Use the right tool for the job (or the job gets hard)
Any job can be made easier with the right tools. With so many brands and features available, it can be challenging to select the right clippers for your horse. Do you live in a cold climate and need to body clip during the winter months? Are you going to a horse show? Do you need to treat a medical condition? Or are you clipping for personal preference?
In this article, we’ll walk through reasons to clip, types of clippers, and highlight the best tools for clipping specific parts of your horse.
Reasons to Clip a Horse
If you ride during the winter months, you may want to consider body clipping. Horses grow a heavier winter coat to keep warm in colder temperatures. This means it can take a very long time for a sweaty horse to dry during the winter months.
Body clipping removes the thick coat from key areas to help your horse cool down faster.
You’ll want heavier-duty clippers that can handle the workload—these are generally going to be more expensive.
Diseases such as Cushing’s may cause horses to keep their winter coat year-round. In this case, you may want to body clip your horse for the warmer summer months so that they maintain a comfortable body temperature.
In addition, an injury, such as a laceration, may require clipping to keep the area clean and accessible, as well as aid in treatment and healing.
Trimming for a Show
Many people will clip a horse for showing purposes. The exact areas to clip vary depending on the event and level of competition, but in general, includes:
- Face (muzzle, throat latch, long hairs around the eyes, and the ears)
- Ears (leave the hair inside alone)
- Mane (bridle path, or sometimes the entire mane for a roached look)
- Legs (generally the fetlock and down for stock-type horses; show horses with feathers are generally left untrimmed)
Some people prefer a tidy appearance and will keep areas like the muzzle or fetlocks trimmed.
If possible, it is helpful to let a horse keep their whiskers.
Also called vibrissae, these hairs are part of your horse’s sensory awareness system. The Veterinary Committee recommends sensory hairs not be trimmed or removed, and as of July 2021, the FEI has banned whisker trimming.
Types of Horse Clippers
There are three main categories of clippers:
- Touch Ups: These are great for trimming the face and ears. They may be smaller and quieter, which can be helpful when clipping a sensitive horse.
- Body Clippers: Clippers designed for clipping the entire body during the winter months. These clippers will be heavier duty, as they have a heavier workload than those designed for touch-ups.
- Multiple Purpose: These are designed to do a little of everything. They may be larger and heavier than touch-up clippers, and more affordable than body clippers.
Other clipper variations to consider include:
Cordless vs. Corded
Cordless clippers are more convenient to use as they are highly mobile and there is nothing to trip over or risk getting chewed while you are distracted.
On the downside, cordless clipper battery life may diminish over time and they may go dead at an inconvenient time.
Smaller, lighter clippers can be easier to use, especially for extended periods of time. They can also make it easier to clip areas like the ears, especially on a sensitive horse. That said, the smaller the blade the longer it will take to clip a larger area.
Clipper blades come in different sizes. Here is a chart to help you decide which blade(s) you may need for your horse! Remember blades do need to be replaced as they will wear out over time.
Clipper Blade Reference Chart
Wondering which blades to use where? Here’s a quick rundown:
- #10 Legs
- #15 Bridle Path
- #30 Ears & Face
- T-84 Body
Best horse clippers for the body
Andis AGC Super 2 Speed
These corded clippers are heavier duty, perfect for big jobs like body clipping. I’ve had mine for 6 years and they are still in excellent working condition.
No matter the brand, be sure to take breaks to clean out excess hair, oil the blades, and use cooling spray.
- Blades are easy to change and clean
- Durable; great for big jobs (like multiple horses)
- Comes with hard sided carrying case and T-84 blade for body clipping
Pro Clip Tip: Body clipping is a bigger job than a quick trim. Blades can get hot—monitor them and use a cooling spray if needed.
Best horse clippers for legs
Wahl Professional Bravura Corded/Cordless Clipper
The Wahl Bravura is versatile, lightweight, and cordless. It has a 5-in-1 adjustable blade so you can quickly switch settings depending on the area that you are trimming.
- Rechargeable, lithium-ion battery has a 90-minute cordless run time. Plug in the cord to keep going!
- Many reviewers commented on how quiet these clippers are—perfect for desensitizing a horse new to clipping.
- Quickly switch between hair lengths depending on where you are clipping.
Pro Clip Tip: We love how easy it is to change settings. When clipping legs, we suggest starting with a #10 blade, but will sometimes go down to a #30 for very precise trimming around the top of the hoof, especially if we will be using hoof black at a show.
Best horse clippers for thick coats
Oster Clipmaster Variable Speed Clipping Machine
These heavy-duty clippers are great for big jobs and thick coats. They have multiple speed settings and are known for their durability.
