Clipping is probably one of the more stressful tasks associated with horse ownership, however with a bit of careful planning and preparation for both the horse and the handler, clipping need not be so much of a problem!
Clipping is something that most horse owners will have to do at some point during their horse owning years. Not all horses will need to be clipped, but if you want to carry on riding throughout the winter months and are competing, hunting and hacking on a regular basis then clipping should be considered in order to keep the horse in good condition, clean, cool, and easy to dry off after exercise.
Some horses do find being clipped stressful, but mostly because they haven’t been introduced to this in a quiet way or have been clipped by someone who is inexperienced, or too quick and rough with their handling. Other reasons for causing horses to be unhappy, can be due to being clipped with blunt blades or blades that have been allowed to get too hot – either because they have been tensioned incorrectly or not having enough oil applied. In both cases even the most quiet and sensible horse will have every good reason to pull away and flinch or be frightened when clipped again.
It also worth remembering that many clippers are mains operated, and as such, need to be used with extreme care and be meticulously maintained and safety tested on a regular basis. Mains electricity and animals is a recipe for disaster if basic safety checks are not made on a regular basis.
Before even starting to clip, check all the equipment and blades are in good order and are working. If in doubt, send them off for servicing and blade sharpening to a clipper specialist. Check any cables and leads that connect to the clipper for damage and add a circuit breaker for added safety. This will ensure the horse and operator won’t get an electrical shock if the lead does get stepped on.
Check the correct tensioning for the clipper that you are using. Most makes of clippers will tension in different ways. If you are not sure, check with the manufacturer or a clipper specialist for further advice. If blades are tensioned too tightly they will get very hot and cause stress to the motor of the clipper, if they are too loose they won’t clip properly and give a chewed affect and hurt the horse.
If you are unsure about the horse’s behaviour towards clipping, it is a good idea to accustom them to the sound and vibration whilst grooming. Young or nervous horses are best introduced to trimmers first which are a lot quieter and have no trailing lead. De-sensitising quietly over the summer months in readiness for the clipping season will pay dividends in the long run and ensure a happy confident horse to clip in the winter.
The key to stress free clipping for both owner and horse is good preparation.
• If you are dealing with a young or sensitive horse, don’t try to do it all in one session. Preparation and de-sensitisation is time well spent. Practice during the summer months, and incorporate running the machine whilst grooming.
• Ensure that the horse has been very well groomed and is mud and dirt free. Apply a tail bandage to keep all tail hair away from the body. Plait over mane, particularly if it is long and liable to get in the way when clipping.
• Ensure your clipper blades and clippers and trimmers are in good working order before you start and that you have plenty of clipper oil for oiling blades to keep them as cool as possible during clipping.
• Keep a spare set of blades handy, for either changing over to when they go blunt or for changing to if the clipping set are getting very hot.
• If you are based in a busy yard, choose a suitably quiet time to clip and not at feed or turnout times.
• Keep a rug handy to keep the horse warm whilst being clipped.
• It’s often easier to mark out the clipping lines before starting. Use chalk for outlining. Study the muscle lines on the legs and mark out accordingly.
• Clip in long lines, going against the coat. Keep the blades parallel to the coat and keep an even pressure. Make sure you slightly overlap each line you are clipping to avoid “tram lines”.
• Use a weighted piece of string over your horse to ensure that both sides of the clip are level.
• Use a set of trimmers to tidy up any difficult/sensitive areas, it’s a lot quicker and easier in the long run.
• If you are using a mains powered machine, ensure a circuit breaker is fitted.
• Ensure that clipping takes place in a well-ventilated, safe environment with a non-slip floor and good lighting.
• It is easier if you have an assistant handy to help with handling and keeping the horse as quiet as possible – even if this means allowing a feed bucket or something really tasty to distract the horse when doing the fiddly bits.
• Lastly keep calm and organised. Planning the right time to clip, preparing your horse, and having the correct equipment to hand, will make the job easier and a better experience for both you and your horse.