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Can I clip a dirty horse?

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

If you plan to clip your horse, always prep a week ahead before you attempt it. Leaving it to the last minute will cause all sort of problems, including blunt blades and a miserable finish.

Clipping a dirty horse
Clipping a dirty coat

The coat of a horse is classed as temporary hair, which means it goes through coat change twice per year. The temporary hair helps to insulate the horse in the winter, as well as cooler in the summer. However, due to the work commitments of the horse we clip off the temporary hair to make our lives easier, when the horse sweats, making it longer for the horse to dry off.

Having a heavy winter coat makes it difficult to groom, as the average body brush does not penetrate thick winter hair well, and the dandy brush only brings more scurf and dandruff to the surface. For best appearance it is best to wait until the horse's winter coat is well established and the summer coat is shed.

How do I prepare my horse's coat for clipping?

If you're planning to clip your horse's coat, it is best to check the weather forecast and give your horse a bath the day before you plan to clip. Use a good shampoo to remove the grease, and make sure you concentrate on areas that holds the grease, like over the rump. Make sure you give your horse a full blown bath and when he is dry do not let him roll or turn-out.

The rump area hold's a double coat, and if not thoroughly cleaned, it will put your clippers to the test. Double coats are common in pony breeds, and can be noticeable with a thick undercoat with guard hairs over the top.

So what happens if you don't bath your horse before clipping?

If you fail to clean your horse thoroughly prior to clipping your horse, clipping a dirty coat not only is it uncomfortable for the horse, but it's also bad news for your clipper blades. Dirt blunts clipper blades fast, with only a small particle of grit to take off the sharp edge. Dirt will also make your clippers heat up quickly, as they struggle through the coat, and ultimately put excess wear and tear on them.

However we do offer a few suggestions:

  • Use a pair of grooming gloves to release the dead hair and enable the grease to come to the surface of the coat. Groom in a circular motion to lift the grease.

  • Hot towel the coat and remove the grease with a stable rubber, prior to clipping. But ensure it dries thoroughly before clipping.

  • Use a clipping oil and spray the coat 5 minutes prior to clipping. This will help the clipper blades to run through the coat smoothly and prevent lines.

Helpful Tips to Clipping a Dirty Coat

  • If blades are dirty and dull, it will result in the hair being tugged and not clipped. The final finish will result in lines and can lead to nicks.

  • Dirty blades will cost you more money to maintain them.

  • Dirty coats will heat up the clipper quickly, and hot clippers mean they are working too hard.

  • Spray the clipper blade every 5 minutes with clipper oil. This way it will help keep the clipper blade stay cool.

How do you know if you have the right tensioning for your clippers?

1. The best place to start is with the manufacturers instruction manual. Turn your clippers on and listen to the sound they are making. Adjust the tension as above.

2. Try your clippers on the horse and see if they are cutting smoothly.

3. If you are finding the blades are heating up quickly, then you have the tension too tight. Release the tension by a half a turn. Remember less tension is better than too much ! For more information, read this great article.


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