Clipping - Creating the perfect clip

Why do we clip?

The main reason for clipping is to minimise sweating when the horse is worked. This enables you to wash off, dry and cool them more effectively. Clipping also helps make grooming a lot easier through the winter – but this must never be the main reason to clip!

When do we clip?

Clipping is usually done from September onwards as the winter coat comes through and they start to get too hot when working.

There are exceptions though as some horses need to be clipped all year round, especially those suffering from Cushing’s disease who find it difficult to regulate their body temperature because their hair becomes thick, long and can go curly.

Katie’s top tips for preparing for clipping

1. If you don’t want to clip yourself, book a professional and do a background check
Make sure the person you have organised to clip your horse is a professional who is good at clipping. There are several people who have super-fancy adverts, but it’s always worth checking the quality of their work before picking up the phone to book your appointment. Have a look through their social media pictures of previous clips and to see if clients have recommended them. You could also ask friends who they use and who they would avoid.

Make sure anyone you ask to clip your horse is fully insured. Accidents can happen to even the most sensible of horses and professional of people. Add in an electrical device and it can all go wrong very quickly!

2. Check your equipment
Although this does seem obvious, it’s common for people to pop their clippers away at the back of the tack room for several months and expect them to remain in perfect working order.

Katie recommends checking them at least a couple of months before aiming to clip because if they need a service or any maintenance work it will be a quieter time for them to be done and returned to you quickly.

Sharp blades are essential, and if yours aren’t up to the job it would be best to buy a new set or get them sharpened. It takes around 7-10 days for sharpened blades to be returned if you send them away, so you’ll need to plan for that.

Also, visually check your clipper cable. They often get trodden on and if you can see the wires inside the core, you’ll need to get the cable replaced.

3. Horse preparation – what to do the day before
If you can, giving your horse a bath (weather and facilities permitting!) is the best way to ensure the clippers glide through the coat, leaving a super-shiny, glossy finish.

Make sure you shampoo to the roots of the hair as that is where the grease will be most built up. Remember a long coat will take longer to dry, so don’t bath the same day you want to clip as it may take a couple of hours for the coat to be dry enough to start.

If you aren’t able to bath your horse a really good groom will help enormously. Get stuck in and the longer you can spend grooming the more it will help when clipping.

Using a hot cloth will also help remove any dirt and grease from the top hairs of the coat without soaking it to the skin.

4. Gather your additional tools – all the bits and pieces you need to do the job!
Below is Katie’s list of essential items she never clips without:

  • An extension lead with an earth leakage circuit breaker, or make sure whatever supply you are plugging into is RCD protected. This will automatically switch the electricity off if there is a fault or damage to your clippers or cable. So if you cut through the cable when clipping and accidentally touched the exposed live wires or if your clippers overheat you will be protected. Ask a suitably qualified electrician if you’re not sure what you need in order to keep you and your horse safe
  • Clipping oil to lubricate the clippers and blades every 7-10 minutes for a neat finish
  • A small brush to wipe away hairs before oiling. Brushes usually come with the clippers, but if you don’t have one you can use a clean hoof oil-sized brush or similar
  • Trimmers for those delicate areas such as behind the ears, under the chin and across the face
  • A rug for your horse – make sure it’s one you don’t mind getting hairy!
  • Steps to reach any trickier parts
  • Plaiting bands and a tail bandage to keep those luscious locks safe and out of the way
  • Grooming brushes to flick over clipped areas so you can check them for any missed or uneven bits
  • Some treats, small amounts of food or a lick to occupy your horse if they need a distraction
  • 5. Wear the right gear
    Hair from the clipping gets everywhere! Wearing overalls or a big coat is a really good way to prevent as many hairs as possible from covering your clothes. It’s also important to stay safe, so its best practice to wear a riding hat and correct footwear. You may also need a face mask to prevent hair blowing in your face

    6. Shall I draw an outline?
    If you aren’t confident in clipping, it’s a good idea to ensure you have chalk lines to follow with the clippers. Make sure you clip as close to the line as you can as its easier to tidy up afterwards once the bulk of the hair is off. This will prevent any mishaps – remember once it’s off, it’s off!

    7. Mane and tail prep
    Before you start its really good idea to plait your horse’s mane and tail to keep it out of the way. This will help when you are clipping along the neck line so you can see when the hair stops and the mane starts. Clip about 1cm away from this to keep it nice and safe and to help you get a good line from the withers upwards.

    Plait the tail down then fold it up and secure it with a tail bandage to keep it out of the way when you’re clipping around the hind quarters and back legs. Again, accidents can happen so its good practice to help avoid this!

    8. Find an appropriate place to clip
    Make sure you have somewhere out of the elements, ideally indoors, to clip. The weather can turn very quickly at this time of year and there’s nothing worse than having an electrically powered clippers in a sudden downpour – these do not mix well at all! The area needs to be well lit, and if it can also be a quieter part of the yard which is out of reach of other horses your horse will feel calmer and more relaxed when being clipped.

    When you’ve done all of the above you will be ready to get going. Good luck and happy clipping!

    About Katie

    Based in the West Midlands/Warwickshire region, freelance clipper Katie Attenborrow from Katie Attenborrow Equestrian has years of experience as a rider, coach and competition groom. She has worked for several professional riders, including Hughes Dressage, home of Gareth and Rebecca Hughes. She holds her UKCC L2 qualification and NVQL3 in Equine Business and Management.

    Horses have been in Katie’s family for generations and her love of competing started in the show ring. This is where she began to polish up on her all-important turnout skills! As she and her sister grew older, they joined The Pony Club before focusing on eventing, show jumping and now dressage.