Among the tack rooms and hay barns on most horse yards in October is the hairy subject of clipping horses. The start to this autumn has been unseasonably mild but coats are starting to get woolly which means sweaty horses when you return from a hack out or the school.
Each year the British weather plays games, especially through the winter and can change in a flash from tropical afternoons to ice age mornings. This plays havoc with us horse owners guessing what gram of rug should be covering our furry or clipped out equines.
So what clip do you give your horse? It generally comes down to their workload and environment and what type of horse you have. If your horse or pony has a very heavy winter coat and sweats heavily from exercise then you may consider a hunter or full clip. This clip will make them easier to groom and keep clean, however a clipped horse is more vulnerable to the cold and wet so you will have to think about stabling and rugging your horse which gives you extra financial and time costs.
When deciding what clip to choose, remember you can always take a little more of their hair off, but it can’t be put back on! If you are undecided then go for the lightest clip first and see how the horse is with sweating after exercise. If they are sweating profusely then get the clippers out again. Some horses manage to have just one clip through the winter, others may need to be clipped two or three times if they have a fast growing coat!
Here are the most common clips on horses that are used in the UK:
UNDERBELLY AND NECK CLIP (OR KNOWN AS “BIB”)
This is a good clip for horses that are used for light work or ones that live out during the winter months. To give more protection through the winter months, the head, topside of the neck, body and legs are left on so you will still be able to turn your horse out.
CHASER (OR LOW TRACE) CLIP
This is another good clip for horses that are in light work. With this clip your horse will not get too hot and sweaty when exercising but you can still turn out your horse through winter but they will need to be rugged. This is similar to the belly clip but with all of the belly removed, between the forelegs and the upper part of the hind legs. Rugging is needed for turnout.
This clip is suitable for horses in light to medium work. It is very similar to the chaser clip just receding further up the horse to remove more off the coat in a line. This clip can have the head clipped off too but if your horse is not keen on this then a compromise is to do a high trace just up the neck and under the head. Again with this clip, rugs will be needed for turnout through the winter months.
The blanket clip is mainly used for horses in regular work to reduce losing condition through sweating. The coat is completely removed from the head, neck and flanks leaving only the legs and an area over the back that looks like a small blanket. Again rugging is essential for extra protection and warmth.
This is used for horses that are in hard regular exercise such as hunting. The horse looks very smart with all the coat taken off apart from the legs, saddle patch and an inverted V above the tail. Essential rugging is needed and also use an exercise rug when exercising outside.
So this is the extreme of all the clips where there coat is fully removed again with an inverted V above the tail. This requires rugging at all times throughout the winter and the use of bandages to ensure the horse is kept warm.
Getting straight lines is the trickiest of jobs when clipping, especially with the bib, trace, blanket and hunter clips. Clipping can be great fun, especially with a well behaved horse so if trying for a first time make sure you have an experienced friend and a valuable second pair of eyes to help you. Try test patches first to get to grips with the clippers.
Make sure your horse is a clean and dry as you can get them, giving them a thorough groom and if conditions allow then bathe them. Mark out your lines with chalk before letting loose with the clippers on their coats. Please ensure your blades are sharp and well maintained. Clipping with blunt blades is not fun for you or especially for your horse! The clippers must always run flat over the coat and always go against the direction that the hair grows in. Do not use them at an angle or apply too much pressure as this results in an untidy finish and tramlines.
If your horse is very nervous about clipping then this is time to call in an expert. They will be used to clipping around nervous horses and they will use their expertise to make the job as easier for the horse and do it as quickly as possible. Clippers come in all shapes and sizes to suit the amount of work you will be doing with them. Make sure your clippers are well looked after, cleaned and brushed free of hair after each use.
Try and use some overalls when clipping your horse because their hair gets everywhere. That itchy feeling when you have finished clipping is one every horse owner knows! So happy clipping and remember to watch those lines….
by Samantha Hobden of www.hay-net.co.uk
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