Monday, December 23, 2013

When/Why to Clip

Cuna in 2012
For those lucky folks who haunt the aisles of show barns, clipping is so basic that it doesn't need explaining. For the rest, sometimes it helps to get a basic rundown.

Why We Clip

A horse in work is going to sweat. In the summer, we just hose them off and call it good. In the winter, they grow more hair and it's way too cold to use a hose. Even if you have a indoor, heated wash rack, the hosing will get them very wet and the hair takes forever to dry. (Also if you have one of those, don't talk to me). A wet horse is a cold horse. Moisture on the skin can cause funk. Getting long hair to dry frequently takes longer than the ride itself.

So we clip.

That said. If your horse doesn't sweat during your winter rides, by all means, LEAVE HIS HAIR ALONE. There are many cool properties of equine hair and it's best utilized when actually on the horse.

First full clip of the 2012 season

What We Clip

First things first--if you are in a program with a trainer, whether boarding at their barn or hauling in on a regular basis, please ask the trainer what they prefer. You are representing their program and they have worked hard to be where they are. Some don't care. Many do. If you are committed to the trainer's philosophy, show your respect by honoring their wishes here, ESPECIALLY if you will be showing over the winter.

If not, think about your horses's lifestyle and workload. If your horse is in a warm stall in a barn, you can take lots of hair off. If your horse is turned out a lot or lives outside, I'd make a note of where he sweats the most and then limit my clipping to that area. The more hair your horse still has, the warmer she's going to be. Here is a link to a great list of different types of standard clips.

What That Changes

Courage rocking the sheet
If you have removed your horse's natural line of defense against the cold, you are now responsible to replace it with something equally warm. Please, please, please think about this before you even turn the clippers on. I know this varies according to your local climate and your horse's particular biology, but be aware that horses can get very cold. Not only does this mean they eat more, it is miserable. They don't get to go inside your warm house and take a hot shower, so be aware of what you're doing.

Cuna runs hot--he's a big horse and he really isn't a fan of blankets. Courage runs cold and has very fine hair, so he takes a lot more coverage. For Cuna, I had a cotton sheet, a waterproof sheet, a medium weight blanket, a neck cover, and a 200 g liner. For Courage, I've added a heavy weight blanket into the mix. I layer up according to the temperatures.

Modeling the heavy
Not only do I have to keep the boys warm, but it's also important to keep them from overheating. A horse trapped in a too-heavy blanket for the day is at best uncomfortable and at worst, a huge colic risk. Plus there's the "I sweated under my blanket and now I am cold" problem.

This is a lot of maintenance. If you are in a full care situation or keep your horses at home, that's not a problem. It is something to be aware of if your horse is boarded out, though.

It's Worth It

Tommy, a cute client horse
As long as you supply the proper blankets and take care of your horse, clipping is awesome. I don't love the furry horse look and I can't stand waiting around for two hours for my horse to dry. With a clipped horse, you rarely even have to use a cooler! Just hop off, quick brush, and re-blanket. Voila!!

Who clips their horses? How do you decide which clip to use?


  1. Great info on clipping! I would LOVE to clip my boy but am way too chicken to do it LOL! Thank you so much! Your package arrived today! <3 I will write a post for it tomorrow! YOU ROCK LADY!!!!

  2. This is a great post for both horsey and non-horsey people! I really liked that you didn't make a distinct argument one way or the other; you just explained the benefits/risks of clipping (or not). Two thumbs up :)

  3. I'm into clipping if the horse is going to sweat. In Florida, I don't have to clip Lex because she didn't grow that much hair and it rarely gets too cold to hose. Plus, she's not in heavy work. We had to clip my girlfriend's horse because he did grow hair. When Lex and I go to Ohio, I'm just going to wait and see what happens. I'm hoping she won't need clipping - it's going to be a winter of light flatwork, and again, not a lot of hair - but if she needs it, she'll get it. And I'll be revisiting your clipper review because my antique Osters have gotta go.

  4. I've been on the fence about clipping for about a month, but your no-nonsense "why" section makes me realize that I simply don't need to do it and therefore shouldn't. Also, good point about asking the trainer their thoughts on clipping! I wouldn't have thought about that but it's so important.

  5. I clip my native pony because she sweats like a pig and looks like a giant roan hamster. Unfortunately, she always needs a full body clip because she sweats out of places I swear no horse should ever sweat out of. Fortunately, she's a native, so she's quite happy to live out in a normal winter blanket without any trouble. My TB is a different story - I count on a sharp shedding comb and a lot of elbow grease to keep his coat in check; clipping that sensitive, ticklish monster would be quite the Mission: Impossible.


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