Love it or hate it, Body Clipping horses is often a necessity.
Spring is in the air at Heart T Ranch...that means SHEDDING HORSES!!! It also means horses are getting uncomfortably hot while working, take too long to cool out and likely won't have a slick show coat by the first sanctioned shows. These are the three main reasons we body clip horses in our program. I'd like to share a few thoughts on body clipping various classes of horses.
To Cut Or Not TO Cut...
Not every horse NEEDS a full body clip. Often, you can get away with less aggressive trimming patterns and still achieve the results you want.
How aggressively I trim a horse's coat depends on 1) What the horse's job is 2) What I'm trying to achieve by trimming. I typically choose a full body clip on show horses because they are working hard in training and can get overheated easily. They also need a slick coat in time for the early season shows. Young horses I often use a trace clip or half-clip, just trimming the sweat zones and leaving much of their topline hair for protection. Keep in mind - all the horses at Heart T Ranch live out. I don't believe in stalling, so horses that are clipped wear blankets and have run-in shelters for protection. It's important to remember that if you remove hair, you need to replace that insulation with blankets for warmth and protection. Always make sure horse have COVERED shelters if they are clipped.
Variations on Body Clipping:
Full Body Clip - This is pretty self-explanatory. A full body clip removes ALL the hair on a horse's body except a saddle pad(if you choose). In this photo, I have left the legs of the horse unclipped as he is living outside and we don't have a show for several months. There is plenty of time to clip his legs later. I've not shortened his mane all winter, but will do that in the next week. The clip is not show perfect because, guess what? You won't be able to tell in two weeks! He doesn't have a show soon, so by the time he does his coat will have grown in beautifully. I don't waste time making a clip perfect unless the horse is going to a show right away...it's just not worth my time to worry about it.
Partial Body Clip:
You can find books on specific types of clips. Trace clips, blanket clips...they go on and on. At the end of the day, I say "Take off what needs to come off and don't worry about what it's called!" Remember WHY you are clipping - to help the horse stay cool and dry off faster. If it's winter, you may not want to take ALL his hair off! This 4 year old pony is just beginning to be ridden steadily. He has a LOT of hair, but lives outside. I cleared the "sweat zones" to help him stay cooler and dry off faster, but left his topline hair to help protect him from the elements. He wears a blanket as well, but doesn't need a neck cover unless it's really cold. I generally put neck covers on this type of clip below 20 degrees F.
Body clipping your horse can be intimidating. I've been clipping horses professionally for 30 years and have trained many people to do it themselves. My best advice? JUST DO IT! It's not going to be pretty the first time, but that doesn't matter. Even if your horse looks like a Tasmanian Devil clipped it, no one will be any the wiser in a few weeks! Getting a smooth body clip takes practice and the only way to get practice is to clip a LOT of horses...
Tips for Successful Clipping!
Buy the best equipment you can afford! Yes, you can make almost any clipper get the job done, but I can promise you that having a great set of clippers and quality blades will make your life SO MUCH EASIER! I love the Heiniger Saphir clippers. They are very powerful, run cordless OR with a cord, are quiet and very lightweight. They are simply the BEST clipper I've ever used. Check them out at https://www.heinigerusa.com/?product_cat=complete-saphirstyle Use coupon code TAMMY for a 10% discount!
2. CLEAN YOUR BLADES OFTEN! Get a good blade wash. There are many brands out there, I like to use the kind that comes in a jar. You can literally just dip the running blades into the jar. After a few seconds, lift them out and allow to drain while running. Follow up with a few drops of blade oil and continue clipping. DO NOT USE COOL LUBE SPRAY! This is simply the WORST product on the market and will do nothing good for your blades. Take the extra time and use blade wash! Don't wait until your blades start to get too hot or bog down to clean them. Clean regularly as you clip. You'll have less tracking and your blades will last longer!
3. Pay Attention to The Direction of Hair Growth. Tracking happens when you oppose the direction of hair growth. Make sure to clip directly against the grain of the hair. Take LONG swaths, not short little cuts. Every time you lift your blades you risk loosing the nice, clean line you started. Keep your blades at just less than a 45 degree angle the ENTIRE length of the cut! Don't "swoop" out at the end or allow your blade angle to flatten out as you cut.
4. Be Patient. Be patient with your horse and with yourself! News flash - it's not going to look good the first several horses you do and that's OK! With practice you'll get better and your horse will learn to stand as well.
The major benefits of body clipping are to keep the horse cooler and make grooming faster. An added benefit is that you will have a clean, professional look when you take your horse out! At the end of the day, it's up to you how much effort you put into grooming, but once you have a clean, well-groomed horse early in the Spring I think you'll be sold on taking the time to clip your horse!