"How to Clip a Horse
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"How to Clip a Horse

Horses react to clipping in the same way that they can react to loading, travelling and shoeing - they may not be very keen on the idea! It is something they have to learn to tolerate so a correct introduction to the clippers and the clipping process as a young horse is key. Some horses are generally less troubled by clipping than others and that may be because they simply don’t mind it as much or, they were well handled as a youngster and so it holds no fears. Some horses may be well handled and never really take to the idea even so, you have to work with what you’ve got.

Clipping can be dangerous for two reasons namely, the presence of electricity and the propensity for some horses to misbehave because they are frightened. If you are not an experienced clipper therefore and only clip occasionally, it may be better to ask someone to clip your horse for you, particularly if you think he may be difficult. There are lots of grooms and riding instructors who offer clipping services. Prices vary and are usually dictated by the amount of coat you would like removed, more extensive clips being more expensive.

Whether you clip your horse or someone else does it for you, here are some Top Tips.

Top Tips

  • Ensure that the horse’s coat is clean and dry before you start clipping, if the coat is very thick, this may mean 24 hours in a stable beforehand
  • Start on an area that is not sensitive for the horse, usually the neck or the shoulder
  • Some horses become less tolerant and relaxed as the clipping progresses so whilst you may wish to start on an easy area, don’t always leave the most difficult parts to the end when the horse is fed up and has had enough
  • Always use circuit breakers – this is a safety device which will effectively cut the power if there is an excess of current or short circuit
  • Ensure the area in which you are clipping is clean and well lit and that there are no unnecessary obstacles such as water buckets – you can clip in the stable but many yards have a designated clipping/shoeing box or area
  • It is preferable to have a handler with you to assist you in keeping the horse still and to position the horse although some animals are happy to just stand with a hay net to keep them occupied
  • Start the clippers away from the horse but nearby so he can get used to the noise, always do this even with an experienced horse who is normally relaxed about the process
  • Touch the horse with your free hand so he can feel the vibrations run through your body and onto his
  • Remove the coat in long, smooth strokes working against the lie of the hair
  • When the clipping is finished, brush any loose hair from the horse’s body and rug the horse appropriately depending on the temperature

Clipping difficult horses

Horses which are difficult to clip can prove dangerous so the first decision to make is, do you really need to clip your horse? If the answer to this is yes, what is the minimum clip you can get away with?

Difficult or frightened horses need to be clipped and handled by experienced people. Not only does the horse derive confidence from this but competent handlers will have had many years’ experience of when to cajole and when to be stern, it is a fine line to tread. An experienced groom or handler will be able to clip the horse more quickly and this will result in less stress to everyone as the object of the exercise is to get the process over with as quickly as possible – certainly this is what the horse will want and benefit from.

It can be helpful to establish what exactly the horse dislikes about the process, for example, some horses are worried by the electric cable moving around on the floor and so battery clippers may be beneficial in this regard. Battery clippers are also quieter and some horses prefer them for this reason, they can also be useful for more sensitive or difficult areas such as around the head and ears as they are less bulky so easier to manoeuvre and there is no cable to worry about either.

It is possible to buy over the counter calmers which are usually magnesium based and which may offer some ability to relax the horse and relieve anxiety. However some horses are just too difficult and unpredictable and may require veterinary sedation. In these circumstances, it is usual to have two people clipping the horse whilst it is sedated, one each side, so that the process is as quick as possible. Also, the vet will usually remain throughout the procedure and the metre will be running.

Sedated horses can still lash out and kick so always be aware of this. Fear triggers an adrenalin and flight response and sometimes this can overcome even the heftiest dose of medication so never be complacent.

Reasons for clipping

The majority of horses are clipped so they may continue to work in the winter months without the added burden of a thick winter coat. Most of the winters in the UK are relatively mild with only the odd cold snap and so clipping the coat allows the horse to work more comfortably without becoming too hot. Horses with thick coats that become hot and sweaty are much harder to keep dry and comfortable; in some cases they can lose condition and may be prone to rubs and girth galls. Some breeds of horse however seem to grow little additional coat in winter and continue working quite happily without the need for a clip.

Older horses that have Cushing’s Disease may also be clipped whether they are working or not. Cushingoid horses can tend to grow longer and thicker coats and they can also retain these coats for a longer period throughout the spring months which makes them very uncomfortable as the temperatures rise.

It is always beneficial to have your horse acceptant of the clippers; even if you never intend to clip him to work, you may one day have the requirement to clip his coat away to treat a wound. A horse that is not happy about being clipped can potentially make a stressful situation i.e. injury even worse.

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