- These clippers handle large or back-to-back jobs well because of their size—they have the power to get it done, fast!
- That said, these clippers are large and heavy. You may want a second, smaller pair of clippers for trimming the legs, face, and ears.
- Several reviewers noted that these clippers can be loud.
Pro Clip Tip: Since these clippers can be noisy, we don’t recommend them for desensitizing a horse new to clipping. Start on a lower setting and gradually work the speed up as your horse adjusts to the noise.
Best horse clippers for face
Wahl Mini Arco Clipper
These cordless clippers are small and lightweight—perfect for navigating tricky, small areas like trimming ears. With a 45-minute battery life, you should have plenty of charge to complete tasks such as clipping ears with time to spare for face and leg touch-ups.
- These lightweight clippers weigh only 4 oz!
- Cordless, but comes with corded option as well to extend clipping time window
- Includes a one-year warranty
Pro Clip Tip: To avoid clipping too close, clip with the direction of the hair along the throatlatch and underside of the horse’s jaw. I start with a #10 blade for this area and may go down to a closer trim as needed.
Best horse clippers for ears
Wahl Pocket Pro Clipper
If you’re into detail, and frequent touch ups of sensitive areas, these little cordless trimmers are a solid choice. They’re especially suited to clipping ears, as the device fits in the palm of your hand and is very quiet.
- Weight: these lightweight clippers weigh only 2.5 oz.
- Cordless and uses 1 AA battery.
- You can’t beat the price point on these clippers.
Pro Clip Tip: When clipping ears, start at the outside and work your way in. Leave the hair on the inside when possible, as it helps protect your horse from insects.
Best horse clippers for manes
Wahl Professional Bravura Corded/Cordless Clipper
While some clippers work better for specific areas or tasks, it’s not necessary to buy a new pair of clippers for each body part. For this reason, we’re recycling an option listed above for manes. The Wahl Bravura has a 5-in-1 blade which makes it perfect for manes.
I typically only buy a #10 blade for legs and a #30 blade for the face, which leaves me in an awkward spot for clipping the bridle path. With these clippers, you have every setting you could possibly want in one.
- Cordless and corded options; battery recharges fast
- 5-in-1 blade is convenient for both clipping and inventorying “backup” blades
- Versatile for multiple body parts (but not recommended for full-body clips)
Pro Clip Tip: A #15 blade is great for the bridlepath (or if you want to roach the entire mane). The #10 leaves a little too much hair, so if you are trying to clip a few days before a multi-day horse show, you may need to touch it up before the end. The #30 gets a little too close for this area.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How late can you clip a horse?
You can clip a horse any time of year. That said, if you are body clipping a horse during the winter months, it is certainly easier to start early. If you wait until mid-winter with full winter-fuzzies, it’s going to be a big, time-consuming job. It is also easier to start early when it is still warm enough for a pre-clipping bath.
Remember, it is easier to clip clean hair.
Your clipper blades will wear out faster if they have to cut through hair and dirt.
Q: How do you desensitize a horse to clippers?
Time, and patience! Start slow, reward baby steps, and don’t expect a completely cooperative equine on the first day. Let your horse see and sniff the clippers (while off!). Turn them on from a distance, but where they can be seen, and gradually work your way closer and closer.
Give your horse time to adjust to the sound and vibration sensation. Keep sessions short and positive!
Some horses may need some additional help—Dormosedan gel is a mild sedative that can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help in certain, extra-difficult circumstances.
Q: How do you prevent lines when clipping a horse?
To prevent lines when clipping, make sure you:
- Are using sharp clipper blades
- Are starting with a clean canvas—a clean coat is much easier to clip!
- Are using oil and cooling spray throughout the clipping process
You may need to go over a spot a few times to even it out.
Q: How do you clip horse feathers?
First, it can be helpful to leave feathers during the winter—these longer hairs can help keep your horse warm and insulated from cold, wet weather. In warmer months, feathers can make it more difficult to keep your horse clean and can even increase the chance of developing scratches in wet weather.
If you want to clip (shave) the entire lower leg, go against the direction of the hair growth with a #10 blade.
To keep more of a natural look, clip with the direction of the hair, just removing the “shaggy bits.” If you have a very patient, calm horse, you could start with scissors to remove the really long hair and then use clippers to clean up the excess hair closer to the skin. Clippers are always a safer option than scissors!
There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting clippers—these are a few options that have been tested and approved by the equine community. Don’t forget to consider accessories such as clipper oil and cooling spray to keep your clippers working well for years to come.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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