Everything You Need to Know About Why Horses Are Clipped

There are countless aspects of caring for your horse. As a horse owner, it is your responsibility to make sure your horse is clean, fed, healthy, and well-groomed. One important grooming task is clipping! While some equestrians choose to steer clear of clipping for several reasons, I believe there are countless benefits to this grooming technique.

Why are horses clipped? Horses naturally grow a thick winter coat. While this is highly beneficial in the wild, most horses are kept in warm environments during the colder months. During regular exercise, this thick coat can cause your horse to sweat excessively. This sweat, combined with the cooler temperatures, makes it hard for your horse to regulate its body temperature.

While this is the most common reason why horses are clipped, it is actually not the only reason! Clipping can benefit horses in several other ways depending on the animal. In this post, we will discuss a few of the reasons horses are clipped as well as reasons to steer clear of clipping.

We will also share the most common types of horse clips as well as some helpful tips for preparing your horse for clipping. Let’s start by looking at the many reasons why horse owners choose to clip their horses.

Reasons Why Horses Are Clipped

Equestrians choose to clip their horses for a wide variety of reasons from aesthetics to practicality. Here are a few of the most common reasons why you may consider clipping your horse: 

Clipping Helps Your Horse Regulate Body Temperature

The primary reason horse owners choose to clip their horses is to help the horse regulate their body temperature. In the fall months, horses begin to grow a thick winter coat. This thick coat serves an important role in keeping them warm throughout the winter. However, if the horse engages in regular activity year-round, this coat can cause them to sweat excessively.

The combination of sweat and cold air makes it challenging for the horse to regulate their body temperature. Clipping the horse’s thick winter coat minimizes sweat and allows the horse to dry off more effectively following a workout.

Clipping Minimizes Grooming Time

While we all love spending time with our horses, grooming is one task that seems to never end. Adding a thick winter coat to the equation increases the time it takes to groom your horse. If your horse is kept inside most of the winter, and if they engage in regular activity, clipping them is a great way to minimize grooming time. 

Clipping Encourages Glossy Summer Coats

There is nothing better than a shiny, healthy summer coat. Much like getting a haircut encourages human hair to grow, clipping encourages your horse’s coat to grow back glossier than ever just in time for summer! 

Clipping May Be Necessary for Horses With Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, is an endocrine disorder that is common in older horses and ponies. As one of the most common equine diseases, Cushing’s Disease causes changes to the coat, weight and muscle loss, hormonal imbalance, and laminitis, among other concerns. 

Some horses with Cushing’s Disease are unable to shed their winter coat naturally, making clipping a necessity. 

Reasons to Not Clip Your Horse

Although there are many ways clipping benefits both you and your horse, there are several legitimate reasons to stray from this grooming practice.

Don’t Clip Your Horse if They Spend Winter Outside

It should go without saying that a horse’s thick winter coat is there for a reason! If your horse spends the majority of the winter months outside, you should not clip its coat. Even with its winter coat intact, you may still need to provide your horse with a winter blanket for additional warmth and protection from the elements.

Older Horses May Not Benefit From Clipping

Older horses often have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature, especially during the cold winter months. It is often best to refrain from clipping your older horses as they are likely less active, and more prone to cold, than their younger companions.

Don’t Clip Your Horse If They Are Inactive

While many horses are ridden year-round, some are significantly less active during the winter months. If your horse is less active during the winter, it is best to refrain from clipping its coat. Unless your horse will be working up a sweat regularly, their coat provides them with great protection and warmth.

When Should You Clip Your Horse?

Horses begin to grow their winter coats towards the beginning of fall. Because of this, most horse owners choose to clip their horses for the first time in September or October. It is best to stop clipping your horse no later than February to allow for adequate growing time for their summer coat.

Some horses that are shown in competitions are clipped year-round to maintain a uniform appearance. Additionally, as these horses generally follow the circuit in warm climates, clipping helps them remain cool with minimal sweating. 

How Often Do You Have to Clip a Horse?

Between the months of September and December, a horse’s coat will grow at an astonishing rate. Most horse owners decide to clip their horse every 3 to 4 weeks leading up to Christmas. However, most equestrians find that they only need to clip their horse two or three times each winter. 

Regardless of how often you choose to clip your horse, it is wise to stop clipping in February. Clipping your horse later than February will likely interfere with the glossy summer coat for which you are hoping.

Common Types of Horse Clipping Patterns

Like human haircuts, there are many types of horse clips. Some horse clips remove the entire winter coat while more conservative clips remove only areas where your horse will sweat. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common clipping patterns.

Full Body Clipping Pattern

The full body clip is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of clipping your horse. This clipping pattern removes the hair on the coat, legs, head, and ears. While it provides a uniform appearance, the full-body clip is only recommended for horses that will not spend any time outside during the winter months and will be worked regularly.

