A Quick And Useful Clipping Technique

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If you work your horse through the winter but don't show in a discipline that requires a full-body clip, we?ve developed a version of the trace clip that's easy and quick to do. The clip is done so the areas the horse sweats have shorter hair and will dry more quickly in cool weather.

The horse before clipping, with tape marking the hair border.

The horse before clipping, with tape marking the hair border.

The traditional trace clip was designed to trim long hair from the areas around the harness on driving horses. Consequently, it requires clipping hair along the entire length of the horse's body, a process that's hard to do evenly and may not be easier than a full-body clip on difficult horses.

We turn our horses out as much as possible, and we prefer to use the fewest and lightest turn-out rugs as possible in our California area. So we designed our own clipping technique, one that leaves the winter coat covering the top of the back and the entire hindquarters, while removing hair from the neck, shoulders and belly.

Depending on the horse's cooperation, we can usually clip a horse in about an hour. We clipped the 17.2-hand horse pictured in this article in just over an hour, including preparing the clippers before use and cleaning them after use.

With this clip job, we can remove turn-out rugs during the day when it's not raining or snowing and the temperature is mild, decreasing the side effects of endless winter blanket wear. We regularly compete our horses in recognized horse trials and have foxhunted our horses with this clip job.

Plus, the only hair borders you have to master are diagonal lines on both sides of the belly, the top of the front legs, and the head.

Before you start clipping, use masking tape to mark the lines that descend diagonally down both sides of the belly. Start at the withers and attach a strip of tape that ends just in front of the stifle joint. Then just clip along the tape. Once you're finished, peel the tape off. (Don?t worry: The horse will barely feel it, as the tape doesn't stick too well to the long hair.)

The horse after clipping, ready for winter work.

The horse after clipping, ready for winter work.

Clip along the edge of the large muscles above the forelegs to create your hair borders there, and to the edge of the mane (on both sides), just as in a full-body clip.

When you get to the head, you have three options, depending on your preferences and the horse's cooperation. You can either leave the winter coat intact on the horse's head, clipping just to the edge of the jaw. You could also go slightly farther, clipping the underside of the jaw all the way to the bridle line (as we did in the horse pictured here). Or you can clip the entire head.

Regardless of how you clip your horse, always remember the four cardinal rules of horse clipping: 1) Start with sharp clipper blades; 2) Make sure your horse's coat is clean; 3) Keep the blades clean while you clip; 4) Hold the clipper blades flat against the horse's skin as you clip to avoid lines.

Plans are in the works for field trials on both body clippers and small clippers. Stay tuned.

Article by John Strassburger, our Performance Editor.