What You Need To Know About Body Clipping Your Horse.

by Michelle Drum October 17, 2019 4 min read

body clipping a horse


It’s that time of year again, fall has finally arrived and brought damp chilly weather with it. If you’ve ever ridden through the winter, you know what a challenge it can be to cool down and dry off your horse when he is in full winter coat mode. 

Body clipping can help keep your horse from catching a chill on cold days after a hard workout, it also makes them easier to cool down and keeps them from getting damp. No matter what your discipline or your winter riding habits, there’s a body clip style out there that will suit your needs. Unless your horse is actively competing in the hunters at higher levels, a full body clip is likely unnecessary. 

When preparing to body clip your horse either yourself, or if paying a professional the absolute first step is to bathe your horse. Using quality shampoo and a curry comb your horse needs a good scrub before hand. Bathing makes the job easier & quicker for all involved. By bathing your horse before hand, the clipper blades will hit less resistance which in turn means your blades will not dull as quickly or become hot making your horse uncomfortable and less likely to stand still for the job. Once your horse is completely dry you can start clipping. 

Appropriate clippers are essential for the job, Invest in a good pair of body clippers, with care they will pay for themselves & last a lifetime. Classic whisker trimmers are not built for a heavy duty body clip and the motor will easily burn out. They can be used for light detail work in hard to reach areas. In order for the cut to ‘match’ the body clip you will need a T-84 wide blade, or an 8.5 traditional set of blades. The higher the number on the blades the closer the cut, with #40 blades being the ones your vet will use because they are ‘surgical’ close. #10 or #15 typically come with whisker / bridle path clippers, which is just close enough not to match the body clipping blades. 

how to keep hair off you while clipping horses

Before I start clipping my number 1 can’t live without to clip would be a cheap painters suit from your local hardware store. Size up for full range of motion & keep that hair where it belongs, on the floor & not all over you & your clothes! - If you follow us on social, you’ve probably seen me in my ‘clipping suit’. Trust me, you will not regret this purchase!

I prefer to set up what I will likely need at hand and up off the floor so I’m not having to stop and hunt around for things. I keep the following items nearby, preferably up off the floor & out of the way of your horses feet. 

Clean oiled clippers
Extension Cord
Grooming Chalk ( I use a dry erase marker on white horses)
Blade Oil
Blade / Cool Lube
Blade Wash ( with a small amount already poured into a shallow tray)
Spare set of new or freshly sharpened blades
2 Towels - one for your clippers & one for you. 
Blade cleaning brush / stiff brush to 
Braiding bands to get the mane out of the way
A twitch, just in case.

Now Choose your clip style:

horse with full body clip

Full Clip- full body clip commonly leaving a small fur saddle pad & 2 small ‘spur’ squares
Popular with horses who compete actively year round. Image Courtesy of Metze Equine, LLC

horse with hunter clip

Hunt Clip leaves the legs & a fur saddle pad
Common with fox hunters & those who keep their horses show fit in winter months.
Image Courtesy of the author. 

horse with trace clip

Trace Clip - wide strip on either side of horse
Stems from where carriage ‘traces’ ( long branches of carriage that attach to horse)
showns is a 'high' trace clip Image Courtesy of Metze Equine, LLC.

horse with irish clip


Irish Clip- starts behind the ears angles mid belly clipping everything in front of the swail.
Popular with eventers, keeps horses cool while maintaining high levels of fitness. 
Image Courtesy of Metze Equine, LLC.

horse with strip clip

Strip Clip - clips a wide strip under the belly up the chest, neck and chin. Common on horses who live out but are also in moderate to heavy work - lesson horses.

horse with blanket clip

Blanket Clip - leaves the legs and a large ‘blanket’ of fur across the horses back. Somewhat of a modified hunt clip, but offers more protection from the elements for horses who enjoy more time outdoors in the elements.

Once you’ve chosen your clip style, chalk or mark your lines on the horses fur & your all set! Plan on spending at least 45 minutes to an hour or more depending on clip for this project. I like to clip mine a day or 2 before the first cold snap, I’ve found that they are more apt to stand still & appreciate the hair coming off while it’s still warm outside. 

Don’t forget to have your horses blankets clean and ready for use. Each horse is different and like people can experience getting cold differently. As a rule of thumb if their ears and muzzle are cold, they might need a layer of warmth. 
Not sure what your horses blanketing needs might be after clipping? Here is a general guideline for horses with a full or hunt clip, the less hair you clip, the fewer blankets you will need. 

60's and damp / wet - rain/turnout sheet

50's Heavy sheet or light weight blanket
40's mid weight blanket
30s heavy weight blanket adding layers as it gets colder or to your horses preference. 

Happy Body Clipping! 

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