoothly and that the blades are sharp and adjusted correctly — and be sure that you know how to use them!

Be sure that your horse is as clean as he can possibly be — nothing will dull clipper blades faster than dirt.

Keep a small bucket of clipper lubricant nearby, and use it frequently.

Use chalk or tape to mark the areas you plan to clip (otherwise you’ll find that you keep “evening out” a bit here and a bit there until a pony clip becomes a hunter clip!).

Always stretch the skin in any areas where it’s a bit loose, before you clip the hair — that means flanks, behind the elbows, etc., and take a moment to check the direction of hair growth each time you put the clippers on the horse.

If your horse is going to be turned out AT ALL in the winter, don’t clip his ears; horses can lose ears to frostbite, and you’d like him to have ears when spring comes.

If possible, get someone with experience to help you through your first clipping! And if you’re not sure you can do it, or if you lack the right equipment, hire someone competent to do it, and watch and ask questions while they work. You’ll learn a lot that will help you when you do it yourself.

Sincerely, Jessica

One Comment »

  • Cheshire Horse Clipping | Cheshire and Surrounding Areas said:

    […] in touch with Cheshire Horse Clipping if you have any questions.Kat Casey, a freelance groom from Cheshire. Kat has over 10 years clipping experience and aims to pr…cluding, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Manchester, Merseyside and […]

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