It is October and, for me, the horse clipping begins. Most years I can get away with waiting until the last week of September or the first week in October to buzz my horse.
In 2016, I had to wait until November to clip because it was still so hot in the southeast that he stayed too sweaty to get the clippers through his coat. It was a real catch 22; so hot he needed the hair gone, but too sweaty to actually do it. He needed a bath to cool off, but his coat was so long he wouldn’t be dry before dark. There are horse owners that will bathe in those situations and use a blow dryer on their horse; I am just not one of them.
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Should I Clip My Horse?
This is an age-old question. The answer to this question is very subjective and influenced by a number of factors, including the following:
- Are you willing to consistently blanket your horse
- How cold does it get where your horse lives
- Is your horse old or sick
- How hard do you work your horse in winter
- Are you competing in disciplines where horses are traditionally clipped
- Do you have access to good clippers
- Do you have the skill set to clip a horse
- Is your horse miserable wearing a winter coat
What Causes Winter Coat to Start?
In years long passed, people believed that the winter coat came in because the days were getting cooler. In modern times, we have learned that it is actually caused by decreasing hours of light in the day. This is the reason many show horses are kept under timed lights in the barn. It decreases coat production.
In the northern hemisphere, you will notice that your horse begins to shed his summer coat just after the beginning of July. The winter coat begins to drop around the beginning of January.
When is it Time to Begin Horse Clipping?
Equestrians have the tendency to severely over-blanket their horses. Unless my horse has special needs, I do not blanket. He came with a factory-installed rug that he can control. What he cannot do, is get cool enough when his winter coat is coming in and we are having unseasonably warm weather. This is the time I choose to start clipping as minimal an amount of coat as it takes to keep him reasonably comfortable.
The timing can vary year to year depending on how quickly cold temperatures set in. If you are showing or clip for aesthetic reasons, this could be clipping as early as August. If you live in Montana and your horse is not in hard work, the answer could be never. If you are clipping for comfort, let your horse show you when he is ready; at rest sweating is your indicator.
How Much to Clip?
I try to take off the smallest amount of coat possible to keep my horse comfortable. If you are showing, pick a type of clip that fits your discipline. The photos below are a guide to some of the most standard clip types. There are many variations on these clips and, fortunately, I clip better than I draw.
Tips for a Good Clip
Use the following tips for a more comfortable and clean clip:
- First and foremost: DO NOT wear lip balm 🙂
- Try to find an area protected from wind
- Wear coveralls and a hat if you have them
- Start with a very clean horse
- Use only very sharp blades
- Depending on the horse and discipline, use a size 7-10 for the body (the larger the number, the more naked the horse)
- Use long sweeping strokes where there is room
- Overlap your stroke over the previus stroke by a very small amount
- Pull loose skin tight before running the clippers over it
- Cool and lubricate your blades often (it helps to have two sets of clippers)
- Give your horse frequent breaks
- If you have to take multiple days to clip your horse, try to make it two days in a row or you will never get it to match
- If you have never clipped before, have an experienced person train you
I you decide to clip your horse, be ready to blanket for the entire winter, depending on the type of clip and the weather. Once your horse is naked, you have to provide the clothing. When your horse gets acclimated to wearing a blanket, you cannot just stop mid-season. Plan to have to pay for a replacement because, we all know, once your horse is naked, he will destroy that $200 blanket you just bought. Make sure your horse easily accepts being blanketed if you expect someone else to do the deed.
In my case, I live in the southeast, my horse is stalled at night, he is aging – not old, he’s a healthy horse, and I do not show because he is about 75% blind. I can start clipping in October with a bib clip. If it is a warmer winter, I move to a chaser clip. I only have to blanket if it drops below 25°F. My gelding stays in work, but it is mostly trail riding on the mountains, so we don’t build up so much sweat that he has a hard time getting dry. He stays comfortable with this combination, but please consider all of your own variables.
Last year, it was so hot over the winter that we did the chaser clip. By the time I could clip him, there was enough hair to make a second horse.