When to clip?
I’ve heard that body clipping in the spring is “too late” because you’re clipping over the newly growing in coat… What do you think? What’s the best body clipping schedule? – Jessica N., Charlotte, VT
For many people the thought of clipping their horse is seen as daunting rather than a fun time! I wouldn’t even be able to count how many horses I have clipped over the years. Although I wouldn’t say I relish the process, I do enjoy taking a scruffy unkempt horse and turning him into a well-groomed eventing athlete.
For me personally, when to clip is more decided upon what the horse’s workload is and the amount of time required to cool out the horse after work. In general let the horse tell you when he needs to be clipped. I know many people do not believe in clipping after the solstice. If your horse is gearing up for the early spring eventing season this would be an impractical rule to follow. Hot horses that cannot get totally cooled and dried quickly are at risk from getting the chills, sore muscles and ultimately can lead to illness.
Obviously every rider’s schedule is different. Generally speaking, if still competing in October, I would hunter clip the horses for the first time. Knowing that they would be on vacation in November this allows for these horses to be taken care of properly whilst in work, but I can then turn them out to pasture blanketed knowing their legs are protected from the elements.
When the horses come back into work, I leave clipping until mid December. Again, let the horses tell you. I have had some that would need clipping monthly from November till March, no matter how well I blanket. Others I can clip in December and not have to touch them again until late February.
Other factors to think about include where you are training, when is your first event, is you horse on 24 turnout, or stabled at night and out by day. For those of you training in the south and starting to compete early, a hunter or body clip would be the norm, done once in January then on an as-needed basis. If you are aiming for a three day in late April/early May, then you might find that you will need to clip in late March/early April. Should you be aiming for a three day in late May or early June, you need to consider how hot these events can get. Again emphasizing cooling out the horses as quickly as possible after XC is paramount to an all important good recovery and fresh horse for the Sunday jog and Stadium Jumping. Getting rid of that extra hair can shorten your horse’s cool out time by 10 minutes. If you’re worried about losing that summer coat sheen, a couple of tips: prewash your horse prior to clipping and then spray them with a coat conditioner product, my personal favorite is Cowboy Magic Super Body Shine. Once clipped bathe again with Head & Shoulders, this human shampoo is great at picking up the grime that clippers leave behind, but is also gentle enough not to dry out the freshly clipped skin and coat.
For those staying north and not competing until later in the spring, I would be inclined to use either a trace or blanket clip when the horse is not easy to cool out, but still needs to spend some time outside. These clips are quick and easy to do and can be touched up on an as-needed basis. Start with a low trace and you can always take more off if you find your horse is sweating in areas you have not yet clipped. Personally I would then full or hunter clip the horse in March, to be ready for the event season.
To summarize I think you should ask yourself the following questions to know if clipping is required:
- What is the workload of my horse?
- Is he dry by the time I leave the barn?
- What is his turnout schedule?
- When is my first competition?
- Does he take a long time to cool out after XC?
Good luck and happy clipping!