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Ask The Groom: To Clip or Not To Clip


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.

Horse Clipping

Even though it’s early April, this horse still needs to be clipped again because he grew in a full, heavy coat after his winter clip.

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!

Emma Ford

Emma Ford is one of the most respected grooms in US Eventing. Born and raised in the UK, Emma came to the US in 1998 to groom for top eventer Adrienne Iorio. After seven years with Adrienne, Emma moved to True Prospect Farm to work with five-time Olympian and 13-time USEA Leading Rider of the Year, Phillip Dutton. During her tenure with Phillip, Emma cared for many famous equine athletes including Connaught, TruLuck, Woodburn, and Mystery Whisper. She’s groomed at Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, cared for horses at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, 2007 Pan Am Games, and 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and groomed at Rolex Kentucky and Fair Hill International every year since 2001. And now she’s here to help you! Submit your grooming questions and Emma just may be able to teach you a few of her tricks!

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17 comments on “Ask The Groom: To Clip or Not To Clip
  1. Tiffani says:

    Thanks for the info. This past winter was the first time I have ever had to clip my horse and it took me ages to get all the info I needed to make the decision on when to do it and what clip to do. Living in Colorado makes the decision even harder in my mind because I had never had to clip her in a region where temps got so low and snow was a common weather phenomenon. I will be book marking this for next winter for sure.

  2. Kristen says:

    I had my horse body clipped for the first time about three weeks ago with a heavier work load and warming temps, it worked out well. Unfortunately, i live in Michigan where the weather can be 81 one day and then snowing two days later (like this week) its now cold again, and even with a gravy blanket on, he’s growing back a thicker coat again. Any suggestions?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Unfortunately, as long as it’s cold for prolonged periods, your horse’s instincts are going to tell him to grow his coat back in. If you really want to discourage that growth, you can try putting your horse under lights when he’s in his stall at night (extended daylight is one of the triggers that tells your horse to shed his winter coat). At this point, however, your best bet is to keep blanketing as needed and keep evaluating your horse to see if he needs to be clipped again based on how much he’s sweating during rides, as Emma described above. Good luck and we’ll wish for warmer weather for you guys soon! – SmartPaker Sarah

  3. Regina Matonak says:

    I hae two horses for the first time. One is a 23 yr old Arabian that was kept out in the pasture for the winter. this was his first winter coat. If I was to clip his coat would he be subjected to getting sunburned? As for my 7 yr old Kentucky Mountain horse. She got an awesome beautiful coat this winter as well. What kind of clippers are best to use if you think that my horses could be clipped even though they stay out in the pasture?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Regina, clipping your Arabian’s coat could expose her skin a little more than usual, so if she has pink skin (a truly white coat), she may be at risk for sunburn. However, it’s not a significant difference, and darker skinned horses rarely experience any discomfort. If you are concerned about leaving your mare’s skin exposed, a full-coverage fly sheet with UV protection (like the SmartPak Deluxe Fly Sheet with Insect Shield – is a great choice!
      When it comes to body clipping, if you’re only doing one or two horses, my personal favorite (and a fave of many other SmartPakers) is the Andis AGC Super 2 Speed Clippers – I love these clippers because they can be used for normal touch-ups with size 10 to 30 blades, but if you throw on a pair of T-84 blades (, you can also use them for a fast, clean body clip. The versatility is a really handy feature, because it’s like getting two clippers for the price of one!
      All that said, if you’re going to be taking away your horse’s natural protection and insulation by clipping, you’ll need to compensate for that by blanketing your horses as needed. If you’d like more information on blanketing, I’d recommend checking out our Blanketing 101 blog (, Blanketing Glossary ( and Blanketing Uncovered webinar (
      Hope that helps! – SmartPaker Sarah

  4. Liz Anderson says:

    I have had my horse for almost three years now. I have never clipped him. I always shed him out, it may take longer and be very dirty and hairy, but it i always worth it. And with clipping you never know what their coat color will look like. My friend had a Palomino who she clipped and he turned grey until he was in the sun for a few months. My horse is blood red in the summer so i don’t want to risk loosing that color for show season.

  5. danielle says:

    Its now early May I clipped my horse in February but he has definitely grown a bit of coat back. Is it too late to clip again? He is shedding but not on his legs or neck. I’ve clipped a ton of horses but just don’t know if it’s worth my time as the hair isn’t that bad…

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Danielle – as the owner of a fast-hair-grower myself, I feel your pain 🙂 The main thing to consider is whether the hair is affecting your horse’s ability to cool down after exercise. If he’s still trapping a lot of sweat and having trouble cooling down, it’s definitely worth it to clip him, even though it’s a bit late in the season. Hope that helps! – SmartPaker Sarah

  6. Georgia says:

    Please take into consideration that your horse may get skin allergies! I live in the South and have seen time and time again people bring there horses down here and clip them late. More than half develope skin allergies. I also made this mistake and clipped my gelding for the first time in late December. He developed hives and a severe skin infection. Will not be trying that again. It was not worth the stress put on both of us and not to mention the cost of treatment. They have hair for a reason!