Hunter Clipping Pattern

Perhaps the second most common clipping pattern is the hunter clip. This pattern removes a majority of the coat except for the area under the saddle and the legs. The main benefit of the hunter clip pattern is that it provides protection from the saddle. By leaving hair on the legs, you are providing additional warmth and protection from the winter elements.

Blanket Clipping Pattern

The blanket clip leaves a blanket of thick coat that extends from the withers to the point of the tail. Half of the hair on the horse’s head is removed while the hair on the legs remains. This clipping pattern is well-suited for horses who remain active during the winter yet spend time outside as the weather allows.

Chaser Clipping Pattern

Similar to the blanket clip, the chaser clip is great for horses who would benefit from minimized sweating yet require additional warmth at times. This clipping pattern leaves the hair on the top of the horse’s neck, providing added warmth to the neck muscles. Like other clipping patterns, the hair on the legs is left on to provide warmth and protection.

Trace Clipping Pattern

The trace clip leaves most of the hair on the horse’s head, only removing half of the hair on the neck. This clipping pattern is well-suited for horses who are kept outside during the day but brought inside during the frigid temperatures often felt at night. 

Irish Clipping Pattern

The Irish clip is one of the most simple clipping patterns that require a minimal time commitment. This clipping pattern removes the hair from the areas that your horse sweats most profusely including the neck and armpits. Some horse owners also choose to remove the hair of the head as well as the hair extending from the poll to the point of the stifle. 

Bib Clipping Pattern

The bib clip is the most conservative clipping pattern removing the hair only from the front of the neck and the chest. Occasionally, horse owners choose to remove the hair under the belly to the girth as well. 

Preparing Your Horse for Clipping

Especially if your horse has never been clipped before, you must spend adequate time in preparation. There are several things you must do to prepare your horse for clipping. Diligence in these areas will ensure that your horse is safe and healthy while receiving a smooth, even clip. 

Bathe Your Horse

Before you clip your horse, you must ensure that they are clean and dry. Most equestrians choose to bathe their horse the day before they plan to clip to allow adequate drying time. Once your horse is clean and dry, use a tail bandage and band the mane. This will ensure that you do not accidentally catch them with your clippers.

Prepare Your Area

It is always best to clip your horse during a quiet time when there are few distractions. Ensure that your clipping area is well lit and out of the wind. If your horse is antsy during the clipping process consider putting up a net to help entertain and distract them. 

Make sure you have everything you need including a grooming brush for stray hairs. It is also important to have a clean rug ready to put on your horse following the clipping process. Depending on the time of year, and the temperature while you are clipping, you may want to cover one half of your horse while you clip the other half to prevent them from catching a chill.

Prepare Your Horse

Never attempt to clip a horse on an empty stomach! Make sure you plan to feed your horse immediately before you begin clipping. It is always recommended that you use chalk to plan out your clipping pattern. This will not only save you time but will also prevent mistakes, especially if you are newer to clipping. 

Desensitizing Your Horse for Clipping

If your horse is young or has a nervous demeanor, you must work to desensitize them before you begin clipping. There are a few things you can do to aid in this process including standing next to an older horse while they are clipped, running your clippers over your horse while they are switched off, familiarizing them with the sound and vibrations of the clippers.

Need help desensitizing your horse? Check out my article Bombproof and Desensitize a Horse: The Ultimate Guide.

Things to Consider Before Clipping Your Horse

Before you clip your horse, there are several things you must consider. Here are just a few of the questions you must ask yourself:

What Is Your Horse’s Winter Routine?

How often do you ride your horse in the winter? Do they spend most of the day outside or are they kept inside? This will help you decide if, and how, to clip your horse! It is best to begin with a conservative clipping pattern if you are unsure of how much time your horse will spend outdoors. Remember, you can always clip additional areas, but you can never force the hair to grow back more quickly! 

Do I Have the Proper  Clipping Tools?

To successfully clip your horse, you must have the right tools for the job! If you do not have the tools you need, considering asking a fellow horse owner if they would let you borrow the clipping equipment. If you are not confident in your ability to clip your horse, many professional grooms offer this service.

In Conclusion

Clipping your horse can be an intimidating process, especially for a newer horse owner. You must observe an experienced equestrian and ask questions before you attempt clipping your own horse. If it is possible, ask a mentor or experienced horse owner to oversee the clipping process during your first few attempts.

While it may sound simple, clipping a horse can actually be quite complex! Be patient with yourself, and with your horse, as you find a system that works well for both of you. Remember that with time, practice, and patience, you will soon be clipping your horse with ease! 

Clipping your horse is just one way you can help them prepare for winter. I have a whole article dedicated to sharing winter horse care tips. You can read it here!

I have many articles on horse care! If you’re looking for more reading material, check out my articles below:


P.S. Save this to your “Horse Care” board!

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My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

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