Clipping the show horse


Will the judge notice if you get the wrong lead when your horse looks fantastic in the show ring? Maybe not! You’ll need to up your grooming game a smidge and consider clipping the show horse for best results. Then all you have to worry about is riding your best. 


Know the rules 


  • Most horse shows have some semblance of rules. Schooling shows have rules, as do major international events, like the Olympics. Part of competing in sport is understanding and following the rules. At the same time, you may need to follow your horse’s breed standards. It depends on what type of show and classes you are entering.  


  • Governing bodies, like the USEF and the FEI, also have rules to follow. You may be able to clip your horse’s whiskers for a local show with a particular set of rules, but perhaps not a rated show where the governing body’s rules take precendent. 




Clipping options for the show ring


  • The best reason to clip (or not clip) your horse is his comfort and health. When the weather doesn’t match the coat, it’s time for clipping or blankets. Or, in some cases, both.


  • For the show ring – it’s all about glitz and glamour and making your horse look his best. And you may need to clip to get that done. There are tons of options for show clipping; it just depends on what your horse needs and what you prefer.


gray horse with dinosaur mane and full body clip with saddle patch

This is a full body clip, but with half face and saddle pad remaining. 


Full body clipping 


  • The sleekest look for the show horse is the full body clip. This includes the face, legs, and everything in between. Many horses that show year-round are body clipped. It makes sense to keep your horse sleek for the show ring for winter shows. In the summer, horses that regularly show in the heat of the day can benefit from that extra bit of cooling that body clipping provides. Clipping also helps the horses with anhidrosis or partial anhidrosis stay cool. 

Trace clipping


  • You could trace clip your horse for a horse show. Typically, the only patch of longer hair remaining would be under the saddle. I have also seen one horse, a top international eventer, compete at a 5* with a clipped body and super fuzzy legs. No one expected that. 


  • A trace clip may be acceptable for schooling shows and smaller local shows. As the stakes get higher, you may want to reconsider. But – if a top 5* event horse can do it, anything goes. 


event horse at a jog in the morning showing a trace clip

Previously mentioned 5* event horse at a 5* event 


Lower legs


  • Some show horses are clipped below the knees and hocks. Clipped lower legs help chrome stay white and bright, and help prevent scratches and equine pastern dermatitis for some horses.  


  • Clipping lower legs with a summer hair coat is easy; not much to blend there. But clipped lower legs on a winter coat may look silly in the show ring – your call.


horse legs in the shade with lots of chrome white stockings

Chrome is easier to keep clean when the legs are clipped, but you may need to factor in additional UV protection with fly boots.


Tidy-up with trimmers


  • You may opt to leave your horse au-natural, save for a few tidies here and there. Simple horse trimmers are great for trimming ear edges, bridle paths, and removing excess fuzz from your horse’s legs and profile. 


  • Some show organizations do not allow you to compete when whiskers have been clipped or shaven, so double-check the rules. There may also be rules about clipping ears and eyebrows. 


A quicky tidy-up for a horse show


When to clip the show horse


  • The best rule of thumb about clipping a horse is planning about two weeks out. This gives the hair time to smooth out a bit, erasing any lines or uneven patches. You also have time to encourage the coat to shine up again, with diligent curry combing and an oil buffing session


  • For lower leg trimming, it’s going to depend. There is usually a color change for bays and chestnuts after clipping, legs included. Two weeks before the horse show may be best. Suppose you are clipping just the chrome on lower legs, a few days before the show is fine. 


  • A few days before your horse show is ideal for trimming and tidying. You want those crisp profiles to be fresh. 


km10 gliding through winter coat


Horse clipping tips 


  • Good clipping results come from prep work. Your horse should be spotless, preferably after a bath or hot toweling session. Your clippers and blades should be clean and fresh, too, with lots of clipper oil at the ready.

Pick the best clippers and blades 


  • Body clipping is best with shears or body clippers. Shears are excellent for dense winter coats, but quite wide and sometimes tricky to use on legs, faces, and other complex areas. Body clippers are powerful and small enough to use all over your horse. 


  • Your blades should reflect how much hair you want to leave on your horse. For most trimmers and body clippers, the higher the number of the blade will leave less hair. A #40 leaves less hair than a #10, the typical blade for body clipping. With closer blades, mistakes are more pronounced, so opt for somewhere between a #7.5 and #15 for best results. 


  • For trimmers, these cordless clippers usually have a 5 – in – 1 blade that can switch between a #9 and a #40. You may prefer to leave a bit more hair on the edges of the ears with the #10 setting, but get closer with a #30 for the bridle path. 


  • Stop every five minutes to brush and wipe your blades as you are clipping. Add more clipper oil at that time, too. If you choose to use coolant, it’s excellent to help clean up the blades, but evaporates so quickly that you must follow with clipper oil.

Click here for a complete guide to horse clipping – start to finish


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03/11/2024 08:33 pm GMT



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