Stress-Free Horse Clipping Tips

Follow these tips and you will be on your way to clipping your horse safely, successfully and line-free.

Photo by Linda Macklin
Avoid clipping your horse's muzzle until he's comfortable.
Photo by Linda Macklin

Clipping is as much a science as an art. Before you begin to body clip or trim your horse, you must prepare several things:

Day Before

  • Purchase clipper blades (read the instructions that come with your clippers to determine the correct blade for the job). It is cheaper to have your clipper blades sharpened but this can take several weeks.
  • You will need larger body clippers for the body and smaller clippers for the face. If you use different clippers, make sure the hair clipping lengths match up, especially for the face.
  • Bathe your horse if weather allows. If it's too cold, groom well or spot clean. If you are clipping on a warm day you may be able to bathe the same day you clip, but be sure to wait until the horse is completely dry before clipping.
  • Find or purchase a stool without a handle on the top. You want to be able to break free quickly without any chance of getting your foot caught.
  • Find or purchase a halter with a leather crown strap and a snap to detach the throatlatch, or use a grooming halter, which has no throatlatch. You need to be able to access that area to clip.
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Day Of

  • Create a clutter free environment in a low traffic area. You want your area free from any item that you or your horse can run into if he spooks. Low traffic areas also help to reduce the stress on your horse.
  • Organize a flat surface nearby to stage your clipping tools: body clippers, smaller clippers or trimmers, bowl for rubbing alcohol, rubbing alcohol, soft brush, two towels, orange extension cord and clipper blade oil (Clipper manufacturers often sell clipper blade oil. In a pinch I have used baby oil. I don't recommend engine oil--remember this oil will be in contact with your horse's skin and may irritate.)
  • Put dogs in office or tack room to avoid them getting close to your horse's legs.
  • Have someone there to help you.
  • Allow at least two hours for a body clip.

Keep in Mind

  • Be patient--most horses find the clipper vibration ticklish and the sound sometimes scary.
  • Leave plenty of time to clip.
  • Hold the weight of the clippers--do not press down hard. Most people, when learning to clip, apply too much pressure.
  • Watch the corners of the clipper blades. You may accidentally clip more hair then you want. Also these corners can poke your horse by accident.
  • Always clip against the direction of the hair. The cowlicks are the hardest.
  • Blend if you use different types of clippers to avoid choppy lines.
  • Do not cross tie or tie your horse if he or she has a tendency to pull back. This type of horse will need to be held during the entire clipping process.

Where to Start Clipping? How to Test Your Horse?
When I'm preparing to clip a horse I don't know, I always make sure I'm working in a clutter-free area and have someone to hold the horse. I turn on the clippers a few feet away from the horse and observe his reaction. If he flinches with the sound and moves away, I know he will be more sensitive and it will take more time to clip him.

For a horse that is scared, I may walk around and pet the horse with the clippers in hand but turned off, then come back and pet him again in the same spots but holding clippers, running this time, in my other hand. Use your best judgment for horses that are scared. You may not be able to do a full body clip initially.

I always start clipping on the bottom of the shoulder muscle. I avoid clipping the face, elbow area, legs and stomach area until I feel the horse is comfortable. Depending on the horse, I will clip one side completely, then the other. For some horses, I switch sides and areas to keep the horse relaxed and comfortable.

Watch Those Clippers
Dull blades create more lines, make your clipper blade motor run hotter, force you to press down harder and make you clip areas multiple times. A dirty horse will dull your blades quicker and make the clipper motor run hotter. To keep your clippers running smoothly:

  • Clean the blades often by dipping them in rubbing alcohol.
  • Keep the motor and blades well oiled.
  • Brush off excess hair from the blades continuously.

If the blades feel hot to the touch, you must take a break. Hot blades are uncomfortable for your horse and create more lines.

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