FAQ Horse Care

Wild & Hair Free: What is Horse Clipping?

shaggy shetland ponies
Written by Horse Rookie

To Clip Or Not to Clip

You’ve probably seen some horses that look like shaggy hair monsters in the wintertime. Others, though, still look slick and shiny. The reason? There’s probably someone at your barn with a heavy-duty pair of clippers in hand, engulfed by a cloud of horse hair!

Horse body clipping involves shaving a horse’s thick winter coat off in strategic areas where sweat typically gathers. Clipping is an especially popular choice for riders who continue training in colder temperatures and need their horses to dry quicker post-exercise.

Should You Clip Or Not?

Body clipping is always optional, and most riders don’t bother. Sometimes horses are given several months off over the winter season, so there’s no point. Other times, horses are ridden more lightly, so they don’t wind up sweating that much either.

So how do you know whether clipping is something you should consider? Lets’s go over some of the pros and cons. 

Pros of Body Clipping

  • Your horse can dry more quickly after exercise.
  • You spend less time grooming and dealing with shedding hair.
  • It gives your horse a sleeker appearance.
  • It helps prevent chills or other health issues that can stem from a wet, sweaty coat.
  • Studies show that the clipped horse loses heat more efficiently, reducing the strain on the thermoregulatory system.

Cons of Body Clipping

  • You have to keep your horse blanketed carefully, which means more time and effort on your part.
  • Horse blankets can be costly and require ongoing maintenance (e.g. rip repair, waterproofing).
  • If you can’t borrow from a friend, you’ll need to purchase and maintain horse clippers — or pay someone else to clip your horse for you.
clipped horse in blanket

If you clip, you need to blanket. (Source: Pixabay)

Additional Considerations

The Spook Factor

If you have a more spooky horse, the sound of electric clippers, alone, maybe a no-go. If you can’t get within ten feet of your horse with the clippers turn on, trying to proceed likely isn’t worth the trouble. 

Instead, spend this winter slowly desensitizing your horse to clippers. Next winter, you can try again!

Horses need desensitizing to clippers

Source: Canva


If you ride much less during the winter (e.g. once a week for an hour), you don’t need to body clip. Let your horse grow its natural winter coat, and leave it be.

On the other hand, if you continue training consistently year-round, clipping may save you a ton of time.


If your horse lives in a stall with minimal turnout, he needs less hair because he doesn’t have to brave the elements outdoors.

That said, if your horse lives outside 24/7, you need to be much more careful about temperature, hair coverage, and blanketing.

Sweat Spots

Every person sweats differently, and the same is true with our horses.

Some horses become drenched with sweat within five minutes of riding. Others walk out of a hard workout with only a glisten. Body clipping is designed for “heavy sweaters.”

Blanketing Plan

If you decide to body clip your horse, you need to have a blanketing plan. Clipped horses require intentional blanketing during cool/cold weather to offset their decreased ability to keep themselves warm with a full winter coat.

Not sure how to blanket a clipped horse? Chat with your trainer or barn manager.

Cooler Weather

Whether you clip your horse or not, it’s worth getting a nice cooler or dry sheet. Coolers are designed to help wick away moisture and decrease drying time post-exercise.

Watch this video to see body clipping in action:


Ready to Try Horse Clipping?

The next step is to buy some quality clippers. Here are the horse body clippers we recommend:

Brand/Model Rookie Rating Ideal Usage Cord Speeds Where to Buy
Andis AGC2 Super 2-Speed Clipper Best Overall Horse Clippers
  • Full-body clipping
  • Precision trims
  • All coat types
16 ft Two See at Amazon
Oster Variable Speed Clipmasters Best Horse Clippers for Thick Hair
  • Full-body clipping
  • Precision trims
  • Especially good for dense coats
15 ft Variable See at Amazon
Wahl Professional Animal Arco Equine 5-in-1 Cordless Horse Clipper Best Cordless Horse Clippers
  • Full-body clipping
  • Precision trims
N/A Single See at Amazon
Double K Industries Groomer’s Edge Power Clipper 401 Best Heavy-Duty Horse Clippers
  • Full-body clipping
  • Especially good for dense coats
5-7 ft Variable See at Amazon
Wahl Show Pro Plus Best Budget Horse Clippers
  • Face & Muzzle
  • Ears & Whiskers
  • Fetlocks & Legs
  • Bridle Path
  • Finish Work
  • Touch Ups
8 ft Single See at Amazon
Bay horse sporting a blanket clip

Source: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to not cut a horse with clippers?

It’s pretty hard to cut a horse with clippers (provided you’re using clippers designed for a horse). The biggest issue with clipping comes from heat and pressing clippers that are too hot against your horse’s coat or skin.

Maintain steady, even pressure, and pull the horse’s skin flat with your hand where needed. Give the clippers a break every five minutes using a coolant or spray. Every thirty minutes or so, give your horse a break by walking him around. Don’t forget to reward him with treats, as clipping is a long process for him too.

Q: How do I stop my horse from getting clipper lines?

You’ll need well-lubricated and sharp blades, coolant, and a brush. Each stroke of the clippers should go against the grain of your horse’s coat. Make the strokes as long as possible to help reduce track lines.

You can also overlap each stroke a bit to catch any hair you may have missed. After each cutting stroke, use the brush on your clippers (lightly) and on your horse’s coat to remove any stray pieces of hair.

Give your clippers plenty of breaks (every five minutes is good. Use this time to turn them off and apply coolant). As clippers overheat, they become less efficient, and you’re more likely to leave behind lines.

Q: How often does a horse need clipping?

In the fall, a horse will need clipping more regularly than in winter because they are still growing their winter coat. Many horse owners find that they need to clip every 3 to 4 weeks up until Christmas, but only two or three times during the rest of the winter.

Q: What are the disadvantages of clipping a horse?

A clipped horse will need blanketing to keep it warm and may need its blankets changed several times a day, depending on the temperature.

Rugs can be costly and also require maintenance, so between that and changing your horse’s rug every few hours, clipping can become a time-consuming endeavor.

There’s also evidence to suggest that clipping and blanketing horses may interfere with their “natural thermoregulation mechanisms.” 

Q: How long does it take for a horse’s coat to grow back after clipping?

After clipping, a horse needs between 10 days and three weeks to look “show-ready.” This gives enough time for the hair to regrow and settle. If you want your horse to grow a normal summer coat, you should stop clipping no later than February to provide adequate growing time. 

Parting Thoughts

The nice thing about body clipping is that there’s no right or wrong answer.

Your horse can stay healthy and happy whether you decide to clip or not, as long as you adjust the rest of their shelter and/or blanketing accordingly.

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:


The Effect of Coat Clipping on Thermoregulation

Caring for the horse in a cold climate

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!