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What is the best clip for my horse?

Posted on 18 October 2016 by Kim

What's the best clip for my horse? 

There are a few factors to consider when deciding which is the best clip for your horse. It primarily depends on his workload, but other factors such as weight, the local climate and how well you know him also need to be taken into account.

Before you reach for the clippers, spend time thinking about which is the best clip. Don’t commit the "sin" of clipping off more coat than required as it’ll be viewed poor management by fellow equestrians, and we’ve all been on the receiving end of that! Apart from that, it’ll cost you a good deal to keep him warm.

Only you can decide which is the best clip for your horse. Here are a few questions that should lead you to the right clip:

  • Will your horse be stabled?
  • Will your horse be turned out during the day? If so, for how long?
  • How much work does your horse do?
  • How does your horse sweat?
  • How much does your horse feel the cold?
  • Have you got the correct rugs to keep him warm?
  • Has your horse been clipped before?
  • How much experience do you have of clipping a horse?
  • How long will your horse be able to stand still so that you can clip him?

Based on your answers to these questions, take a look at the different types of clips below...

Occasional or Very Light Work Light Work
Moderate Work Moderate to Fast Work
Hard Work Very Hard Work


There are a number of clips that can be used for horses and ponies with this workload as it allows some work without getting overly hot.

Suitability: All the clips in this category are suitable for a horse or pony, living out through the winter but that may be used for the odd hack or light schooling at weekends. It’s also useful for a stabled horse that feels the cold or struggles to maintain condition through the colder months of the year.

Rugging: It’s still necessary to rug up all horses with these clips for day and night time turn out.

Bib Clip

The most basic type of clip. Removes only a small amount of hair from the front of the neck and chest.

Horse Bib Clip

Apron Clip

A step on from the Bib clip, where additional coat is taken off to the girth line, between the front legs and the top of the forelegs.

Horse Apron Clip

The Neck and Belly Clip

This is trimmed from under the belly upwards, between the forelegs and along the lower line of the neck and lower jaw.

Horse Neck and Belly Clip

Neck and Belly plus Top of Front Legs

This is a variation of the clip described above but in addition the area on the top of the front legs is removed. Removing the hair at the tops of the legs helps with grooming and the removal of mud prior to tacking up. Plus, believe it or not, the tops of the legs can easily become sweaty even in the lightest of work.

Horse Neck and Belly Plus Top of Front Legs Clip

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If your horse or pony is doing light work regularly, e.g. daily, or they are prone to getting sweaty, this is the section for you! Also good for young and/or nervous horses as this clip is fairly quick and simple to do, or for horses that sweat around and in-between their back legs.

Typically, a horse with these clips is stabled at night unless the weather conditions are exceptionally mild or the horse is particularly hardy.

Rugging: always rug for both of these clips to compensate for the loss of warmth from the coat.

Irish Clip

This clip goes from the bottom of the horse’s jaw to under his stomach. To mark out the area to clip, draw a line from the top of your horse’s head to his stomach. This line should make a rough “triangle” shape and everything that is within it is clipped. Sweating will be reduced in the areas where the horse sweats the most, i.e. the armpits and chest, but the rest of the body is left on so the horse is warm where it matters most.

Horse Irish Clip

Low Trace Clip

There are a few versions of the Trace Clip: Low, Medium and High. It originally evolved for carriage driving horses and followed the lines that the harness “traced” on the underside of the neck and belly. It remains popular for riding horses today.

The great feature about all trace clips is that the hair is only clipped from the areas that are likely to sweat the most during work. So when making a choice about which style to go for, it’s very much down to the amount of work the horse will be doing.

This clip removes hair from the underside of the neck and chest, the top of and between the front legs, along the belly, lower barrel and across the lower quarters.

Horse Low Trace Clip

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So your horse is in moderate work? Read on to see your choices.

Medium Trace Clip

Similar to the Low Trace clip except that more of the coat is removed, i.e. higher up the body line. Half of the head can be taken off as well if required. Do bear in mind that if you remove half of the hair from the horse's head, considerable loss of heat occurs, as the clipped skin covering the bone structure of the face is very thin.

Suitable for: horses in moderate work that are only turned out during the day.

Not advisable for: horses living out unless your stabling is well sheltered. This clip is certainly not suitable for those in really exposed parts of the country or if the area is prone to extreme weather conditions.

Rugging: always rug with this clip.

Horse Medium Trace Clip

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Picking up the pace, there's one clip you need. It's the...

