It’s getting cold already in many areas, and horse owners are wondering when it’s time to start clipping for the winter. Horses that remain in moderate to heavy work during the winter months should be clipped. The amount of hair that should be clipped is dependent upon the horse’s level of exercise and his housing situation. A full body clip is only suitable for horses who will be living indoors and heavily blanketed during the colder months. Even then, this is only necessary if you plan to show through the winter and your sport requires a neatly trimmed coat for shows.
To Clip or Not to Clip?
If you’ll be working your horse hard enough to break a sweat more than once a week during the winter, and if you are able to blanket him during cold weather, your horse probably would appreciate at least a cooling clip (also known as a “strip clip”). Clipping helps horses dry faster after hard, sweaty work. That reduces the horse’s chance of catching a chill and reduces the time you must spend walking your horse with a fleece cooler after a ride on a below-freezing day.
If you can’t blanket your horse regularly or if he’ll be taking the winter off from strenuous exercise, do not clip.
When to Clip
Clip your horse once her winter coat has grown in completely and the summer coat has ceased to shed out. If you’ve had your horse for a while, you should know about how long her coat typically gets in the winter. If not, you can safely assume that by the time it’s getting dark before 6:00 PM, your horse’s coat is probably grown out. Unless, of course, you live in the Arctic Circle, in which case you probably shouldn’t clip your horse at all.
How to Clip
Clip a clean, dry coat. Use freshly sharpened clipper blades. You can probably do a cooling/strip clip yourself, or even a low trace clip, but if you want a more extensive clip or if you will be showing your horse, it’s wisest to pay a professional to do your body clipping. If your horse is afraid of clippers, consider asking the vet for a mild sedative to keep him still for the clip job. A frightened, fidgeting horse can easily nick himself on clippers and develop a lifelong phobia.
After your horse has been clipped, expect some ticklishness and sensitivity for several days. Consider using a soft blanket liner or shoulder guard to protect newly shaved skin from blanket rubs. Avoid using spurs on a freshly clipped horse.