Tips to get the perfect clipped finish

Tips to get the perfect clipped finish

Clipping is one of those jobs that takes a lot of practice and patience to achieve a sharp, smart finish that will turn heads.

To transform a hairy mud monster into something that will give you the admiring glances that you are looking for may be easier than you think if you follow a few basic guidelines.

Firstly, decide on the type of clip that your horse will need.  Be realistic on the workload and expectations that you have for the winter months and consider your needs before you clip everything off.

To ensure clipper blades run through the coat smoothly and efficiently, make sure the horse is spotlessly clean and dry, whether this is by thorough grooming, or bathing the day before if the weather allows.

Depending on the thickness of the coat, decide what grade of blade to use.  If, for instance, you are clipping a soft, fine coated animal, then a fine grade will give you a good close finish.  If the coat is coarser or has been left to grow longer, then it will be easier to use a medium blade for a first clip on a thicker coat.

If the coat is too greasy you may find you can see clipper teeth marks left behind on the skin, this is due to the blades not being able to get in and do their job as efficiently as they could.  The clipper then works harder, pushing the blades through the grease.  This not only gives a rough finish but puts strain on the clipper too.

Choose with care the correct grade of blade when you are clipping a light coloured or white animal, and particularly if they are pink skinned.  You will find choosing a medium grade of blade will give you a finish that is more natural rather than looking like you have “skinned” the horse.  Greys are probably the most difficult to achieve a perfect finish, as many people make this mistake and every line will show for the first week or so!

Before you start clipping, check your machine and make sure the blades have recently been sharpened, and you are using the correct tensioning method for your clipper.  Every manufacturer has a different way of tensioning, so don’t assume it’s the same for all machines.  Too much tension will give you very hot blades quickly and cause stress to the motor, too loose and the blades will “chew” the coat giving a very “moth eaten” look.

Oil across the blades before using, and again every 5 to 10 minutes.  This will ensure the blades perform correctly and without too much heat and will help to give you a smooth finish as well as keep an edge on the blades for longer.

Give the horse a final brush over before starting, to ensure the coat feels clean and smooth and apply a coat sheen spray, buffing in with a soft mitt. If you do this prior to clipping, this will help the blades to glide through effortlessly. 

Choose a larger area to start with and go with confidence clipping against the lie of the hair.  Use the clipper in the hand nearest the horse and use the other hand on the horse to the side of where you are clipping.  The other hand can act to give tension on the skin, by moving the skin away from the clipper ensuring the skin is always flat.  It also acts as a reassurance feel for the horse.  Clip with long even sweeps keep the head of the clipper parallel to the skin and on the horse in a consistently firm pressure.  Overlap each line by about a quarter of a width of the blade, this will keep tramlines at bay.  Keeping an even pressure will take a bit of practice, but once you get the feel and know the right pressure to use you will be on your way to a perfect finish.

If you apply too much pressure of uneven pressure you may see tram lines appearing.  These can be carefully clipped out by altering the direction of the clip and clipping slightly upwards along the lines to disguise.

To get straight lines and curves takes practice.  Decide what type of clip you are going to do and use chalk to draw in your clip.  It is much easier to follow once you have a pattern as a guide.  Use the horses’ natural body lines where possible to get a good line – for example the leg muscles on the hind leg that come down diagonally from the stifle to the hock area and the muscle area behind the elbows.

It is often easier to clip the head and other sensitive areas at the beginning before the horse gets fidgety, so factor this in as well as choosing a quiet time on the yard to start.  Turnout and feed times are not the best time to be clipping, unless your horse is very chilled!

Keep a rug handy, to ensure there is a light rug over the parts of the body that are not being clipped.  Not only to keep the horse warm and less fidgety but also because the natural body heat generated under a light run will make clipping easier too.  Warm skin is easier to work with than cold.

Blending in is also a skill that can transform the look of a partially clipped horse or for tidying up clipped legs or for taking off slightly longer hair without clipping down to the skin.  It can be done in a variety of ways.  Either by keeping the clipping blade slightly off the coat and gently skimming over the hair or by turning the blade over and then using it by applying to the hair as if brushing it in a downwards direction.

It may also be more appropriate to keep a set of trimmers handy, these are generally the re-chargeable battery type, and are a lot smaller and lighter than full size body clippers.  They make tidying awkward places so much easier and are much appreciated when used around the ears and eyes and areas where larger clippers can be just be too cumbersome.

Trimmers also take different grades of blades or have a built-in blade adjustment, these should be used with consideration.  They can trim very close to the skin, and show up every mark if used without care.  Medium grade blades on a full-size clipper, usually give a 2mm finish.  Most trimmers will need to be set on the longer setting to allow blending in to give a similar finish to the body clip.

A little practice and eye for detail will soon ensure a perfect finish and a job to be proud of.

16th August 2019

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