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How to clip your horse like a professional

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

If the mere thought of clipping sends you into a panicked frenzy, fear not. We are here to solve 14 common issues to help you achieve the perfect clip every time.


Issue: How do I get the right tension on the clippers?

Solution: The most common problem that people have with clipping is getting the right tension on their clippers. Incorrectly tensioned clippers leave lines in the coat and will cause the blades to overheat and become blunt much sooner. Different clipper brands will vary slightly, so it's important to check the manufacturer's instructions and tension accordingly.

With most clippers, you tighten the screw all the way until it won't tighten any more, and then loosen by one or two turns depending on the brand. I would start clipping, but if it sounds tight and squeaky, you need to loosen them. The rule of thumb is that less tension is better than too much.

Which clip? Issue: How do you decide how much hair to remove? Solution: Ask yourself what your horse is doing workwise and whether he is living in or out. I always follow the rule that you should only take off what you need off. Only horses in full work need to have a full clip. The welfare of your horse should come first.

What to wear?

Issue: What should I wear when clipping?

Solution: The norm over the years has been to wear a boiler suit or painting overalls which make you very hot and sweaty. You want a set of overalls that are lightweight, breathable, protect you from head to toe and repel the hair. We would only recommend the Clipit Suit.

Oiling Blades

Issue: How often should I oil my clipper blades?

Solution: Use Clipit Easi-Oil to oil your blades. WD40 is a big no-no because it dries the blade out. You want the oil to stay on the blades to keep them lubricated. You cannot over-oil your blades so every five to eight minutes you should give them a quick brush and then spray the oil on them.

Manes and Tails Issue: What should you do with manes and tails while clipping?

Solution: The best thing to do with a tail is to bandage it. With manes, you can loosely plait them over one side of the neck or brush the mane over using a damp sponge.

Preparing the Coat

Issue: How do I prepare my horse for clipping?

Solution: It's essential that your horse is clean. We would advise bathing him the day before and keeping him in overnight with a rug on so that he's clean and dry. The clippers will glide through a clean coat much easier than a greasy coat and will leave a nicer finish. If you can't bath your horse, a good brush to remove any loose mud and dirt is essential as grit can blunt blades. Ensure your horse is thoroughly dry too as the blades won't run through a damp coat.

Tip: Take off his rug and let him stand for an hour before you clip-this makes the hair stand a bit prouder so the blades run through it more easily.

Straight Lines Nailed

Issue: How do I get straight, even lines on both sides?

Solution: Long, sweeping strokes helps to create straight, even lines. Use white dressmakers chalk and draw the lines before clipping. Keep sizing it up and checking they are even. If you are leaving a saddle pad in always chalk in the design, otherwise if you clip around the pad itself, you risk the pad or the horse shifting as you try to clip, and before you know it, you have no saddle pad left!

Blocked Blades

Issue: How do I stop my clippers getting blocked with hair? Solution: This comes down to the tension and your horse having a dirty coat. If there is too much tension in the blades and you are clipping a dirty, greasy coat, this is a recipe for hair getting stuck in the clippers. Ensure the coat is clean beforehand and get the tensioning right on your clippers. Maintaining your clippers is really important too, brush the hair off and oil frequently during clipping, every five to eight minutes. We would recommend Clipit Ice Care, which is a cooling spray that cools the blades down rapidly but also disinfects them. At the end of your session, takes the blades apart, brush the hair out and spray them with a disinfectant.

Sharpening Clipper Blades Issue: How do you know when your blades need sharpening? Solution: If you have tensioned them correctly but they are not driving forwards and snag the coat, that's when you know your blades are blunt. You should be able to get three to four full clips on a fresh set of blades, but it all comes down to correct oiling and maintenance.

Keeping a Bored Horse Interested Issue: How do you stop a horse getting bored while being clipped?

Solution: Give your horse a hay net to stand and munch while you clip him or have someone stand by his head and offer him treats or a bucket of feed to eat. You could also have a short break to allow your clippers to cool down and while they do, take your horse for a quick walk to stretch his legs. Sometimes horses can get fidgety if they are chilly, so make sure you keep a rug in the areas you aren't clipping to prevent your horse from getting cold.

Clipping Heads Issue: How should I Clip my Horse's Head to Prevent Taking Chunks Out?

Solution: Dog clippers are great for heads because they are much quieter, meaning horses are more likely to accept them. They are also smaller, so they get around the eye sockets and ears easier.

Managing a Nervous Horse

Issue: How do I Deal with a Horse who is Ticklish or Nervous?

Solution: With a ticklish horse, make sure the clippers are lying flat against his skin because if you go in at an angle, the teeth are coming into contact with the horse which can irritate him. Use long strokes, too. With a nervous horse, use a quiet set of clippers and start with a small clip. A nervous horse is likely to react to someone who is nervous around him, so ask someone confident and quiet to clip your horse for you. Always introduce yourself to the horse and let him sniff you and the clippers quietly, and stay calm but positive.

Clipper Care

Issue: What's the Best Way to Look After Your Clippers?

Solution: At the end of clipping, take the clipper blades apart and clean, disinfect and oil them before putting them away. It's important to get your clippers serviced every year. Don't leave them in a damp tack room because any hair stuck in the machine will absorb dampness and cause rust. Most clippers come with a filter which should be kept clean and clear. After three or four years, it's worth replacing the tensioning set on your clippers as well as the blades.

Perfect Finish Issue: What Aftercare Should I Give my Horse once I've Finished Clipping Him?

Solution: Go over your horse with a hot cloth that has a tiny bit of shampoo, baby oil or apple cider vinegar added - this will help to loosen any final hair and grease. It is important to make sure that clipped areas of the body aren't rubbed too much. When you have a horse with the beginnings of a blanket rub, it is important to treat it immediately before it gets out of hand.

Some people leave patches of hair to prevent rubbing, such as where the spurs go on their horse's sides or the saddle pad.

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