Care and maintenance of clippers and blades during the clipper season
With winter approaching horses and ponies are starting to change their coats and all too soon we will have to get the clippers out to address the problem of winter woollies.
Clippers that have been put away at the end of last season, will have to be unearthed. If they have been sent away to be serviced and cleaned in readiness for the new season, they should be ready to give good use.
The most common problem found with electrical clippers, is that they do not cope well being stored in damp tack rooms. You may only use them two or three times and then be surprised that they then do not work when you come to start them up again. Obviously this is not due to being over worked, but because damp has got into the motor and caused the capacitor to blow along with usually a number of other components. The more a machine is used the better, and so long as it is looked after it should give many years of service.
If you are using an electric clipping machine, ensure that the cable is in good condition with no obvious marks or wire exposed. Check that the plug is OK and always ensure you have a circuit breaker attached. This really is an essential bit of kit, and anyone using a machine without one fitted are putting themselves and their horse at risk.
If you are using the battery rechargeable clippers that have a short curly lead connecting to a battery pack around the waist, check that the plug-in connectors fit properly.
The re-chargeable clippers with no trailing wires are the safest, all round machines to use, and require little maintenance as the machine is in a totally sealed unit, so no hair and dust can get in and cause damage. There are also several makes of clippers on the market now that have a fool proof blade system, which means they don’t have to be physically tensioned. These take the “snap on blade system” and fall within the light duty category of clippers – examples being the Lister Libretto, Moser Avalon and Liveryman Harmony.
However, these types of machines and all clippers, need the blades checked and kept clean. We advise after clipping, to remove the blades from the machines, brush them off with a soft brush or cloth and put in a protective box or envelope. If the blades have been dropped and teeth are missing in the middle, then it is best to discard or use them for mane thinning. If it is just a tooth at the end that has been broken, generally these can be sharpened and re-used, but care must be taken not to nick the horse as they can still be quite sharp on the corners.
After every two to three clips, you may feel that the blades are not clipping quite as well. Normally if the coat is clean, a set of blades should manage up to about five clips, but generally speaking two to three is average. If this is the case, it is best to send them away for re-sharpening. It is money well spent to use sharp blades. One of the many problems that blunt blades cause is clipper-shy horses. Having hair pulled when clippers are used is not a pleasant experience, and most horses, will react unfavourably the next time they are clipped.
Always remember to oil blades before, during and after clipping. Before you start clipping, run clipper blade oil along the teeth and either side, and in any oil holes, wipe off any excess with a soft cloth. When oiling, use clipper oil in preference to the aerosol spray, other types are generally too heavy for this type of machine. Depending on the type of clipper, you have you will then have to oil very regularly, ie about every five minutes during clipping. Trimmers normally just require oiling across the blades. This ensures that the blades are kept well lubricated which in turn cause less stress to the motor and keeps the machine cool.
Brush off any excess hair before re-oiling, an old toothbrush is ideal for this. NEVER dip blades in petrol, paraffin or diesel or any other liquid to cool off or clean, it is extremely dangerous and strips the blades of their lubrication. This will also cause the blades to blunt quickly.
If the blades are being put away for any length of time, lightly oil them before storing. Do not wash off with water as this will cause rusting almost immediately.
If the blades heat up quickly, it is worth checking that the tension has been set correctly for the machine you are using. Manufacturers design clippers slightly differently to their competitors, so it is no good thinking that one way of tensioning a machine is going to work for all machines. Check with the manufacturer’s guide before use or speak to a reputable clipper dealer who will be able to give you the correct advice. Incorrect tensioning causes a lot of frustration but can be easily resolved.
If you look at a tension set which comes with most full size clippers, you will see that it comes in three parts – the nut, spring and bolt. If you do not have all three parts, or the spring is warped or worn out, the tension required to work the blades at their optimum will not happen. Again, problems like “my blades are chewing up the coat”, or “its leaving patches of hair”, or “it’s just not clipping but the blades are moving” are quite usual problems that are encountered. A spare tension set is worth keeping, so that clipping can continue.
Once the clipping has been completed, the machine can be brushed off and if possible, remove the air filter to clean out any trapped hair. This should be done regularly as hair builds up very quickly and will then cause the motor to heat up and eventually damage the machine. Remove blades, brush off any excess hair and store in a safe dry place.
It is advisable to have your machine serviced by a professional engineer at the end of each clipping season, and more frequently if it is being used several times a week during the winter months. It is also worth keeping a set of spare blades, so clipping can continue when blades go blunt.
Be prepared this season, so that clipping can be as trouble free as possible. It is one of the least pleasant jobs going, but with equipment that is reliable and in good order, will make the job easier in the long run, and without compromising safety of the horse, handler and operator.