We love cordless clippers. They’re convenient for shows and perfect for those who lack a barn with crossties and/or electrical outlets. Cordless is also great for large, busy barns where many horses need to get trimmed. You don’t have to walk the horses to the outlet. You can just walk in the stall and go.
Of course, we want battery-charged clippers that are easy to recharge and work for as long as it takes to body-clip our biggest, jumpiest horse. We don’t want to rush a difficult job just because the clippers are dying. The quieter the clippers, the better, so that horses don’t skitter away from their beauty regimen.
If you have an old pair of clippers, you’ll be happy to find that the newer models are much better these days. Older model clippers tended to get hot within minutes and blow hair back into your face as you work. Manufacturers have addressed these problems quite well, and all the products in our test were perfectly usable.
The two most common types of cordless clipper batteries are NiCad (nickel cadmium) and NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries.
NiCad batteries were the old favorite for rechargeable batteries because they had a memory, which you probably know all too well if you’ve had one in your mobile phone.
If a NiCad battery is constantly recharged after a small amount of use, then the battery will remember this small recharge and only accept a small recharge, no matter how discharged it is.
This can be a pain in the neck if the battery is completely discharged and it will only take a small recharge. But if you totally drain the battery before it’s recharged, it will “remember” the full recharge and perform well.
Ray Thomas, who sells and repairs clippers in Louisiana, advises all his clients who use cordless clippers to turn them on and let them completely discharge at least weekly, if you’re not using them often enough to do that with your trimming schedules.
The Andis Super AGR has a refresher button on its charger, which reconditions the battery by discharging the battery, then recharging it for 100% memory-free capacity. It’s a really nice feature for a clipper with NiCad batteries.
NiMH batteries, which are nickel metal hydride batteries, do not have a “memory.” This means they will accept a recharge for their full capacity no matter whether the discharge has been minor — as when doing ears and nose whiskers — or major enough to completely use up the power supply.
This also allows you to keep the batteries constantly recharging, if you want, without risking the memory-loss recharge problem experienced with NiCad batteries.
Lithium batteries, says Kim Laube of Laube, are the future. (Of the clippers we tested, only their Litening had lithium batteries.) They hold a charge more than double the capacity of NiMH while being half the weight and size.
Lithium batteries also charge in half the time of NiMH batteries and have no memory problems. The down side to the lithium batteries is that their chargers are currently much more expensive than the NiMH. (The Wahl company says they can’t discuss their plans for lithium batteries for development reasons, and Andis says they’re happy with their batteries’ performance for now.)
It can be difficult to know when to get your blades sharpened. You can’t just mark “sharpen blades today” on your calendar — you have to wait until they’re dull, then sharpen them. You can send blades back to the manufacturer for sharpening (with Wahls, you must remove the whole blade set), or use local sharpeners for regular maintenance.
How quickly your clipper blades get dull can depend on how dirty the horse’s hair is. If your horse has rolled in sand and you clip him before you bathe him, the sand can dull the blades right away. If blades get too gritty, they’ll stop working and chew hair instead of cutting it properly. Wet hair shouldn’t be clipped because it will harm the blades. Hair with coat polish on it will dull blades faster, although many people like to use it on their horses before clipping.
Keeping your blades oiled helps the clippers work smoothly. Oil lubricates between the blades, which means they perform a full stroke without friction. Oil also keeps dirt and other grit from getting stuck in between the blades. If you think you’ve caught some dirt, use oil. You can even put some oil in a pan so that you can keep your clippers running by dipping them. Matt Andis says that a clean horse means clean clippers and that oil should be used, especially on battery-powered units. He adds that their clippers will run 50% longer with oiled blades than with non-oiled blades.
Clipping is a job with a lot of personal preferences, so something that seems positive can also be a drawback. For example, some people loved the metal heft of the Wahl Arco, Chromado, and Bravura — one tester said it was like having a Saab of clippers (we’re going to presume she likes Saabs) — and found that the Laubes seemed fragile by comparison. But others loved the lightweight Laubes and didn’t mind the plastic outsides.
Speed is another matter of preference. The Laube clippers are very fast — up to 10,000 strokes per minute. By comparison, the Andis Super AGR+ runs at 3800 spm, which is still plenty fast for clipping horses. Speed is appealing to many users who want the job done as quickly as possible. However, Ken Duncan of Wahl explains, if the clipper runs too fast, you may reduce its life and increase heat and noise as you work.
We love the LCDs on the Wahl Bravura and Chromado and wish all clippers had this feature. They tell you how low your battery is.
The other great thing about the higher-end Wahls is their five-position adjustable setting, which means you’re not swapping blades all the time. So if you want a #30 for ears and muzzle but a #10 for legs, you don’t have to change blades in the middle of your job.
Duncan says that the #40 setting is ideal for extremely close cuts on the muzzle, the #15 setting is ideal for the face, the #10 setting for the throat latch and bridle path.
The Andis Super AGR+ has the adjustables as well, but theirs have only three positions, and the Laubes come with snap-on blades.
We also wish that all the NiCad rechargeables came with the Andis refresher. The button alleviates some of the frustration a NiCad battery can bring.
If you have ponies, look at the Laube line. Since these are used on small animals as well as horses, they can often suit ponies or even minis. We noted that children are delighted with the bright colors of the clipper casings.
When all was said and clipped, the Wahl Chromado fit most of our needs. It has the NiMH battery, the LCD, and the adjustable blade. It looks sharp, and the matte plastic casing is easier to hold than many of the glossier ones. It’s a combo cord and cordless. At $139, it is not cheap, but it’s worth the money, considering all it has to offer.
If you like to have something in your tack trunk for fetlocks and faces, a Laube Speed Feed Trimmer will do the trick for $99.
If you need an economical, adjustable blades cord/cordless combo, the $69.95 Andis is an excellent choice. However, the $49.49 Wahl Pro Series “clipped” it for Best Buy. The Pro Series isn’t posh, but it’s sturdy and will do the trick for most of us.