Pre Clip Preparation
We all know that preparation is often the key to success and this is true of clipping too. Preparation is key to getting a great finish when clipping your horse, whether you’re doing it yourself or someone else is doing it for you. If you expect to be able to bring in a dirty, and possibly wet, horse from its muddy field and give it the most perfect clip, think again!
The week before you clip…
Check your tools
Two sizes of clippers are generally used: larger ones for the body and smaller ones for the face and ears. So you need to make sure that blades for both are sharp and that, if need be, they’re fully charged up if you want to use them cordlessly. Just a quick tip: if you use different clippers, make sure the hair clipping lengths match up, especially around the head where it will be most noticeable!
Sharp blades are essential for a good finish. So either buy new ones or have the old ones sharpened. It’s cheaper to have your clipper blades sharpened but this can take several weeks - you’ll need to plan for this if you do.
Having the clippers is one thing. Make sure you’ve got the two key items that the clippers came with: the little brush to brush the hair out of the blades during clipping, and some oil just in case they get a bit clogged up.
Always have a rug on hand as your horse will feel an instant drop in temperature once you start clipping. If you’re giving your horse a full or hunter clip, you may want to clip one half of his body and cover him up while you clip the other half - this will prevent him catching a chill.
Ensure you have a grooming brush ready to brush away stray cut hairs.
Get a stool or a large grooming box that you can stand on before you start, if you need one.
Where and when?
Choose where and when you clip carefully, e.g. don’t go clipping in the wash bay around the time of day when horses are bought in from muddy fields and may need their legs washing off. Clipping at a quiet time will limit distractions too.
Be a good citizen and let your fellow riders know that you’re going to be clipping as well, so they can work around you either before or after you’re clipping.
For best results, clip in the daylight or ensure that you have an extremely well-lit stable to clip in. Try to find somewhere undercover and out of the wind.
At least the day before the clip:
Bath your horse the day before if the weather is warm enough. Pay particular attention to the rump and the forehead, as the horse’s coat is thicker here and holds more grease than any other parts of the body. Use a good degreasing shampoo. Work into a lather using your fingers instead of a sponge or brush as this will help lift the dirt and grease. A good aid that can be used for this is the LeMieux Hippo Mitt, which has penetrating pimples. In a circulating movement, massage your horse from head to hoof.
Groom well or spot clean, if it's too cold to bath. If you’re clipping on a warm day, you may be able to bathe the same day you clip, but be sure to wait until the horse is completely dry before you start to clip. If you decide to bath and clip on the same day, add an extra amount of time to do both as inevitably activities like this always take longer than you think.
Ideally leave the horse in overnight.
The day of clipping:
Remove the rug
Take off the horse’s rug an hour before clipping and allow the coat to breathe. This will enable the coat to stand and will allow the clippers to run smoothly over it.
Section the mane
Split the mane into sections and secure each one with an elastic band so that you can easily move it out of the way when you’re clipping. This will help you to get a good clipping line at the base of the mane along the length of the horse’s neck.
Bandage the tail
Putting on a tail bandage from the top of the dock will keep any stray hairs from getting in the way and accidentally being cut off!
Chalk an outline
Do you remember when you drew a picture when you were a child? You drew the outline first and then coloured it in. Well, clipping’s a bit like that, in that it’s best to mark out your selected clip with chalk before you start clipping. This will save time and definitely prevent mistakes, heaven forbid! Confident clippers often omit this step, but it’s highly recommended if you’re new to clipping.
A feed before you start clipping may help to keep your horse settled as might a hay net available throughout the clip!
Wear the right gear
The hair from clipping seems to somehow attach itself to anything and everything. Wear overalls to stop getting completely covered in hair. Some will inevitably get through but most won’t! Wearing a cap helps too, as does a mask for anyone who struggles with their breathing.
When you’ve done all the above, you’ll be ready to actually start clipping!