Clippers Are Getting Lighter and Less ?Hairy?

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We've used a variety of body clippers and trimmers for the last three years, and each year they get better. The last two body clippers We've tried have been the best yet. they're the Andis Excel with the T-84 blade (April 2012) and now the Oster Volt. they're lighter, quieter and becoming nearly maintenance-free.

But, first, let's review the ?four rules of clipping a horse,? because the clipper is only as good as the person using it.

1) Start with sharp clipper blades. The blades should either be new or freshly sharpened before you start. You can usually clip two horses with one sharpened pair of blades. If the horse starts flinching or wincing, He's telling you the blades are dull and you're pulling his hair out, not cutting it.

2) Make sure your horse's coat is clean. This increases the life of the blades and your horse's comfort. Dull blades on dirty hair stick like a car in mud. If you can't give the horse a bath before clipping, because of drying time or cold weather, vacuum or groom him thoroughly and then wipe him down with a damp towel before you start clipping.

3) Keep the blades clean while you clip. Frequently clean them with a blade wash or cleaning spray, about once every 10 minutes or three to five times a side. Wipe the filter off with a towel, too, to keep everything cool. If you hear the motor straining, the blades are dirty.

4) To avoid lines, hold the clipper blades flat against the horse's skin as you clip. Keep the blades aligned with the horse's skin and muscles?no sharp angle between the blade and the hair coat.

THREE STYLES. Basically, there are three clips: full-body clip, hunter clip and trace clip, with loads of variations of each.

?Full-body? means the entire body, the head and the legs. it's the style for horses who compete heavily during the winter months.

With the hunter clip you clip the body and leave the legs shaggy, to keep them warm and protect the skin from moisture and burrs. Some people leave the hair long under the saddle; some people clip the head, and some don't.

The trace clip was designed for horses in harness, so you clip the underside of the horse, where the harness traces would be. You leave the long hair on top of the body to provide warmth but clip the underside to keep a working horse from becoming overheated. (See our version of the Trace Clip.)

A NEW ERA.? Not so long ago, we would have told you that you need big blades and a long cord to do a proper and efficient clipping job, but the Andis Excel with the T-84 blade and now the Oster Volt have revised our thinking.

The Volt is lightweight (just under a pound) and easy to hold. it's so quiet that you can carry on a conversation while you're clipping. Best of all, it doesn't have a cooling fan, so you don't get covered with hair by the blow-back while you're working. Although the Volt?s body did become warm after about 30 minutes, the blades stayed OK.

MORE IMPROVEMENTS. Manufacturers are now also blurring the line between clippers and trimmers, which is good for our wallets. Previously, you had to buy trimmers (for ears, face, fetlocks, and tails) and clippers (body clipping).

But the Oster Volt, like the Andis Excel, is a clipper/trimmer hybrid. it's able to cut the hair on both a horse's body and on his face and legs. In fact, their blades are the same width (2.5 inches).

The Volt does, however, have a companion trimmer, called the Juice, which is also cordless and is even more ergonomic.

The main advantage to the Andis Excel is that it's corded, so you can clip a series of horses in a day. The Volt has a maximum charge of two hours, which means you might get through two horses if you're trace clipping but only one if you're doing a body clip.

The Volt?s battery doesn't immediately reach maximum charge, though. The manufacturer says that it takes one to five charges to reach maximum charge. We've charged it three times and haven't achieved a two-hour charge yet. We've attempted to clip five horses, on three different days, and we get roughly 60 to 65 minutes of actual clipping.

BOTTOM LINE.? Cordless trimmers and clippers have improved considerably over the last five years, but they still lack the overall durability of models with cords. The batteries usually lose charge time as they age? (like your cell phone) or the contacts between the body and the charging plate wear out. Either way, they become less effective over time, so you get frustrated and throw them in the trash (or against the wall). The Volt does have a replaceable battery, and the charging stand can charge two batteries, which helps. See our recommendations?Clipper Favorites.

And they do have cutting power. The Oster Volt is powerful enough to do an excellent job on the body, and we found that, as the brochure claims, the battery maintains its power until just before it expires.

We really liked the Oster Volt?s light weight, quietness and lack of hair blow-back. Using it made clipping horses almost enjoyable. But we'd be willing to add a little weight for a longer battery life.

The Juice is an excellent trimmer, but the Volt is so versatile that the only reason we'd buy it too is if our discipline requires surgical-quality trimming.

Article by Performance Editor John Strassburger.