  7. ChipsMyPinto says:

    I have a 22 year old gelding who moved from CT to FL with me. Dispite the year-long heat, in the past few years he seems to have a harder time shedding out his winter coat…. he seems to be fuzzy and shedding all year long, and still growns a HEAVY winter coat like he did in CT. He is now on 24/7 pasture, and I do not compete- so those factors do not apply to my situation. I am wondering if it would be a good idea or not to clip him for the summer, simply so he will be cooler turned out in the hot sun all day. I already have a UV turnout/fly sheet, as he is pinto and does sunburn when clipped (I learned this last year when he was the ‘test dummie’ for kids learning to clip at a summer camp- and we went on a 2hr bareback trail ride and he came back pink, I felt horrible). So- would you reccomend summer clipping & UV sheeting for a horse that doesn’t shed out well in the summer, to keep him cool, or not?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi ChipsMyPinto, Thank you for your question. There is a condition that older horses may develop called Cushing’s disease, and these horse may exhibit a long, curly coat that doesn’t shed normally. If you are seeing a change in your horse’s coat and shedding pattern, it might be worthwhile to have a conversation with your veterinarian. We’ve also included some links to an Ask the Vet blog and one of our Equine Health articles about this very topic:
      I hope that’s helpful! – SmartPaker Casey

  8. Liz F. says:

    Even after extensive reading I am still on the fence about whether or not I should partially clip my horse.
    I have a mini and live in the Midwest. I have owned him for 4 years and he has always been outside almost 24/7 so it has never been a question before. Now however he is in a heated barn at night and will only be out during the day in “good” weather (I’ve talked to other people who board at the barn and they said the barn management always keeps the horses in if it’s too cold, windy, slippery, etc.)
    My problem now is I’ve noticed my mini gets REALLY sweaty in the chest/lower neck area and around his upper hind legs. I thought that maybe as it got colder he wouldn’t work up a sweat as much (it had been in the 70s and is now in the low 50s), however he is still getting pretty sweated up.

    I guess I’m just nervous about taking away some of his natural protection…

    I was thinking maybe do a trace clip and put a winter blanket on when we start getting the trademark midwest cold weather.

    Or should I wait it out to see if he continues to get too hot during work as the temperatures continue to drop?

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Emma Emma says:

      Hi Liz. Thank you for your question. I need to be honest here, I have never experienced midwest winter weather. I can only imagine how cold it can be sometimes!!! I think you really need to ask yourself… Do I have enough time to allow my mini to dry after exercise before putting him up for the night… Whether that be outside or inside.???

      If the answer to that is no, then I would do a belly clip. Take out his belly ,, up between his front legs, along his jugular finishing below the throat. If you do decide to clip, do this minimal one first and then go from there if you feel you need to take a little more off.

      Hope this is of some help to you. Good luck

  9. Bethany says:

    I’ve never body clipped a horse before but I’m considering it this year. I have a Belgian Mule that I show. My problem is that my mule won’t fully shed out til late July (even on coat supplements). My first show is in May. I have showed her before in May but by the end of the day all my show clothes are covered in hair (and it’s like 3-4 in long hair). I plan on shaving her 3-4 weeks before the show cause I’m worried about riding her with a full body clip. She will be showed in riding and harness classes. What’s the best thing to do?

  10. Sarai says:

    I live in Houston TX. It is HOT. It is in the 90’s today (mid-late May) with 90% humidity. My husband is a western trail rider and I am an eventer (I do not compete), but I do ride trails over the weekends. I am tempted to body clip both my geldings (one is 17 and the other is 22) as they are hot and sweaty in their pasture during the day and take a while to dry/cool down after working them. I have a few questions though before body or trace clipping them,

    1) Is clipping them now (going into summer) smart? They are still shedding – should I get them most of the way done with shedding and than clip?
    2) Will it damage their hair color/integrity when it gowns back?
    3) Is their any post-clipping products I should apply to protect their hair, etc.
    4) I have always clipped with an Oster Turbo A5 with a 10 blade (fairly forgiving), should I continue with that blade for this possible summer clip?
    5) One is a red/blood bay and the other is a very dark bay, for my own peace of mind I will still provide UV protection regardless of color but should I hold off clipping for this reason?

    • Emma Emma says:

      Hi Sarai

      I do feel you should wait until shedding has finished before clipping your boys. If they finish shedding and they still have trouble dealing with heat then you might find it easier to use the Andis T84 clippers. I find these blades much easier to use if a summer coat needs to be clipped.

      For UV protection, I have always used Absorbine Santa Fe spray. I have not experienced Texas sun, but in Florida this product has helped my horses coat stay looking good. I am assuming your horses have good shade. Obviously clipping does mean their skin becomes more sensitive to flies and bugs so a trace clip might provide the cooling out effect you need but also offer more protection from bugs.

      I hope this is some help.


  11. Christine Marie Dowdall says:

    I have an Icelandic horse who has been diagnosed with cushings and is being treated with Pracend. I am looking for someone in the Massachusetts area that I could call to come out and do a trace clipping of the body and legs to help with the breathing of her body in the summer when we trail ride on hot days.
    I would appreciate any help that you can give me.

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