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When to Clip a Horse

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Unsure of when to clip a horse? Looking for some tips on how to clip them properly? Look no further, this handy horse clipping guide will provide you with all the hints, tips and information for how and when it is best to clip a horse.

Why Clip a Horse?

Horses tend to grow a thick winter coat as soon as the colder weather starts to draw in. This is ideal for horses that spend a lot of time outdoors with a rug as their winter coat will keep them warm and protected. However, if you are working your horse throughout the winter months, then a thick and heavy coat can cause all kinds of problems. A thick winter coat can cause your horse to sweat excessively or overheat which could easily lead to them developing a chill and being unable to regulate their body temperature.

Horse clipping minimises sweating, enabling your horse to dry and cool more efficiently. Clipping your horse will, in turn, prevent them from developing a chill as well as other potentially serious conditions. Keeping your horse’s legs and fetlocks well maintained can prevent conditions such as mud fever as the mud won’t have any hair clinging to it. Excessive sweating combined with heavy tack can also result in discomfort and rubbing against your horse’s skin. So, clipping your horse ensures that they stay comfortable while being worked and doesn’t develop any serious injuries or illnesses.

When to clip a horse

Alternatively, however, if you are leaving your horse outside during the winter, it is advised that you do not clip them and ensure that they have substantial shelter. Despite them having a thick winter coat to keep them warm, it might still be a good idea to put a rug on your horse to protect them against issues such as rain scald and mud.

When to Clip a Horse? 

Usually, the best time to clip a horse is in September or October, once their winter coat has come through. However, there are a range of individual factors that can determine when is the best time to clip your horse. When to clip a horse can depend on: how often you work it, horse breed and how quickly your horse’s coat grows. For example, if you have a competition horse you may want to clip them all year round to ensure they stay cool, to minimise sweating and to make sure they look smart.

A horse’s coat tends to grow quickest between September and December and so, during this time, it is best to clip your horse every 3-4 weeks. Most people will stop clipping their horse at the end of January because this is when most horse’s tend to start growing their summer coats. You don’t want to clip much later than February so as not to interfere with your horse’s new thinner summer coat.

Types of Horse Clips 

The type of clip you choose for your horse will depend on how often you intend to work it and how you are planning on keeping the horse over winter. There are many different types and designs of horse clips to choose from - some people like to get creative and make fun patterns, while others prefer a simple look. For those who want to stick to the classic, there are a range of traditional clip styles, including full clip, hunter clip, blanket clip, chaser clip, trace clip, Irish clip and bib clip.

How to clip a horse

Full Clip - The full coat is clipped, including legs, head and ears. The full clip should only be used for horses in hard competition work who will continue to be worked throughout the winter.

Hunter Clip - Most of the coat is clipped, excluding the saddle area and legs. The hunter clip protects your horse from the saddle and leaving the leg hair longer provides extra warmth and protection from the elements.

Blanket Clip - Half the head hair is clipped, but the leg hair is left along with a blanket of coat from the withers to the tail. The blanket clip provides warmth without excessive sweating, making it ideal for a horse that is in medium-level work but that gets turned out during the day when the weather is suitable.

Chaser Clip - Similar to the blanket clip but leaving the hair on the top of the neck to add some warmth to the neck muscles. The legs are also left, providing extra warmth and protection. Like the blanket, the chaser clip is great for a horse in medium-level work as it provides some extra warmth without causing excessive sweating.

Trace Clip - Similar to the chaser clip but leaving most of the hair on the head and just half of the neck gets clipped. Again, the legs are left to provide warmth and protection. The trace clip removes hair where excessive sweating often occurs but still provides warmth, making it perfect for horses in medium-level work that get turned out during the day.

Irish Clip - Clips the hair from around the neck and armpits, where your horse tends to sweat the most. The whole head can be removed and you can clip from the poll to the stifle. The hindquarters, hind legs and forelegs are left. The Irish clip is well-suited to younger horses or those in light work that get turned out during the day.

Bib Clip - Hair from the front of the neck and chest is clipped as well as, occasionally, the under-belly to the girth point. The bib clip is great for horses in very light work and that gets turned out throughout the winter months.

Horse Clipping Guide

Clipping Preparation 

Before you start clipping your horse, it is important to ensure you are properly prepared for the task ahead. First, you should check that your clippers are in full working order - look over the cables, blades and tensioning before clipping. Each different pair of clippers has different tension modes so it is important to always read the instruction manual thoroughly to check that you have the correct settings.

The blades of your clippers should be sharp and clean. Blunt blades can make clipping incredibly difficult, slow and uncomfortable for the horse. In order to ensure your clippers and blades are clean throughout the process, it is a good idea to have some clipper oil and a brush to hand ready to clean them whilst clipping. It is also wise to sufficiently oil your clippers and blades before you start.

Not only do you need to prepare your equipment for clipping, but you need to prepare your horse too. You should make sure that your horse is clean and dry - it is always a good idea to bath your horse the day before clipping. Feeding your horse just before clipping is also effective in keeping it settled so that it is safer and easier for you to clip. To further settle your horse throughout the clipping process, you could even tie up a net to keep them entertained.

You also need to ensure you have a safe and secure place to clip your horse. It is usually best to clip in a well-lit stable or somewhere that is well sheltered from the wind and undercover in case of rain. To minimise the risk of mistakes, you can mark out the clip with chalk and easily follow the outline. To reduce the chance of accidentally catching the horse’s mane or tail, it is a good idea to use a tail bandage and to tie back the mane. Finally, once the cut is complete you will need to ensure you have the right equipment to make your horse feel as comfortable as possible. You should have a clean rug ready to put on your horse to prevent it from catching a chill.

How to Clip a Horse 

Once you have selected an appropriate type of clip for your horse, you can start clipping. Clipping is a skill and comes with plenty of time and practice. If it is your first time clipping your horse then it might be best to start on a calm horse with a simple clip style, such as a bib or chaser clip.

The first thing you will want to do is mark up where you are going to clip, using some chalk. This way, it will be easier to get the style you want and minimise the risk of making mistakes. Turn on your clippers away from your horse and approach him/her in a slow and calm manner to avoid spooking them. It is best to start at the shoulder, the area where it is least sensitive. Begin to clip your horse by using long, overlapping strokes going against the direction of hair growth. Using your free hand, pull the horse’s skin tight so that the clippers move over the horse’s body smoothly. Do not attempt to clip folds or wrinkled skin as this could result in injury. When clipping around sensitive or bony parts of the horse, it is best to have someone to assist you by pulling the front leg forward so that you can reach more easily. Once you have finished clipping, use a brush to discard of any loose hair.

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