We recently had the opportunity to get a lesson on body clipping from local professional groom, Jeana Metz. Jenna is the owner of Metz Equine Grooming Services, located here in South Carolina, and she specializes in body clipping.
Jenna's going to walk us through the tricks of the trade for a perfectly body clipped horse. We're going to let Jenna take it away from here.
Jenna starts by telling us "You want to start with a clean horse. It is extremely important to have a clean horse and not just a bath, or a quick hosing off but a good scrub. I recommend my clients use a skin friendly soap like Corona shampoo along with a grooming mitt, sponge and curry comb. Really give your horse a good soapy massage with that curry comb and bring all the dirt to the surface. As owners of grey horses will tell you, the white ones don't lie about how clean they are!"
Once your horse is clean, they need to be dry, - really dry for the best results. Don't cheat and try to clip while they are damp, it just makes the clippers work harder. The harder the clippers have to work, the quicker the blades and motor can heat up making your horse uncomfortable. Additionally, damp clipping will dull the clipper blades faster.
Once your horse is dry and clean, the next step is knowing if your horse will need to be sedated to be clipped. Most horses once they understand the process acclimate to the noise and vibration. Some horses are just happier with a little sedative while you work. It's always best to make sure your horse is as comfortable as possible for this process.
If you know your horse will need sedation, be sure to have it on board before you begin, or if using a professional, when they arrive.
For clippers, Jenna prefers to use the Wahl KM10. They are small but powerful and built for rigorous jobs like these. There are multiple blade options you can use with this style, but Jenna uses the T84 blades. These blades offer a wider cut, and although they leave the hair a bit longer than the T10 length blade, it offers a better cut, especially on grey horses.
Jenna also recommends keeping Cooling Spray, clipper oil and blade lube handy along with extra clipper blades and if feasible a second pair of clippers.
I use the cool spray very frequently in the summer. But I don't need it as much in the winter months when it's cooler outside. So I use that maybe 2-3 times a clip and then oil. Be sure to oil your blades every 10-15 minutes to keep dirt and dandruff from building up on the blades.
The T84 blades are good for most hair types, but I also have heavy duty clippers in my kit, Lister Legends. These are great for horses with Cushing's disease or very thick coated horses. These clippers are the big muscle for those horses that grow a serious Yak like winter coat.
I also keep size 40 blades in my kit. These are also known as Surgical blades because they are the closest cut you can get to the skin. Veterinarians use this blade to clip hair around wounds before cleaning and suturing. The 40 blades are strictly used for the inside of their ears and their muzzle for touchups.
40 blades are not for body clipping, you can do serious damage if you body clip with these as your horse will be nearly bald. This can cause sunburn and possibly scaring where the coat may not grow back. These blades are strictly for the muzzle hair and the inside of the ears.
Depending on the horse, discipline and breed, some people opt to not do the inside of the ears. Horses that don't have their inner ears done, get a clean shave around the outside with the inner ear left untouched.
I always carry main pulling comes with me, do lots of main pulling and, lots of extra equipment. It's extremely important that you have the right equipment to do the job. If you don't have the right equipment, you will end up calling me to help you.
Common Clip Styles
The most popular clip that I do is the full body clip, which means everything off head to toe. Occasionally a trainer or owner will ask for spur patches or a small half pad.
The second most popular clip that I do is the hunt clip. The hunt clip leaves the hair on the legs long and also leaves small 'half pad' of hair where the saddle goes, with spur patches on request.
For the legs of a hunt clip, on the hind legs, you will leave the hair from the stifle down, and on the front legs from the shoulder down. You want to create matching angles on left and right side on the front and rear legs. The matching angle on both legs creates a tidy finished look.
For spur patches you determine where the leg will fall with the spur and block out square patch, I leave it huge to start and then modify it down from there.
For the half pad patch, you can draw it out by hand going against the grain of the hair, if it's too difficult to see your lines, you can also use grooming chalk.
What are some of the worst things that you've had to be called to fix?
Clippers dying or people clipping way too close using cheap clippers that are not designed for horses.
The cheap clippers don't have the motor to withstand going a full body, it will burn out. It will get the blades hot and horses get very irritated very quickly with that.
Outside of that, most people do try to do it themself one or two times, and then they realize it's much harder than they bargain for. It looks very easy to do, but it is time consuming and it takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience.
For more tips and guidance on body clipping check out our body clipping 101 blog post HERE.