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Body Clipping Your Horse

Body clipping is a good option for horses that stay in work all winter. Here's how to do it right.

By Cindy Hale | October 2011

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There aren’t many people who truly enjoy body clipping a horse. The monotonous droning of the clippers combined with the airborne swirls of hair are enough to make anyone reconsider the project. Yet a body clipped horse is easier to groom during the winter months. Sweat evaporates more quickly from shorter hair, so a clipped horse is less likely to catch a chill after a brisk ride. Plus, body clipping allows show horses to maintain their prize-winning glow. And we can’t forget the equines afflicted with Cushing’s disease. One of the side effects is a dense coat that doesn’t shed, making body clipping a year-round procedure.

There are plenty of reasons to body clip your horse. Fortunately, there are ways to make the chore more pleasant. Here are 10 tips that will help you be prepared, and then keep both you and your horse comfortable until the last blade stroke.

  1. Wait until your horse’s winter coat has fully grown in before you body clip.

    Otherwise, that sleek coat may be marred by patches of late-blooming fuzz. Remember that it’s the shorter days of autumn that stimulate the growth of more hair. That’s why you start seeing shaggy horses at the end of daylight saving time.

  2. Choose clippers specifically labeled for body clipping.

    Then, compare brands based on strokes per minute (spm), which is how fast the blades move. This is important, since you can only move the clippers as fast as the blades will cut the hair. Make sure your blades are sharp, and keep a spare set of blades handy. Have your blades professionally sharpened after every few body-clipping jobs. Also check the power of the motor, which is measured in either watts or horsepower. A strong motor is less likely to overheat in the middle of a clipping job.

  3. Have the necessary accessories assembled.

    A small but sturdy mounting block or step stool will help you reach the high points of your horse’s body. Products like blade wash and cooling lubricants can help your clippers run smoothly. But your most important accessory is clipper oil. About every 15 minutes apply oil along the blades and put a few drops into the clippers where noted in the manufacturer’s instructions. If your clippers have an exterior filter, remove accumulated hair at this time, too.

  4. Enlist the help of a knowledgeable handler.

    Even if your horse typically stands patiently in the cross-ties or at the hitching post, you can’t predict how he’ll behave during the lengthy process of body clipping. Your handler should be adept at using a stud chain and a twitch properly and humanely if it becomes necessary.

  5. Dress for the job.

    You can minimize the amount of horse hair that ends up in peculiar places by wearing a long-sleeved shirt or jacket. Avoid fleece or other materials that hair will stick to easily. Also consider wearing a bandana or ball cap on your head and a pair of safety glasses to shield your eyes. Many professional body clippers also wear disposable face masks so they don’t inhale fumes, hair, scurf and dander.

  6. If the weather allows it, thoroughly bathe your horse with a good shampoo before clipping.

    As he dries, spritz his entire body, including his legs, with a coat polish. That will repel dust and also help the clipper blades glide over the hair. Let his coat dry completely before you clip. Are you clipping the next day? Then cover your horse with a daysheet overnight so he doesn’t greet you in the morning with manure stains.

  7. Before starting, introduce your horse to the body clippers.

    They sound much louder than the ones you use to trim his whiskers and fetlocks, so he may react with suspicion. Have your handler hold him while you stand a few feet away with the clippers running. Approach your horse in a matter-of-fact manner. If he tries to bolt, back away, but do not turn off the clippers. When your horse is no longer anxious, make contact with the clippers in a non-threatening area, like his shoulder or along his rib cage. Be persistent, and pat him enthusiastically for behaving. Check your blades frequently to make sure they haven’t become hot to the touch, causing an uncomfortable experience for your horse. If he’s used to having his whiskers and fetlocks trimmed, he should accept the body clippers once he understands the concept.

  8. Use a smaller, quieter set of clippers for areas where your horse is sensitive.

    Since they’re lighter in weight and easier to maneuver, use them for clipping your horse’s legs (including the bumpy hocks and knees) and face. Be sure the blade number corresponds with those on the body clippers, or your horse could end up with a patchwork appearance. Typically, No. 10 blades are used for body clipping.

  9. Always clip against the growth pattern of the hair, including tricky whorls and cowlicks.

    Keep even, consistent pressure on the clippers so that you don’t create a cobblestone pattern. Also make sure you hold the blades flat against the skin so you don’t end up with lines. Dirty blades or a dirty horse can also cause lines. Address those issues by rinsing with blade wash, then oiling the blades and spot cleaning your horse with a damp towel. Re-clip the troublesome areas in a criss-cross pattern, going back and forth, across the lines and uneven patches.

  10. Pay attention to your horse’s demeanor.

    If he begins to flinch or gets grumpy, check your equipment. Have your clippers gotten hot? Or has he simply gotten stressed or bored? Have your handler take him back to his stall or corral for a drink and a potty break. That’ll also give you a chance to relax for a moment before finishing the job.

When you stand back to admire your work, you might notice some hives on your horse. These are usually caused by irritation from the blades or oil. To soothe this temporary reaction and also banish any cut hair that’s left behind, rinse your horse thoroughly. If it’s cold, opt for a sponge bath using a bucket of warm water and rub him dry with a clean towel. Throw on a cooler and keep him out of drafts until he’s dry. Then blanket him properly according to your climate and whether he’ll be living inside or outdoors. You’re now responsible for keeping him cozy, but in return you’ve gotten rid of his winter woolies and transformed him from shaggy to sleek.

Liked this article? Here are others on clipping:
Body Clipping Secrets
HorseChannel's Guide to Clipping Your Horse
Fun Horse Clipping Patterns

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Body Clipping Your Horse

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Reader Comments

Danielle    Syracuse, VA

11/6/2015 9:54:58 AM

Is there a time when it becomes too cold to clip?

HaplessPizza    International

6/18/2013 1:01:30 PM

Great article! Thanks again; I had no clue how to do this before!

Dara    Gainesville, FL

4/17/2013 3:25:26 PM

Sonds like lots of work, but worth it.

ZZ    Some where in, CA

1/23/2013 2:45:49 PM

Awesome! I love Horse Channel, also I need to start practicing body clips for an upcoming horse show =]

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