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Why clip?

Posted on 26 September 2017 by Kim

Why clip your horse

To clip or not to clip?  That is the question!

Autumn already feels like it’s more or less here as the temperatures are cooler at night and the daylight hours have started to dwindle. When this happens, you’ll have noticed your horse’s coat has started to change too. A popular misconception is that this happens when the temperature starts to drop but this is not the case. This process starts in the second half of August. In September the sleek, summer look has usually started to disappear and then by October, the woolly winter coat is apparent. 

If you intend to clip your horse, autumn is the right time to starting planning it. However before you leap for the clippers, here are six points you need to consider before you make a start...

Why clip?

Horses grow in a thick, heavy winter coat to help them cope with the colder weather of the winter. The primary reason why horses are clipped is to enable them to be exercised comfortably during this colder weather without undue sweating.

How much your horse sweats depends on his condition, the heaviness of his coat and how hard you work him. When a horse sweats, it cools him. When you stop working him, he stops sweating but his coat will still be wet. This moisture will gradually evaporate and the horse will dry off.  Gentle walking assists with drying off providing it’s not too vigorous to cause further sweating and, as you probably appreciate, cold sweat takes a while to dry in the cooler temperatures.  In order for the water to evaporate, the coat draws energy in the form of warmth from the horse. This lowers your horse’s core body temperature and makes it hard for them to keep warm. This in turn leads to an increased risk of catching a chill, colic, colds or problems maintaining condition. 

Clipping considerations

Clipping is one of those jobs that many horse owners despise — it’s messy, time consuming, and too often can be stressful for both horse and owner. So consider the following points before you decide.

Time: One of the key considerations for you to consider is that you’re prepared for the extra work that’s involved in looking after a horse with a clipped coat. A clipped horse will need their rugs checked or changed both morning and night. Unless you can commit to doing that every day and twice a day, you should probably rethink your plan to clip your horse. Sorry, but it’s better to ask the question beforehand rather than proceed, not be able to cope and let your horse down. 

An added bonus is that a clipped coat can significantly cut down on time spent grooming. It's easier to maintain and keep clean. A quick brush gets rid of the dust and dirt.

Energy levels: A woolly winter coat tends to make a horse quieter. Clipping a horse in the autumn can make him more lively and act with a lot more energy. So for your training and/or competition strategy, you really need to think about the timing of when you clip, e.g. on the run up to a competition, if steadiness is required, clip 2-3 weeks before the event. Alternatively if liveliness is required, you may clip up the day before the event.

Age: Consider your horse’s age. For example, an older horse may have more difficulty battling the elements even without a clip, so with one you need to be sure that he can cope.

Appearance: Some horses are clipped because their owners want them to be smarter. It usually improves the overall appearance and condition of the coat. However it’s more important that the horse’s interests are put first. 

Where presentation is paramount, clipping is no longer confined to the winter months. Some competition horses are clipped during the summer months as well.

Health: Clipping can have health benefits as well as it can prevent skin problems. Keeping the legs and fetlocks clipped can help prevent conditions such as scratches and mud fever since the mud will have no hair to cling onto. 

Other Considerations

Remember that your clipped horse will need rugs and possibly other accessories as well such as shoulder guards to stop rug rub marks.

When deciding what clip to choose, remember, you can always have a little more hair taken off- but it can’t be put on! If you’re undecided about which clip to choose, go for the lightest clip first and see how you get on. You can always have a higher clip next time!

Once you've done your first clip, your horse may need to be clipped two, three or even more often throughout the winter in order to keep benefiting from their clip. So bear this in mind when making your plans.

Watch out for our next article in this series about clipping when we look at the best time to clip your horse and what sort of clip to do!

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Kim Horton

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


  • Lesley Gibbins posted on October 14 2017 at 08:10 AM

    Love receiving pointers on help keeping your horse in tip top shape,and good health ?

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