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How to Clip Your Horse

how to clip how to dressage

As fall arrives and the days become shorter, you’ll notice a change in your horse’s coat. It’s time to clip and rug-up ready for winter!

But why do you clip your horse and how do you go about it?

Why clip your horse?

In the fall, your horse will start to shed his light summer coat and grow a thick, protective winter coat ready for the cold and wet weather.

This coat is generally longer and heavier than his summer plumage, helping to prevent heat loss and preserving the heat generated from the horse’s calorific intake.

A heavier coat means it will take much longer for your horse to cool down after work and can cause excessive sweating.

Not only is this a pain because you have to wait for your horse to dry off before you can rug him up, but sweating also loses valuable nutrients and salts.

There are several reasons for clipping your horse:

  • To allow a horse to carry out fast work without too much stress
  • To conserve condition by avoiding heavy sweating
  • To make grooming easier
  • To keep your horse looking smart and tidy

When you carry out your first clip depends on the type of horse and where you live.

If you have a fine-skinned thoroughbred type, he may not carry much winter coat at all so you can clip him later in the season. However, if you have a heavy breed type, you may need to clip him as early as mid-way through the summer.

Horse owners who live in a warm climate may find that their horse’s winter coat comes through later than those who live in a location where winter arrives early.

After you’ve clipped your horse, you MUST maintain good rug and stable management to keep him in good condition. Your horse will generally require four rugs:

  • a light day rug
  • a cool-down rug
  • heavy rug for colder days and nights
  • a New Zealand or heavy-weight turn-out rug

These days, people tend not to swaddle their horses in multiple layers of blankets and old duvets. Such additions usually finish up trailing in the horse’s bedding or are lost in a sea of mud in the field! It’s better practice to buy a fitted under-rug and hood to keep your equine cozy.

Types of clip

So, what kind of clip should you choose?

Belly and Neck Clip

As the most basic type of clip, the belly and neck clip (also known as the “Bib Clip”) removes only a small amount of hair from the front of the neck, chest and runs partially under the belly.

The belly and neck clip is ideal for horses in light work and horses that are turned out throughout the winter. Youngsters having their first clip may be less stressed by having a belly and neck clip, rather than a full hunter clip.

bib clip how to dressage

Blanket Clip

The blanket clip is ideal for horses that are in medium work and turned out during the day.

A blanket clip leaves a blanket-shaped expanse of coat across the horse’s body, while the hair on the neck, head, belly and gaskins is removed. By leaving some hair in areas not prone to sweating, the horse gets extra warmth without sweating up when working.

blanket clip how to dressage

Chaser Clip

A chaser clip is very similar to a blanket clip but leaves the coat on the muscles on the top of the neck.

Like the blanket clip, the chaser clip is ideal for horses that are in medium work and turned out during the day.

chaser clip how to dressage

Trace Clip

The trace clip is suitable for horses that are in moderate work and turned out by day.

The trace clip looks like the chaser clip, except that only half of the neck hair is clipped off, and the head hair is either partially removed or left on completely.

trace clip how to dressage

Hunter Clip

A hunter clip is a popular clip for horses in medium to hard work.

Most of the coat is removed, leaving just a saddle patch and the leg hair on, although you can trim away feathers on the horse’s legs for a neater appearance.

Horses with a hunter clip must be kept rugged-up to prevent them from losing too much body heat.

hunter clip how to dressage

Full Clip

A full clip sees all the horse’s coat removed, including the head, ears, and legs.

Although the full clip prevents the horse from sweating profusely during hard work, you must be careful that mud fever does not develop on the skin of the unprotected legs.

A horse with a full clip must also be kept rugged-up. You should also use an exercise rug to prevent your horse from becoming chilled during slow work such as light hacking.

full clip how to dressage

How to clip your horse

There is a distinct art to clipping your horse.

Some people find it helpful to use a piece of tailor’s chalk to mark out the clipping lines on the horse’s body before they begin. That can help to prevent the dreaded “one side higher than the other” look that sometimes spoils the look of the blanket, trace, and chaser clips.

Clipping tips

  • Use clippers for the main body and a smaller trimmer for the head and heels.
  • Start at the shoulders; this area is the least sensitive.
  • Keep the clippers well maintained. The clipper blades should be sharp and properly oiled. When clipping, regularly brush and oil the clippers, and check that the blades are not becoming too hot or blunt.
  • Clip using long strokes and even pressure and in the direction of hair growth.
  • Overlap the clipping strokes to avoid getting lines.
  • Do not clip folds or wrinkled skin; use your free hand to pull the skin tight.
  • Don’t wear fleecy material when clipping, the hairs will get stuck to you. Buy a set of cotton overalls from a farm supplies or workwear store and use these for clipping.
  • Run a warm, damp cloth over the horse’s skin after you’ve finished clipping to get of loose hairs, grease, and dust.
  • Remember to rug the horse after he’s been clipped, even if he is going to be stabled.
  • If you have battery clippers, make sure they’re fully charged before you start.
  • If your clippers are mains powered, use a circuit breaker, and be quick to turn off the clippers if the horse steps on the power cable.

Tips when clipping a horse for the first time

  • Before you clip a first-timer, clip an experienced horse next to the debutant so he can get used to the sound and smell of the clippers. If the horse is still a little anxious, keep the “old stable hand” near-by to help calm him.
  • Show the horse the clippers while they are switched off. Let him have a good look and sniff them.
  • Start the clippers with the blades removed and hold them against the horse’s shoulder. That allows the horse to feel the sensation of the clippers without being clipped. Once he’s calm, you can replace the blades and start clipping him.

In conclusion

Clipping horses is something that takes practice!

When you’ve decided to clip your horse, choose a day when you’ve got plenty of time and you won’t need to rush or leave the job half finished.

Choose a clip that suits the work you are asking your horse to do. Remember, the idea of clipping your horse is for his comfort, not just to make him look good!

Everyone has a few tried and tested tips for stress-free clipping. Why not tell us yours in the comments section below!

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