Clipping your horse...

To clip or not to clip?  It's a question that faces every horse owner this time of year.  Clipping will allow your horse to dry more quickly after exercise and grooming is much easier. You will find your horse maintains a better and more healthy looking coat. 


However, certain considerations should be taken when deciding to clip.  If you live in an area with even mildly cold winters, your horse will need some sort of a cover-up to keep warm.  Also, older, lame or horses that are ill may need their own coat to help keep them warm in addition to some sort of blanket.


As the summer draws to an end and the evenings start to drop in temperature, your horse's coat will begin to change. It will start look dull as it grows in length and by the end of September, you should be thinking about what clip your horse will need. The first clip will probably be at the beginning of October and you can give your horse several clips throughout the winterwhen necessary, making sure that the last clip is around end of January/early February.

What clip you chose for your horse depends on his coat and the type of work he will be doing.  

The most common are:

  • Belly and Neck Clip:  a good clip suitable for horses that are used for light work or that live out during the winter months.  The head, top of the neck, body and legs are left unclipped so you will still be able to turn your horse out.
  • Low Trace Clip:  a good clip recommended for horses in light work. It will help him dry more quickly, but enough coat is left on so that you can turn your horse out.  However, heavier blankets may be necessary in cold or inclement weather.  The legs are left unclipped for extra warmth.
  • High Trace Clip: good for horses in light to medium work.  Similar to the low trace, but the coat is clipped further up the horse. Legs are left unclipped for warmth and extra protection.  Since more coat is now being removed, more and/or heavier blankets will need to be used.  NOTE:  You can clip your horse's head or simply run the line up the neck and under the head.
  • Blanket Clip:  good for horses in regular work as you can exercise your horse without sweating and he will dry more quickly.  The coat is removed completely from the head, neck and flanks, leaving only the legs and an area over the back that looks like a small rug. The legs are also left on for warmth and extra protection.
  • Hunter Clip:  suited for horses in hard, regular exercise such as hunting or winter showing.  All the coat is clipped except for the legs, the saddle patch and an inverted V above the tail.  The saddle area should match the outline of your saddle, NOT the saddle pad. The legs are also left unclipped for warmth and extra protection.  When exercising outside and it's very cold and/or windy, consider some sort of turnout blanket to keep your horse warm enough.
  • Full Clip:  usually only given to high level competition horses that work very hard. The whole coat is clipped except for an inverted V above the tail.  The horse should be blanketed at all times and when very cold, bandages may be necessary to maintain your horse's warmth.

There are a lot of additional types of clips, including variations of those mentioned above.  And then, of course, there are the "artistic clips."

Once you have decided on the style of clip you are going to give your horse, it is advisable to outline the area. Chalk or masking tape will give you a visual guideline to follow.

Make sure your horse has a bath to get rid of dirt and grease that has built up before you clip.  A clean horse allows clippers to easily glide through the coat.  Clipping a clean coat also keeps the clipper blades sharper longer.  Make sure he is also dry - clippers don't work well on wet hair. Also, consider braiding the mane and tail before clipping - it is much easier to clip without those in your way.

If you've never clipped before, don't be afraid to ask someone to help - or to even do it for you.  Neither you nor your horse want a bad experience with clipping.

Originally published by Classic Equine Equipment Newsletter