Even if you don't show your horse, you may wish to give him a light clip. At the very least, you should clip a bridle path to separate the mane and forelock, providing a place for the headstall to sit comfortably.
It's also a good idea to get your horse used to clippers in case you or your veterinarian needs to clip around an injury.
Here, world champion trainer Lynn Palm demonstrates her gentle clipping technique. She introduces the clipper slowly. "Every time we work with our horses—and that includes grooming—clippers are always a part of it while they're learning to accept to be clipped." she notes.
Palm suggests investing in a clipper that has two speeds: a slow speed for the delicate areas around the head and a faster speed for the thicker hair on the lower legs. She also recommends a cordless clipper for maneuverability, especially if you'll be working on a young horse.
Caveat: If you use a corded clipper, don't allow the cord to drape in front of your horse's head, where he might chew/nibble on it. He could be electrocuted. Also, keep the cord behind you, for safety reasons.
Step 1. Introduce sound only. First, Palm advises, get your horse used to the sound of the clipper. Turn on the clipper, and simply move around him. You might need to do this step for days, weeks, or even months, depending on how quickly your horse accepts the sound.
Step 2. Add feel. Second, get your horse used to the feel of clipper. To do this, you'll first hold the clipper in your hand, then touch him with the back of your hand and arm. Start at the shoulder. (Don't get near his head, which is the most sensitive area.) Work back and forth, and up and down, never touching him with the clipper.
Gauge your horse's comfort level by watching where his eyes are looking and his ears are working. When he accepts this touch on his whole body, then move to his head. Start at his jaw, where the hairs are thicker and less sensitive, then move to the front of his forehead. Finally, move to his ears, his most sensitive area. Remember, you're just touching him with your hand and arm.
Step 3. Clip the bridle path. When your horse accepts the sound and feel, you're ready to clip his bridle path. Push ear forward, and clip back, away from his ears, for a nice, clean clip.
Step 4. Continue clipping. If you'd like to continue clipping around your horse's head for the show arena, follow the steps in this video tutorial.
For complete DVDs describing Lynn Palm's grooming techniques, visit www.lynnpalm.com.
Lynn Palm is the founder of Palm Partnership Training. She's shown more than 34 Quarter Horse world and reserve world champions, competing in both English and Western disciplines. She's won a record four American Quarter Horse Association Superhorse titles and was the first rider to win the prestigious Superhorse title twice on the same horse, Rugged Lark.