Maintenance Clipping for Your Horse

Clippers for maintenance grooming of your horse
Clippers for maintenance grooming of your horse Flickr - Nicki Mannix

Why clip?

Clipping is an easy, simple way to make a horse look good. Maintenance clipping is the practice of evenly trimming or clipping off the hair or sections of the hair close to the horse's skin. This not only keeps your horse looking well-groomed, it will also increase its comfort level, especially in warm weather.

The clippers

The kind of clippers you use depends on the horse's coat and what you plan to clip. Maintenance clips usually require simply a good pair of small horse clippers.

These clipper look very much like the clippers a barber uses, but they are made for clipping horses and are usually quieter and smaller so as not to frighten or spook the horse.

After purchasing your clippers take care of them and use them carefully.

  1. Always keep the clippers lubricated or oiled as instructed and replace the blades or have them sharpened as soon as they begin to become dull.  Dull blades will pull at the horse's coat possibly causing it to move suddenly, won't clip evenly and will make the clipping time longer. 
  2. Make sure that your clippers don't overheat while doing the clipping.  If they get hot, stop and wait for them to cool down so you won't burn your horse's skin.
  3. Check the plug and cord regularly, and make sure your horse doesn't step or walk on the cord which might cause it to break down and result in the horse being shocked or electrocuted.
  4. Clean your clippers after each use and periodically take them apart for a thorough cleaning. Always store the clippers in a dry place.

Doing the maintenance clipping

When clipping your horse, move the clippers along the hair in the direction opposite the way it grows. Follow these steps:

  1. Secure your horse safely at a hitching post or using cross ties.  If you have never clipped your horse before and don't know how it will react to being clipped, ask someone to hold the lead roper while you do the clipping. 
  2. Stand to one side and begin clipping your horse's head at the jaw line, lightly trimming the hair that extends beyond the jawline.  Clip to the level of the jaw to remove any shaggy look.  If you have a horse that reacts strongly to having its head clipped, try trimming its fetlocks, bridle path and whiskers with scissors.
  3. Trim the whiskers from the horse's muzzle gently, one whisker at a time.  If you prefer that your horse keep its whiskers, skip this part of the process.  Always leave the long whisker-type hairs around the horse's eyes intact.  They act as 'feelers' in the dark and help prevent the horse from injuring its eyes.
  4. Next trim the hair protruding from the edges of the horse's ears.  Never trim the insides of the ears because the interior hair protects the inner ear from dirt, dust, debris, and insects.
  5. The way the bridle path is clipped depends on the discipline in which you ride your horse and on the horse's breed.  It you plan to show your horse, research this detail or ask other equestrians who ride in your discipline what the proper length of the bridle path is for your horse.  If you aren't showing, you want to create a comfortable landing strip for the top of your horse's headstall so his mane doesn't get tangled in the bridle.  Generally, clipping back about three inches of mane will do the trick.
  6. Check the back of your horse's fetlocks to see if the horse has soft, horny growths known as ergots at the point of the fetlock joints.  If it does, take scissors and cut the ergots so they are only about one-half inch long.
  7. Trim your horse's fetlocks, using your hand to feel the shape of the bone at the horse's ankle.  Trim the hair short around the anklebone.
  8. Trim any long hair that hands over the coronet.  Slip the hair gently until the line between the top of the hoof and coronet is straight and without any shaggy hairs.

A word of caution

Always be cautious when clipping your horse. Never put your head in front of or behind your horse's legs or under its belly. To do so is to invite a kick to the head.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.