Tips and Types of Clip for the clipping season

Tips and Types of Clip for the clipping season

Tips and Types of Clip for the clipping season


Does my horse need to be clipped?

This really depends on what you are planning to do with your horse during the winter months.  If you have a youngster or an older horse that is unlikely to be worked much, then leave him with his natural coat.  Generally speaking, horses that are not in work do not require clipping.

If you have a horse that is terrified of clippers and is dangerous to himself and handler, it is better not to attempt to clip on grounds of safety.  Some horses will settle under sedation, but this needs to be discussed fully with your vet as he will need to be present.

Horses that live 24/7 outdoors will need as much protection from the elements, and if a rug is not used, then the horse will obviously need his full coat left on.  Part clips can be considered if a rug and shelter is provided.


What type of clip should I choose and why?

Most horses that are in light to moderate work or just being hacked out at the weekends will benefit from just having part of their coat removed.  This will enable them to happily carry out the work required of them without becoming too hot and sweaty and will ensure that they dry off quickly without losing too much condition.

If no more than 50% of the coat is clipped, the animal can still live out quite happily throughout the winter, although adequate shelter will be needed and provision of a good waterproof outdoor rug is essential. 


Types of Clip

There are various part clips that can be used or adapted depending on how much coat needs to be removed. 

  • The trace clip or trace high clip - hair below the trace line is removed and from the lower neck and jaw. 
  • The Irish clip - hair in front of a diagonal line from poll to stifle is removed.
  • The Bib clip - the gullet and chest area are clipped. 

These three clips are idea for the owner who is expecting to ride at weekends during the winter as it allows the horse to dry off quickly if he does get sweaty, but without taking away all the natural coat.  If your horse is a little on the lively side, it is advisable to keep his back and quarters covered either by not clipping this area, or by replacing with an exercise rug when riding.

For the horse owner who is expecting to work their horse daily and compete or hunt on a regular basis throughout the winter months, a more complete clip will be needed.  This will allow the horse to remain in full work without losing condition through excess sweating, or risk chilling after exercise.  The three main types of clip where much more hair is removed are:

  • The full clip – everything is clipped including legs.
  • The hunter clip  - all the coat is removed except the saddle area and the legs.
  • The blanket clip - all the hair is left on the upper half of the body acting as a natural exercise blanket.

For these types of clip most horses would be stabled at night and suitably rugged to compensate for the loss of coat and provided with a good waterproof outdoor rug for paddock use.

Clipping can be a stressful time for both horse owner and horse.  This is usually due to insufficient time being given in preparation, resulting in the horse becoming anxious and then the owner getting frustrated.  If clipping equipment then also gives problems, the whole clipping exercise can become a bit of a nightmare!


These clipping tips should act as a checklist at the beginning of the clipping season.


  1. Ensure machine has been serviced and blades have been sharpened before using at the beginning of a new season.
  2. Before clipping make sure the machine is correctly tensioned – check manufacturer’s recommendations – each make of clipper will tension in a different way.  Blades will heat up more quickly if tension is too tight and not clip properly if too loose.
  3. Oil blades every 10 minutes whilst in use.
  4. Keep a spare set of blades handy to change over to when doing the head and sensitive areas, so that they are totally cool.
  5. Use appropriate clipper oil, not WD40, cooking oil, linseed oil etc.  This will ensure that the blades are correctly lubricated, and help to keep blades as cool as possible.
  6. Check cable regularly for any breaks, and try to keep the cable away from horses’ feet.  Keep it over shoulder and then let it drop down.
  7. Always use a circuit breaker on a mains powered machine.
  8. DO NOT immerse clipper blades in any type of liquid to cool whilst still running.
  9. Clip on a dry, non-slip surface with good lighting.
  10. Don’t clip at feed or turnout times – choose a quiet time during the day so the horse is as relaxed as possible. Have a helper handy, it is very difficult to clip without one around!
  11. Wear appropriate clothing – ie overalls (not fleece as the hair will cling!), sturdy footwear, and keep a cap on or tie hair back.
  12. Tail bandage the top of the tail and plait mane over if there is a lot to keep out of the way.
  13. Applying a spray coat gloss to the body hair before clipping, makes it easier to glide through the hair.
  14.  Use chalk for lines, and a piece of string or bootlace to get the right length either side.  Very useful when doing a blanket or trace clip.
  15. Keep an even pressure when clipping to avoid patchy marks and lines.
  16. If the blades appear to be struggling through the coat, re-check tension and/or change to a new set and see if this helps.  Don’t force them through as you will end up with an upset and hard to clip horse.
  17. If the machine suddenly stops, don’t panic, check the re-set button which will flick out automatically when the motor gets very hot.  If it has come out, push back in with a matchstick or biro tip.  If it pops out again, then contact your clipper specialist for further advice.
  18. 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.
  19. If you have never clipped before, watch and get help and advice from an experienced person.
  20. In the event that the horse proves to be a liability to clip, contact your Veterinary Surgeon for further advice on sedation options.
16th August 2012

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