Are you clipping your horse ? here are some top tips!
Rachel Muter of Walton Fold Farm gives her top tips on clipping horses:
First and foremost, before deciding to clip your horse, ask yourself does your horse absolutely ‘need’ to be clipped?
Is he getting enough work to warrant clipping?
Does he turn into a raving lunatic on a cold windy day, and spend most of the time spooking at the bird in the hedge (that isn’t really there), or the grid on the road, (that has been there for the past 5 years, and he sees nearly every day?) Once he’s clipped you can guarantee that all these things will be 10 times more scary, certainly in the first few days!!
Do you need to pay someone extortionate amounts to come and clip your horse for you, including getting the vet out to sedate him, and having at least 3 helpers to hold up at least 3 legs at one time, hang onto a twitch, another helper to hold the taser, and an electrical expert on hand to sort out the mains electric box every time the trip switch blows the entire yard out of power every 5 minutes.
Clipping your horse may seem the right thing to do, as everyone else on the yard has had theirs clipped, so you want to look the part, but don’t be tempted to clip every last hair and whisker, just because Jasper in the next stable now resembles a 14.2hh Valegro!
You need to make sure you have suitable rugs for the stable and turnout, as he will get colder much quicker, so may need less time in the field, particularly if you are at work all day, and he can only come in once you get there!
If all the above is covered, and you still think your horse needs clipping, then you need to decide what clip is best for your horse.
Although taking pretty much everything off looks the smartest, try to go for a clip that most suits the amount of work your horse will be getting. If hes in light work, but is getting a bit hairy & sweaty, then perhaps a belly & neck, or a chaser clip would be the best. This will allow the neck & girth area to dry off more quickly, but keeps the hair on his back, loins & quarters. If your horse is prone to losing condition then either of these, or a trace clip are the best to go for.
Its also always advisable to make sure your horse is as clean as possible before clipping (probably too cold at this time of year to give him a bath) but ensure he has a really good groom and curry comb before you start, using some spray coat conditioner the day before will help get the grease out and will make clipping much easier. Always make sure he is completely dry too – clippers will not do a good job on thick hair that’s full of mud, neither will it do your blades or clippers any good at all.
If your horse has never been clipped before always have an extra person on hand if you can, to hold and re-assure your horse that you aren’t going to kill him!
Make sure that the electric cable is well away from the horses feet, and ALWAYS use a safety trip switch on your plug. This will ensure the clippers cut out immediately if there is a mishap. Show your horse the clippers whilst switched off and see if he will let you touch his shoulder carefully with them, its also a good idea to let him listen to them switched on well away from him a couple of times before you go at him full throttle and give him heart failure!! If the first clip is done properly, without too much stress, then in general he should always be good to clip in future if he knows there is nothing to be frightened of! If you are at all concerned that hes going to be an idiot, then its always worth giving him a bit of Sedalin (available from your vet) 20 mins before you start, it will make the whole experience much less stressful for all concerned. If you are 100% sure he is going to turn into a wild beast and try & kill you, the clippers and anyone within 10 yards, then don’t take the risk and plan for your vet to come and sedate them before you clip.
Make sure you are suitably dressed for clipping. I always find a full Bio Suit (available from NASA) is advisable as the clipping hair gets everywhere!! Think of the hairdressers then multiply by 1000, you will itch for the rest of the day & get hair in your eyes, up your nose, on the car seats & the sofa at home, so best to wear something that doesn’t allow the hair to stick – fleecy tops & tracksuit bottoms are the worst & will have clipping hair stuck to them for the next 2 years, and everything else that goes in the washing machine with them!!
Finally, you can start – generally I always find it best to start at the shoulder – then you can work your way gradually up the neck towards the head and chin once he is used to the noise & vibration. If you aren’t confident about your lines, then you can always put a chalk mark where you want the clip to go – especially if you are doing a blanket or trace clip. There is nothing worse than finishing one side, looking at your perfectly straight lines (whilst also thinking that you could become a professional horse clipper & charge £50 a time to do this!), to start on the opposite side, and then realise that the straight line is about 12 inches higher by the time you get round to his bottom, and then you spend the next 40 mins trying to make both sides match, disastrously, and then deciding that the only way to resolve this, and make him look half presentable is to actually take the whole damn lot off!!
Its also quite tricky clipping along the top of the neck just below the mane. Make sure you brush the mane over to the opposite side you are clipping – if he has a Thelwall type mane then you can keep it over with a few rubber bands in – make sure you have good light and know where the hair turns into actual mane!!! Its much better to be half an inch too low, than half an inch too high – if you partially hog your horse, then you can guarantee in a few weeks when it starts growing vertically it will look terrible, will be too short to get onto plaits, and will take a few months to resemble anything looking like a mane again!! No amount of L’Oreal Extreme Hold Gel, Wax or hairspray will work!!
If you have someone around to help, then its much easier if they can hold a front leg up for you whilst you do around the elbows and the tricky bits between the front legs. Balancing your horses foot on top of the mounting block, or a bucket is not advisable!
It is also very important to have regular breaks, clean your clippers, and allow them to cool down. Its very tempting to get as much done as you can, before you feel like your arm is going to drop off, but your clippers could get clogged with hair and grease, which then means the engine has to work much harder and will cause the blades to get so hot you can barely touch them. The horse can’t tell you this, and if hes a saint and puts up with it, you could find an hour or so later that he has come up in lumps & blisters, so always make sure you keep checking the blades. A quick brush and spray with Clipper Oil, and a 2 minute break should do the trick, but if your clippers start sounding like they are struggling, its advisable to remove the blades and give them a good clean and spray with oil before putting the blades back on.
If you have decided to do a full clip then the head & legs are always the most fiddly part. I always find its easier to use a small pair of trimmers as well as the bigger clippers, to tidy up all the bits you tend to miss with the big clippers – they are also easier to get round the heels and on the face near ears and eyes. If your horse really objects to having his face done, then its best to do a line from just below the base of the ears down to the nose – following the line of where his cheek piece would go.
This might look a bit strange at first, but with a bridle on is much less noticeable and within a week or so will have blended in quite well.
When you have finally finished, have a really good check for any bits you have missed – its very annoying when someone asks you the following day if theres any particular reason you have left his left ear on, and the right hind leg on?
Give him a really good brush when you have finished – he will probably be nearly as itchy as you are – but remember that he now has no hair left – so don’t get the curry comb out and start scrubbing him clean – a good flick off with a fairly soft body brush should be enough. A lot of the grease near his skin will have come to the surface, we always wipe ours down all over with a very dilute antiseptic shampoo, or aloe vera shampoo in warm water – it will take the top layer of grease off the coat, and will soothe the skin a little. Its quite common for the horse to come up in a bit of a clipping rash – little lumps & bumps under the skin – don’t worry too much about these, they should go down within a day or two, but watch out they are not actual blisters – if they are then your clippers were too hot!
Make sure that you have nice clean warmer rugs ready for him as you finish. We always put full neck rugs on, and a top quilt – the longer you can go in between clips the better, so if you keep him warm & cosy then the coat shouldn’t grow back too fast. He will also dry much faster after exercise, so a fleece cooler should be ok for an hour or so, but then make sure he hasn’t got frozen, and you can put his warm rugs back on as soon as he is dry.
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