In a previous feature article, I explained the ways in which horses keep themselves warm in winter. The heavy winter coat they produce works fine in keeping them warm for loafing about in stable or pasture, but causes complications when you add the human element.
Galloping across fields in pursuit of hounds, or maintaining a training program in dressage, jumping or barrel racing with a full winter coat causes sweating, even in the coldest weather. We humans can wear layers, which can be stripped off gradually to keep us comfortable. Horses don't have that luxury and so at the end of the ride, they are covered in soaking wet hair. Effectively then, the horse is doing the equivalent of standing around in cold wet clothing. We know what happens when we do that ourselves - we risk catching a cold or even pneumonia. The same goes for horses.
Types of Clip
Depending on the type of work the horse will be doing over the winter months (and the amount he usually sweats), there are a number of different clips that can be used. The simplest is known as the Pony Clip which is where the hair is removed from the underside of the neck and chest, where the horse sweats most. As Jessica Jahiel said in a recent issue of Horse Sense, sometimes this is all that's needed - and you can always clip more later.
The Trace Clip
The Trace Clip gets its name from the fact that it follows the line of the traces of a harness. This clip was commonly used in carriage horses and is popular today in riding horses. The hair is removed from the underside of the neck and belly. A trace clip can be high or low - the difference being how far up the horse's flank that the hair is clipped. The hair is left on the head, the topside of the neck and body and also on the legs for warmth and protection.
The Blanket Clip
In the Blanket Clip is more radical than the trace clip. The hair on the neck and flanks is removed, leaving a blanket-shaped area of coat over the back and hind quarters which keeps the back and loins warmer in extreme conditions. As with the trace clip, the hair is left on the legs, affording them protection from underbrush when going across country.
The Hunter Clip
The Hunter Clip leaves hair only on the legs, for the same reasons as with the blanket and trace clips. In addition, a patch of hair is left in the saddle area. This clip is used on horses which are in heavy work in wet and muddy conditions - such as field hunters. It makes it much easier to get them clean and dry quickly.
And, of course, there is the Full Clip, in which all the coat is removed. This is used a lot in show horses which compete in the winter months and would lose condition if they had to perform in all that thick winter hair.