Corro Stories

It’s Clipping Season: The Ultimate Guide To Clipping Your Horse

By Liv Gude


Want to know the secrets to a quality clip on your horse?  Keep things clean and oily. That’s it! Dirt, dust, mud, debris, dry skin and dull blades will ruin your horse’s coat as well as your clippers and blades. 

Here’s why. When dust, dirt, debris, or brittle hair meet clipper blades, the pieces get wedged in between the parts of the blades. This damages the cutting surface and creates heat in the blades. Damaged blades pull and tug at the hair, and will not cut properly. Your horse will also be a bit uncomfortable with the tugging.

How to Prep Your Horse for Clipping

Image courtesy of Corro

Your horse needs to be spotless—it all starts with haircare! Ideally, you will spend extra time doing a deep curry and brushing session. Then, you can bathe or hot towel your horse. Use a horse shampoo that cleans your horse without causing any drying or skin irritations. Avoid harsh shampoos like detergents and blue shampoos, these will strip the oil from his skin and coat. You just need to get the dirt and dust out. Any stains will be clipped away, so don’t worry about scrubbing them out!

Follow up with a conditioner. This softens the hair and adds a layer of oil to help the clippers slide through. A fully conditioned coat will also allow the hair to stay a bit more together and have it fall, instead of flying away and landing in your clothes. Some conditioners only need a quick rinse to come out, so don’t worry too much if there’s a little bit left on the coat.  Showsheen and other sheen sprays are great for overall care, but won’t be as effective as a conditioner. The ingredients in those products can be drying to some horses.

After a good body wash, help your horse dry and keep clean. Use sheets and coolers to help your horse dry and to keep any new dirt and dust from landing on them. Let them dry on mats without shavings to keep their legs clean. Often, a hay net can occupy your horse as they dry.  In the meantime, make sure your clippers are ready!

Clippers, Trimmers, and Blades

Image courtesy of Professional Equine Grooms, LLC

Are your clippers ready for use?

Just as your horse needs to be clean, your clipper body does as well.  Depending on how often you use your clippers, they may need service. During a professional clipper servicing, the body is taken apart, cleaned, and any worn pieces are replaced. Despite a clipper body seeming hair proof, there’s always some that manages to get in. Double check the cord, inspecting for tears and looseness where it attaches to the body. If your clippers seem to lag, it may be time for a service or a new cord.

What about the clipper blades?

Make sure there is no rust on your clipper blades, and they should be sharp! Most clipper blades can be professionally sharpened once or twice before it’s time for a new set. At some point, the teeth are too worn and short to be sharpened again.

Clipper blades are composed of two parts – the comb and the cutter. The comb rests on your horse. Both pieces slide against each other to create the cutting action. Rusty or dirty blades will not cut correctly and will heat up. Even brand-new blades on a dirty horse will be quickly damaged as they pick up debris. 

It’s critical that your clipper blades are oiled before you start, every five minutes as you clip, and after you clean your blades for storage. The clipper oil acts to flush out any bits of dirt that filter in, and keeps friction low to prevent heat.

Image courtesy of Professional Equine Grooms, LLC

How to pick the best clipper for your needs

The main difference between clipper models is their power and the style of blade that is used with them. There are clippers, and then there are trimmers. Trimmers are wonderful for light touch-ups around ears, fetlocks, wounds, and bridle paths. Clippers are more suited to actual body clipping. Many styles are corded and have larger motors and heavier blades to provide the power for clipping large area and thicker hair, while still being able to do the work of trimmers.

You may also wonder about medium-duty clippers. These are specifically designed for doing trimming and light body clipping. For extra hairy horses, pick a more powerful set. 

Trimmers and clippers also differ in their blade style. Trimmers often have a 5 in 1, which is an adjustable blade system. This allows you to change the blade’s cutting length without switching blades. There’s usually a little knob for your thumb to switch to adjust how much hair is removed.  

Many clippers have detachable blades that pop in and off with a hinge. Each blade will be one size, so you will need to pop one off to replace it with a different size. Some body clippers have blades that you need to screw into the clipper body. These are also considered detachable.

My favorite clippers and trimmers include:

Wahl KM10 Heavy Duty 2-speed Clipper

The Wahl KM10 Heavy Duty 2-Speed Clipper is great for body clipping.

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Wahl Show Pro Plus Medium Duty Clipper

The Wahl Show Pro Plus Medium Duty Clipper is a great medium clipper that's very versatile.

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Wahl Arco Equine 5-in-1 Clipper

The Wahl Arco 5-in-1 Cordless Equine Clipper is a great trimmer. This lightweight, cordless horse groomer makes it easy to precisely trim your horse’s ears, muzzles, and bridle paths.

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Image courtesy of Professional Equine Grooms, LLC

Deciding on what clipper blade number to use

Most blade systems, with a few exceptions, follow a general rule. The higher the number of the blade, the more hair is removed. A #50 or #40 blade is used in medical settings to prepare skin for a procedure.  There are also #30, #15, #10, and #8.5 blades. The #8.5 leaves more hair and is great for clipping horses with pink skin underneath. They can have the benefit of a clip, plus a little more sun protection. Most horses are body or trace clipped with a #10. 

Some brands have their own system for labeling clipper blades, such as the T84. This is roughly equivalent to a #8.5. If you are unsure about how much hair will remain, most blades indicate the hair length in millimeters on the blade itself. 

For shortening the length of your horse’s coat without going close to the skin, you can use clipper guards or combs. These handy combs come in many sizes and clip onto your blades, creating distance between the skin and the blade, like an extension set.

Adding Patterns to Your Horse

There’s no need to go all out with a full body clip if your horse only sweats in a few places.  A good rule of thumb is to clip where the sweat shows up. There’s no need to follow a specific pattern that you have found on the internet somewhere. 

For warmer climates or show horses, a full body clip is usually in order. Some horse owners find this to be the easiest clip to do.  There are no lines to worry about or blending to do. 

Mark out any lines in advance. Use a dry erase marker to draw on your horse the boundaries of your clipping.  You can also trace around saddle pads for a precise look.  If you are working on lines for a specific clip, start clipping inside the line to practice going straight. You can always do more as you get the swing of things.

Tips to Follow While You Are Clipping

Image courtesy of Professional Equine Grooms, LLC

1) Stop every five minutes to check your clipper blades. You can use spray cleaners during your clipping process, but these do not act the same way as oil does. Always follow a spray with more oil before you go back to clipping.

2) If you notice your blades getting hot, make sure you have enough oil and there’s no dirt on your horse where you are working. If possible, change your blades to a fresh set in case your current set is dull and needs to be sharpened.  

3) If you notice that your clippers are leaving marks or lines on your horse, there are a few things to do. Dirty coats and dull blades will do this. It might also be that the pressure you are using is varying. It’s just practice to overcome this. In the meantime, you can go over any lines or rough spots with your clippers, creating an X to smooth out some of the unevenness. It won’t take long for the hair to start growing out, so don’t worry about it too much.

4) Keep your horse comfortable as you clip by letting them have a hay net and some bathroom breaks. Frequently use a curry comb and brush to whisk away any stray hairs that may be tickling them. 

5) Some horses really like a nice roll after being clipped! After clipping and rolling, your horse will appreciate a nice grooming and a deep conditioner. You can use the same conditioner as the pre-clipping bath. This will soften the cut ends of his coat and add some shine. 

Spend the time on prepping your horse, and the clipping will be smooth and easy!

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