You've just put the bridle on your horse and noticed that his bridle path could use a trim - and by the way so could the whiskers on his chin and maybe his fetlocks while you're at it. You rummage for your clippers, which you think you put in the tack box the last time you used them. Or maybe it was the tack room, or the tool bench in the garage, or could you have used them on the dog and left them in the house?
If you're like many of us who aren't show-bound every weekend, the clippers make an appearance only sporadically, when your horse's bridle path gets too long, or you want his ankles looking sharp. You may body clip your horse once or twice a year when the weather and your riding patterns demand it.
But most of the time, the clippers stay out of sight. Dampness, dryness and sheer non-use can play havoc with your clippers unless you spend a few minutes on preventive care while you're using them.
Follow the few steps we've outlined here, however, and that expensive clipper investment will last through many seasons. You'll find that the clippers will run better as well, making the task of clipping easier for you and a more pleasant experience for your horse.
Clean horse. Start with a clean and dry horse. Though that may sound obvious, you'd be surprised how much a bath and thorough drying of your horse beforehand will extend the life of your clippers. A dirty or wet coat can dull your blades and jam your clippers, so resist the temptation to tidy up a bridle path after a long and dusty trail ride.
Adjust your blade. Most clippers have at least two settings for different cutting lengths. Use the adjustment tool on your clippers, or change your blades for closer cuts such as trimming whiskers or bridle paths, or for longer cuts such as trace clips.
Extend Clipper Life:
- Clean the horse before you clip.
- Use the right size blade for the job, and adjust the tension as needed.
- Clean, oil or spray your blades if you have a long clip job.
- Remove blades and brush hair out of clipper area.
- Spray coolant periodically. Let clippers cool if they get hot.
- Clean and store in a dry area.
Clean as you go. If you are trimming more than just whiskers, be sure to clean your blade as you work, stroking with a small brush (a toothbrush will work, or use the brush that came with your clippers) to remove loose hair that gathers in between the teeth. Oil the blade every five minutes as you work to keep the parts running smoothly. Use only specially made clipper oil, which can be purchased at a tack or hardware store. Spray-on oil can be applied periodically as you work, or you can pour some oil into a shallow cup and hold the blade in the oil for a minute every so often, with the clippers running.
Use coolant. If you are working on a big job, such as a mane roaching or body clip, use clipper coolant to keep the clippers from overheating. Check the blade with your hand to see if it is heating up. If the blade feels hot to the touch, it's time to apply the coolant. You'll get a sense of how long it takes for your blade to get hot after you have checked a few times. A good spray coolant (available at tack and hardware stores) will cool the clippers immediately and prevent the blades from becoming uncomfortably hot for your horse.
Protect the cord. When you are clipping, be careful of the electrical cord, making sure neither you nor your horse steps on it. Like the cord of any electrical appliance, a frayed or damaged cord is dangerous, so in those cases contact a service shop in your area for a replacement. Consider a rechargeable, cordless set of clippers to avoid this problem completely.
Clean after use. After you have finished clipping your horse, oil the blade (use spray-on oil or run the blade in a shallow cup of oil) to prevent corrosion and to keep everything in good working order. Every so often, take the blades apart and soak them briefly in blade wash. Dry them thoroughly before putting them back on the clippers.
Replace old blades. If your blades become dull and won't cut thick hair (such as manes and winter coats) like they did when they were new, replace them or take them to a blade-sharpening service. Your local tack shop or a general knife-sharpening company can do this for you. However, you may find that new blades, which cost $20-25, may only be a few dollars more than sharpening very old ones, especially if you have to ship them out for service.
One tack shop owner who no longer offers sharpening services advises that sharpening blades compromises the original tolerance built into them. Once you shave off a little of the metal in sharpening the blades, he said they never work quite as well as new blades. If you do sharpen old blades, do it only once or twice at the most.
Rusty blades and blades with broken teeth should be discarded and replaced instead of sharpened.
Proper storage. Wind your clipper cord loosely after each use and store the clippers in a clean, dry place. Avoid keeping your clippers in a damp environment, as this may cause your blades to rust.