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. If you’ve ever noticed someone at the barn with a heavy-duty pair of clippers in-hand, engulfed by a cloud of horse hair, there’s your answer.

Horse body clipping involves shaving a horse’s thick winter coat off in strategic areas where sweat typically gathers most. Clipping is 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.
  • Your horse is less likely to get rain rot or other skin conditions.

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 sensitive horse, the sound of electric clippers, alone, may be a no-go. If you can’t get within ten feet of your horse once it hears 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!

Workload

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.

Stabling

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.

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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. 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

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 to accommodate.

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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!