THE shorter day length associated with autumn triggers a change in the horse’s coat, leading to increased growth and a longer, thicker coat. This change is the first sign that clipping may be required. Most horses require two or three clips, with March generally being the cut off point for the last clip, although this will depend on the horse’s breed, and exercise and management routine, making the decision when to undertake the first and last clip individual to each horse.
There are a number of reasons why horses are clipped for winter. Clipping removes part of the thick, winter coat to prevent excessive sweating when horses are exercised. Excess sweating can cause stress and weight loss and can result in horse’s developing a chill due to the prolonged time a thick coat can take to dry.
Clipping reduces the amount of sweat produced and therefore allows horses to work more comfortably and reduces the time it takes for horses to dry off after exercise. Clipped horses are generally also easier to groom and keep clean, due to the reduced amount of hair that mud is able to stick to.
Types of Clip
A number of factors must be considered when deciding on the type of clip to give your horse or pony. The type of horse you have, the workload you expect your horse to perform and the management routine you will be following throughout the winter are all factors for consideration. Some horses find the cold winter months difficult to cope with and are more suited to smaller clips, such as a low trace or chaser clip, whereas those performing harder work tend to benefit from hunter or full clips. Horses and ponies living out at grass in the winter, doing little or no work, should be left unclipped to allow the coat to grow and provide protection against the weather.
These types of clip can be varied to suit individual animals and their owners:
The whole coat is removed, including the hair of the head and legs. Full clips are suited to horses in hard work during winter months. A full clip may also be used as the first clip of the season for horses that grow heavy coats.
The whole coat is removed except for the legs and saddle patch. The hair on the legs offers protection from the elements and from thorns when out hacking, whilst the hair on the saddle patch protects the back from rubbing. Hunter clips are also suitable for horses in hard work.
The head, neck and belly are clipped, leaving a blanket shaped area unclipped over the horses back, sides and hind quarters. This type of clip helps to keep the horse’s back warm, which is ideal as it is important that the loins, beneath which lie the kidneys, are not allowed to get cold as a chill may be the consequence of this.
This clip derives its name from the days of harness horses that were clipped level with the traces of the carriage. Depending on how much hair is removed, it is known as a high or low trace clip and is suitable for horses and ponies in medium work.
A line is drawn from the poll to the stifle joint and everything below that line is clipped except the legs i.e. hair is left on the legs and upper part of the back and neck. Hair may be removed from the head.
A bib clip removes only the coat from the neck and belly areas that are most prone to sweating. This clip is used for horses in light work and horses can still be turned out at grass during the day.
Clipping your horse
Your clipping area should be clean and dry, with plenty of room and clear of all obstructions. It should be light and airy with a non-slip floor. An electricity point should be easily accessible and a circuit breaker must be used.
The horse should be dry and groomed thoroughly, as dust and grease will damage clipper blades. The mane should be plaited to keep out of the way and a tail bandage applied to ensure strands of the tail do not become tangled in the clippers.
HOW TO CLIP
– Either tie the horse up to a piece of string or get an assistant to hold it. If the horse is young or nervous, it is advisable for the assistant to hold the horse. Both the handler and the person clipping should wear protective equipment, including a hat and suitable footwear.
– Allow the horse to become accustomed to the noise of the clippers.
– Begin to clip, starting at the horse’s shoulder, so he can become accustomed to the process. Always clip against the lay of the coat.
– You may need to adjust the tension of the clippers at this stage to ensure a smooth clean cut.
– Do not push or force the clippers – the weight of the clipping head provides all the pressure needed.
– Oil and clean the clippers regularly and do not allow them to overheat. Check clippers regularly for heat by turning them off and touch them with the back of your hand.
– Work from front to rear of the horse’s body, clipping as much in one sweep as possible and then a parallel sweep above or below it.
– Each sweep should slightly overlap the proceeding one.
– Keep the clipper blades flat against the horse’s skin.
– Deciding when to clip the difficult spots, such as the head, the belly, between the forelegs and hind legs, depends on the horse.
– If the horse objects to the clippers around his head or ticklish parts, small clippers may be used, however, these normally only work well with fine hair.
Once you have finished clipping the horse, brush him off and wipe him over with a damp stable rubber/sponge, then immediately rug the horse up. Once the horse is warm and happy, dismantle, clean and oil the blades and clippers and store them in a safe, dry place. Clippers should be serviced on an annual basis to ensure longevity.