If you own a horse or just enjoy riding at your local stable you may start to notice that some steeds are sporting some very trendy looking horse clips. This won’t be seen on all horses in your area and it may be easier to spot on some horses than others.
Clipping for the winter is very common for horses that will be routinely hacked or that are competitive horses in training all year round. Clipping is most common with horses and ponies that have a naturally thick, dense coat. As the winter coat is often darker than the summer coat, it can create a very unique look on the horse depending on the specific type of cut.
All horses will need some turnout and exercise time over the winter, ideally on a daily basis. Having the heavier and denser winter coat is essential to provide protection for the horse and to help maintain the body core temperature in the cold winter months.
With exercise and riding, the horse naturally will heat up and begin to sweat. This is most noticeable on the abdominal area and the underside of the neck and chest. Additionally, the shoulders, chest, flanks and rump are areas where the long winter hair can trap heat and moisture.
The wet hair on the body also results in issues with slow drying in cold weather. Cutting the hair short prevents the moisture from being trapped in the coat and allows for much faster drying, helping the horse to recover from exercise more quickly and in a more effective way.
Are Horse Clips Necessary?
Clipping is not necessary for all horses and ponies. Most horses that may only be used for the occasional hack on nice days won’t need to be clipped at all. Even horses that are used on a regular basis but not exercised to the extent where they will heat up can be easily left with their natural winter coats.
It is also important to consider your individual horse or pony. If the horse is naturally prone to more pronounced and heavy sweating, a more significant clip style will be beneficial for a horse that is being trained and worked throughout the winter season. Some horses, just like some people, are naturally less prone to sweating, so these horses may not need a clip at all.
The winter coat is also a factor to consider. Most horses will begin to get their winter coat mid-September through October, so clipping should start early for those with heavy coats. Breed differences will also factor in and need to be considered carefully, remember it is not the cold weather but the shortening of the daylight hours that triggers winter coat growth in the autumn. However, as a general statement, senior horses tend to have a heavier coat than younger horses of any given breed and in all climates.
Horse Clipping Tips
If you have never clipped a horse before, consider hiring a groomer to give your horse his or her first clip. Watch, take notes and ask questions as well as do some research online to determine the best clippers, products and horse clips styles.
For casual hacking and low intensity work a trace clip is usually all that is required. This will clip the bottom of the neck from the throat through to the rump and just across the bottom of the belly and the flank in a straight line. A high trace goes a bit further up the body.
The blanket clip leaves a “blanket” from the back of the withers through to the tail as well as on the legs. The full neck, head, shoulders, chest and underside are clipped.
The hunter clip leaves just the legs and the area under the saddle in the winter coat, clipping everything else. With the hunter and the full clip, which is the entire body, the horse will need rugs for turnout as well as for stabling.
Keep in mind that not all horses are enthusiastic about clipping. Many have a real fear of the buzzing sound of the clippers, and it may take more than one person to complete the process. Also, remember that clipping the horse too significantly puts the horse at risk for chilling in the cold winter months and owners have to compensate for the hair removed with dry, warm rugs for turnout as well as when in the stable.