High Trace Clip

Similar to the Low Trace and Medium Trace clip except that more of the coat is removed, i.e. higher up the flank, and including half the head hair.

Suitable for: Horses in steady work with the occasional requirement to undertake some fast work, or for those entered in competitions through the winter months;

Horses with this clip are stabled at night and are just turned out for a few hours a day, weather permitting.

Rugging: The more hair you take off, the harder it is for your horse to maintain his body temperature. So stabling and lots of rugs are essential. Use extra rugs when the weather is particularly bad.

Horse High Trace Clip

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Really upping the pace, you've got a few choices.

The Chaser Clip

This clip is similar to the Blanket Clip except that the upper part of the neck is left on so that these muscles are kept warm.

Suitable for: Originally this clip was used for steeplechase horses. So this means that this clip is for horses in hard work and/or competition ready. All horses with this clip are fully stabled.

Rugging: Always rug with this clip. Use extra rugs when the weather is particularly bad.

Horse The Chaser Clip

Blanket Clip

The coat is all but removed except for a "blanket" area over the hind quarters and saddle area which looks a bit like an exercise sheet! The hair on the legs is left on for extra warmth, which is fine as this is an area that’s not prone to sweating. The head is normally clipped out too.

Suitable for: Horses that are stabled only and who do a regular amount of medium to hard work and/or competition work.

Rugging: Always rug with this clip. If you turn out during the day, use a neck cover – your horse will appreciate it!

Horse Blanket Clip

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You asked for it! Here are the hard core clips you need if you're pushing hard...

Hunter Clip

It's all off except for a small area of mane, the saddle area, the legs and a small "v" shape is often left above the tail.

Suitable for: horses that are stabled at night and who work really hard, are regularly out competing and hunting. All of the coat is taken off except for a small area of mane, the saddle area, and the legs. A small "v" shape is often left above the tail.

Horses which have undergone this degree of clipping need a warm stable, good food and a keen eye on their condition.

Rugging: Always rug with this clip. Turn out with a neck cover is essential even in mild weather. Use an additional layer under the New Zealand rug when the weather is cold. Use an exercise rug when out exercising.

Horse The Hunter Clip

Full Clip

Off with the lot of it!

Suitable for: Horses in hard, fast, competition work, racing and/or hunting regularly only.

Possibly a useful clip for those considering some early spring events and shows in order to get a nice short coat.

Horses which have undergone this degree of clipping need a warm stable, good food and a keen eye on their condition.

Rugging: Always rug with this clip. Cover well with several warm rugs, either with a neck cover, a separate stretch hood, or both, and only turn out for restricted/short periods on fine and mild days during the better daylight hours. Use an exercise rug when out exercising.

Horse Full Clip

 Visit our Clipping Help Centre for more tips, and our Horse Rugs page to make sure you're full equipped for that clip! 

Clipping Help Centre


Kim Horton

Co-Founder of EQUUS and a keen equestrian, when Kim's not at her desk she's with her horse, Waldo.


  • Sheron posted on September 01 2017 at 11:09 AM

    Thanks brilliant article. If you have a hot horse like mine that sweats up easily I always do a full body clip and leave his legs on (spoke to the vet about it and they advised that as I school him 3/4 times a week and he hacks at the weekend to clip him out). He also has cushions so his coat grows very thick and long in the winter. I ride in the evenings and if he gets sweated up I have to wait until he dries before he can be fully rugged and put back in the stable which means I don’t get home until after 9pm most nights. I have a good selection of different weight rugs so he won’t go cold (not that he ever does). I love my boy to bits and always consult the vet or my yard owner for advise if I am not sure. He is getting on in years but I am so lucky to have a horse that is not phased by the clippers he always tries to have a good look at what I am doing when I clip him.

  • ThornyLyn posted on August 15 2018 at 05:08 PM

    For my young horse (cob) with huge wirey feathers and who hated having the clippers on his legs I started with an electric toothbrush without the brush part. He would be fine on his body but would not stand for his legs. I ran the toothbrush up and down his legs every day for a few minutes until he stood then stopped. This went on for quite a while until he stopped moving around. If you have Avery nervous horse this may be a way of gradually introducing him to clippers. Stop when he stands as a reward. Don’t rush let him take his time. Invest in or borrow some very quiet clippers to start with and do the same until he stands and is happy then try a small clip etc etc . Good luck.

  • Areina posted on August 15 2018 at 05:08 PM

    Very helpful, thank you.

    Could you post on how to clip please?

    And perhaps a ‘low down’ article on the makes of clippers available, so I can choose the best one first time?

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