Horse clippers - what type of clip and what clipper?
5 September 2017 | Beth
It's autumn again, and horses and ponies are growing their heavy coats ready for the cold weather. In the wild, horses grow a thicker winter coat to keep them warm. However, now that we make horses exercise and work hard on our schedules, and have them stabled, we need to help them stay at the right temperature. Horses still grow their winter coats but, if they are ridden and become hot and sweaty this extra coat can actually become more of a problem than a help. The horse can become too hot during exercise, and too cold as his sweat drys off after exercise. It is for this reason that we clip horses - it keeps your horse cooler during exercise and limits the cold sweat after exercise. A clipped horse is also far easier to groom and keep looking neat and tidy.
Most people do their clip towards the end of September and the beginning of October. The number of clips per year depends on the type of horse you have and if you show your horse. Typically you do the first clip when the horse's hair gets thicker and begins to make him sweat - some time in the autumn. You then repeat clip throughout the winter as the hair grows back. Horses with Cushings Syndrome may need to be clipped all year to keep them cool. It is usually best to stop clipping horses who compete in February as this allows their summer coat to come in properly.
The amount of hair you remove is dependent upon how much you exercise your horse. Horses who regularly work will require a hunters clip or a full clip. A trace or blanket clip is ideal for horses doing an average amount of exercise. For horses who do only a little exercise, you may get away with removing hair from the neck and belly. You only want to remove hair to ensure your horse doesn't become too hot and sweaty when exercised. You should remove as little hair as possible - just enough to stop your horse sweating. A clipped horse will need a rug or blanket to keep it warm while not exercising.
Before clipping your horse, it is important to brush your horse and even wash your horse if possible. Any grit or dirt may break your horse clipper (an expensive mistake) and will certainly blunt the blades. If you have a mains clipper, you'll need access to the mains. Do not clip outside if it is going to rain. You need good lighting and somewhere your horse feels comfortable. You'll also find it most comfortable if you wear a clipper suit or boiler suit for clipping as it can be a really messy job. You should wear steel toed rubber soled boots to protect your feet. Do not have any dangling clothing, jewelry or hair which could get caught in the clipper.
Make sure your clipper is serviced and working. Ideally you should have a spare set of blades. You will definitely need clipper oil, which should be applied every 5 minutes to keep your clipper running smoothly and not becoming too hot. If your blades do become hot, wait for them to cool down. If you have a horse who is nervous about being clipped, it is best to have a second person at hand to help.
Next you need to mark out where you want to clip, using chalk or wet saddle soap. Check your horse is comfortable with the noise of the clipper, then start clipping at the shoulders and neck. You should use long slow strokes against the coat. Oil your clipper blades about every 5 minutes. If the blades become to hot, make sure your tension isn't too high and also ensure you are adding enough oil. It is the friction of the blades that creates the heat. Clip the head and around the ears last. If possible, use a trimmer for the head and ears as it is smaller, quieter and has less vibration, making it more comfortable for the horse.
You may find you have 'lines' when you have clipped your horse. A fine blade typically leaves behind more lines and a medium blade is more forgiving. The lines will grow out in time. You can try going over the lines, if you are unhappy with your work!
Finally, wipe your horse with a slightly damp, warm cloth.
It is essential to have the right equipment for clipping a horse. The best 3 brands are Heiniger, Lister and Liveryman. For a full clip, it is much easier to use a full size clipper. Many people have tried to use a cheaper small trimmer for a full clip and are disappointed with the outcome and the time it takes - and have even broken trimmers in the process. A good clipper should be light, comfortable to hold, quiet and with low vibrations. Mains clippers are typically more powerful than battery clippers. With this said, there are some excellent battery cordless clippers, including the Lister Liberty and the Heiniger Xplorer which are great for nearly all hair types and offer an excellent finish.
If you have any questions about clipping, please do not hesitate to ask. We are a family run business and we are always happy to help.