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Clipped my endurance horses

Chief after a full body clip. Feb 2012.

To clip or no to clip.  I finally gave in, and did it.  I did full body clips on both horses over the weekend.  When I clip, I like to do it a couple of weeks prior to a ride.

I had been putting clipping off because I just knew that winter was going to appear.  Didn’t happen.  Neither horse had started to shed either.  Instead, we have had just glorious weather!

To make matters worse, nature played a cruel trick on the horses this year and endowed them with super heavy duty polar bear fur coats.  For one of the mildest winters ever {sigh}.

Sometimes I have done a partial clip.  This time I figured that since I would have to blanket anyway I may as well go ahead and do the full body clips.  The only thing I don’t clip when I do a full body clip are their heads, and from the knees or hocks down.

I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned about clipping horses over the years, in case it might help somebody else.  I have done full clips on several different endurance horses and have learned how to (mostly) keep them happy and accepting of the clippers.

I am using the really big heavy duty Oster clippers.  They are close to 20 years old.  I can look up the blade # I use if anybody is interested – it is not a real short blade like most people use when they do clips on their horses.  This particular blade leaves at least as much hair as a horse would have with a summer coat.  You can see in the first photo of Chief – that was taken after the clip.  He still has plenty of hair to protect him when I ride him.

It is really important to have grease and a cooling lubricant on hand.  If you don’t, the clippers will get hot.  If you want to teach your horse how to dance around that’s one thing – trust me; horses do NOT like clipper blades that get hot, especially on their ‘ticklish’ areas.

Interestingly enough, I just bought a new can of cool lube that was by Andis, as well as a new tube of clipper grease–made by Oster.  Previously I had used a cooling lube made by Oster.  The cool lube made by Andis was light years better than what I’d been using.  I was able to fully clip both of my horses within about a three hour period, allowing for breaks for both myself and for the horse’s.  In the past, I had to stop a lot more often to allow the clippers to cool down.  So a big thumbs up for the Andis cooling lubricant, it made the job go a whole lot faster!

I’m not going to go into how to train a horse to handle being clipped, but rather how to approach it so that you can keep your horse as comfortable and accepting as possible.

Prior to doing a full body clip, I would recommend having used a clipper (perhaps a smaller one like an Oster A5) to trim the horse’s whiskers or perhaps clean up a poll.  I choose to leave my horses heads au-natural.  I do clean up renegade hairs that stick out  but leave their whiskers and do not do a bridle strip.  (ironic isn’t it, that I then will clip everything else off?  ha)

Bo partially clipped - back, sides, stomach. He looks like a mouse!

Since I have clipped my horses before, I know the areas where they are the most sensitive, or what you could call ‘ticklish’.

This is why I start by clipping these areas first, and in the following order:

  1. Back
  2. Sides
  3. Loins
  4. Stomach
  5. Butt and hindquarters
  6. Shoulders and neck
  7. Legs and armpits

Bo seems to appreciate that I get through his most ticklish areas (for him) first, and also when the clipper is the coolest.

I keep a close eye on the clipper, feeling it often and constantly spraying the cool lube to keep it at a temperature that is comfortable for the horse.

Often a horse will become sensitive to being clipped in a certain area and their skin will twitch.  When that happens, I’ll take a swipe and then move on to another area for a few swipes, then come back to the sensitive area.  This way I’m not being terribly annoying to the horse.  It may take some time going back and forth, and back and forth–in order to get a more sensitive area clipped.  If I can’t get an area all in one session, then I will leave it and come back after a break, or on another day.  I try not to make my horse’s feel uncomfortable or forced into continuing to clip an area if they are clearly not happy about it.

This jugular whorl on Chief is believed to mean "love and prosperity"

Another reason why I work in the order that I do, is that I can take long swipes with the clippers when *I* am fresh.  By the time I get to areas that require a bit more detailing type work (the legs, armpits and closer to the head) I am starting to get a little tired from holding the clippers and can now take shorter swipes with them.  My horses are generally more accepting of me taking repeat strokes over their hindquarters or neck; at least compared to their back or sides and especially loin area – there I try to zip through as quickly as possible.

Bo was very good for his clip.  His only issue really was that he wanted to pick up a leg when I worked on it.  To solve that, I simply put that leg up on a hoof stand.  That worked out really well when I cleaned up his armpits.  For doing the inside of his hind legs, I held the one up that was closest to me while I clipped the inside of the other one.  Make sure your horse is accepting of that – as some horses may have it in them to kick you into next week.  Nobody will care if your horse isn’t perfectly clipped if it means one less visit to the ER.  Never push a horse beyond his comfort level when clipping.  Back off, reward and praise for what they have allowed and take a break.  Or come back another day.

This is only some of Chief's "ghost", I clean up as I go.

Chief was even better and stood perfectly for everything.  The only time he moved was when a slight breeze blew up some of his clipped hair (we were nearly done) and he was just sure that he was being haunted by a ghost!

It takes a bit more time to clip Chief because he has so many whirls on his body compared to Bo.  That means I have to approach the hair at different angles in order to get it all clipped evenly.  Chief also has more armpit folds, so I need to take more time to stretch the skin out in order to get a smooth clip.

I like to stop once or twice during each clip to brush the hair off of the horse where he’s already been clipped.  This helps remove dandruff and dirt that has accumulated in the coat.  It also helps the sheen and shine come back to the coat.  I also spray Eqyss rehydrating spray on them to help improve the condition and hydration of the skin and newly exposed coat.

Here is a before shot - winter coat on Chief!

This is after clipping. You can really see how fleabitten Chief is.

I shouldn’t have to blanket the horses for very long.  In a few days we’ll be in the PS region, which is warmer than here.  In the meantime, I will be blanketing Chief and Bo at night with a full neck blanket.

Blankets with high necks work great on clipped horses as they usually tend to be less likely to cause shoulder rubs.  Once we are in the warmer climate I will still likely blanket at night; if it’s warm enough they will just need a fleece sheet though.  By the time we get back home, I shouldn’t need to blanket at all unless we have a big storm, or unusually cold temps.

Bo after his full body clip. It didn't take long for his coat to regain it's shine and healthy look. He was a good boy and got rewarded with some soaked EGM pellets.

One more tip:  I try to allow plenty of time to allow for a full clip. I did not expect to be able to get through two horses so fast.  The new coolant spray helped a LOT.  It also helped that both horses were very good.  I did not completely finish in one day.  I was able to get most of the work done.  The next day I took the horses both out, brushed them thoroughly and then gave them a quick once over with the clippers.  That gave me a chance to even and smooth out any uneven lines or spots that may have been missed.  I was also able to neaten the edges up on the legs and around the heads.  Doing it in stages gave the horses (and me) a break.

Fleabitten grey horses body clip REALLY nice!  Bay horses – well, try not to laugh at my mouse colored horse okay?  I posted several most photos on Facebook.

Hopefully any racing stripes that I missed will have diminished by the time two weeks go by — then I hope to ride Chief and Bo at the Eastern Mojave XP ride.  We’ll get out a few times ahead of the ride to help mark trail.  This will mark the end of the horse’s vacation.  Probably a good thing, as Bo has been moving stall mats and water troughs around while Chief thinks he is seeing ghosts.  Time to get back to work!  :)


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