With winter settling in for the season, horse owners across much of the country have to make a decision: to clip, or not to clip?
Most horses are happy to grow a full, luxuriant coat of fur to keep them warm through the nastiest winter storm. But keeping a horse in work with all that hair can be a challenge. If that fuzzy winter coat gets soaked with sweat during a work-out, it could be doing more harm than good.
If you’re ready to get out the clippers, be sure you pick the clipping style that’s best for you, your horse, and your climate. There are quite a few partial-clip styles for horses that aren’t competing or working intensively hard all winter. These clips can make life easier for you and your horse, but not leave him totally exposed to the cold.
The Trace Clip: Low and high trace clips are partial body clips that allow a horse to work comfortably, while still retaining lots of natural warmth. The head, legs, crest of neck, and back are left fuzzy, but the horse’s belly, bottom half of neck, and haunches are clipped short. You can vary the amount of hair you clip off according to how hot your horse is getting in work, but then you’ll have to blanket more. This is a good clip for horses ridden out in the elements for long periods of time. The preserved natural coat on the back, neck, and haunches makes up for the lack of a blanket, but their clipped chest and abdomen will keep them from overheating during work.
The Blanket Clip: Like a trace clip, blanket clips leave the hair on the legs for warmth, but the entire neck and much of the abdomen are clipped short. A “blanket” of hair about the shape of a quarter sheet drapes the horse’s back and hindquarters. This is a clip for a horse in regular work that might get sweaty and then take a chill afterwards.
The Hunter Clip: If your horse is really going to be working it this winter and the hair has to come off, the hunter clip is the last stop before a full body clip. The legs and a saddle-shaped area are the only areas left fuzzy in the hunter clip. The hindquarters are clipped and exposed to the cold for the first time, so a quarter sheet might be necessary for warm-ups. The hunter clip is suitable for horses in very hard work — show horses and racehorses alike are comfortable in the hunter clip.
The Full Clip: Take it all off! This is for seriously hard working horses — but also for climate-controlled horses. Even in warm climates, cold snaps can happen, so watch the weather forecast carefully if you have a fully-clipped horse in your barn. These horses have absolutely no protection against the weather, especially right after a clipping session. Good blankets and hoods are a must for horses with full clips.
For any of the partial clips, you can use some chalk to make sure you get your shapes and lines right. The horse’s natural contours lend themselves nicely to where the clippers should follow: the inverted V above the horse’s foreleg; the diagonal line from stifle towards the hip, another inverted V above the dock.
And if this all sounds too stodgy and traditional for you, you can always join the trend of clipping designs into your horse’s coat! We have collected some great ideas on our Pinterest board, http://www.pinterest.com/equinefcltydsgn/body-clipping/. Just be sure that your horse will be warm and comfortable, and then get as artistic as you like!