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The days have started getting longer, and here in New England, our parking lot glaciers are finally starting to melt – spring really is on its way! As you start spending more time in the saddle, gearing up for spring training and shows, you may have found that you’re having to spend more and more time drying your horse off after winter rides. Instead of furiously trying to sop up that sweat, consider body clipping your horse.
“Body clipping” is the term used to describe trimming large sections of your horse’s coat, so that he will sweat less and dry off faster, helping keep him happy and healthy. While it can be a lot of work, body clipping can also be a fun way to spend time with your horse. And you’ll really enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing you did it all on your own.
Like most of the things we do in the barn, body clipping is a skill that requires practice and patience. You may not be great at it right away, but don’t be discouraged – this is a really valuable skill that will prove useful throughout your life as a rider. (And remember, even if you feel like you really messed up, the hair will grow back.) If you want to get better faster, have your trainer, barn manager or an experienced barn mate help give you tips and pointers as you’re learning. You can also offer to clip your friends’ horses for free (just make sure they know you’re still learning!)
If you’re ready to get started, or are simply interested in learning more, check out the quick tips listed below, then watch the short video in which I demonstrate a trace clip.
Body clipping can be stressful for some horses, so be sure to choose an area that’s as calm and quiet as possible.
Decide what type of clip your horse needs, (i.e. how much hair to take off). Factors to consider include how much work your horse will be doing, and where and how much he normally sweats.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which body clippers to buy, including your budget, how often you’ll use them, and how many horses you have to clip at any given time.
- For the big jobs, I would recommend a heavy-duty clipper with a combo blade system, like the Oster Variable Speed Clipmaster, Lister Star Clipper, or Andis Cordless Body Clipper.
- If you only have to clip your horse once or twice a season, consider the Andis Andis AGC Super 2 Speed Clipper , which allows you the versatility to switch from the body-clipping-capable Andis T-84 UltraEdge Replacement Blades down to surcgical-precision 40 blades, ideal for show trims.
For the closest clip available, it’s best to go against the grain of the hair (see video for details). For a more modest trim, some riders prefer to clip with the grain of the hair, as this takes off significantly less hair.
It’s important to have your blades sharpened regularly. Dull blades catch the hair and tug at the skin, which your horse will definitely not enjoy.
Clipping will be a much more pleasant experience if your horse is clean. You’ll be able to clip faster as the blades glide along, instead of getting hung up in a grungy coat. Also, clipping dirty hair will dull your blades much more quickly.
Check the temperature of your blades regularly throughout the job. Clipper blades usually got hot much faster than the clipper body, so you may not notice the blades are hot, but your horse may be quite uncomfortable.
- Cooling fluid, like Oster Kool Lube, is a great way to help control the temperature of your blades. You can also stop and turn the clippers off for a period to let them cool.
- Alternately, if you have an extra set of blades, you can simply swap back and forth, letting one pair cool out while you keep working.
Clipping in stages is a great idea, especially for larger jobs. Switch back and forth from the left to right side, and build up from a belly clip to a low trace, then to a high trace, and on to a blanket, and eventually a saddle clip, moving to a full body clip at the end. Keeping things even on both sides allows you to stop for a few hours, or the day, to give your horse (and yourself) a break, without having to worry that he’ll look terribly lopsided.
- With this same thought in mind, it’s always better to start low and work your way up. You can always take more off, but you can’t add it back on (fortunately horse “toupees” only exist in the tail world!)
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. If your horse is spooky or fidgety, it’s best for your comfort, and his safety, to have someone help you hold him.
Once your horse is clipped, you’ll want to make sure you keep him properly blanketed through the remainder of the cold weather. If you already know how much coverage you need, you can start shopping our wide assortment of stable sheets, blankets and turnout rugs. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our Blanketing 101 blog post.
Like most things in the horse world, there are a lot of different ways to clip, so if you don’t do things the way I do in the video, that’s a-OK. The most important thing is that you and your horse are comfortable, happy and safe.
Need help picking the right clippers?
When it comes to clippers, having the right tool is almost as important as knowing how to use it. We tested our complete selection and highlighted our top picks just for you. Check out our post on Clippers – Tools of the Trade to see our top picks.
Common Types of Body Clips
Pony Clip/Strip Clip/Belly Clip – Hair is removed from under the chin, down the under part of the neck, between the front legs and along the length of the underside of the barrel. Minimal hair removal makes this great for horses and ponies in light work.
Chaser/Trace Clip – Can be classified as “low” or “high,” depending on how much hair is removed. Typically, a wide band of hair is clipped from under the chin, along the neck, down the barrel and on to the flank. The entire belly is clipped bare, as is a generous area around the flank. The back, legs and face remain unclipped. This clip is ideal for horses in light to moderate work, and those who need more coverage as a result of lots of time spent outdoors.
Blanket Clip – Named for the fact that it looks like the horse is wearing a blanket (or, more precisely, a quarter sheet),. This clip takes the hair down all through the neck, shoulder, belly and flank, like the Trace Clip, with additional hair removed all the up through and over the withers. Legs and face are usually left with full hair growth. Believed to help sore-backed horses’ back muscles stay warmer and looser.
Hunter Clip – Named for field hunters, this clip takes down all the hair except for the legs and an area on the back in the shape of an all-purpose English saddle. The long leg hair was designed to protect field hunter’s legs, while the extensive clip job helped the keep cool, even on long gallops.
Full Body Clip – All the hair is clipped, from the coronet band up to the withers, and from the nose back to the tail. Ideal for horses in very hard work all winter, and those that will be traveling to warmer climates for winter competitions.