Horse clipping for beginners – FAQ


There’s no time like the present to learn how to body clip your horse.  Please enjoy this handy guide about horse clipping for beginners, where I give you the tools to run amok and get your horse clipped.  


Table of contents

Why do horses need clipping?

Reasons to clip in colder months.

When should a horse be clipped? Only in the fall?

What style of clip would work for my horse?

How do I pick the type of clipper?

What do the blade numbers mean?

How do I prep my horse for clipping?

What tools do I need for horse clipping? 

How do I start clipping and clipping techniques

Common horse clipping mistakes


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

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


Why do some horses need clipping?


  • During cold weather, you could fully body clip your horse, give them a trace clip, or leave them fuzzy all winter. Factor in comfort and health to decide about clipping. Will clipping improve either of those things? 

Reasons to clip your horse in the colder months:


  • Clipping reduces the amount of sweating during exercise. Horses are more likely to become uncomfortably warm, and sweat trapped on the skin can create rubs, sores, and skin infections. Rain rot, a common skin ailment, is bacterial and occurs in damp situations – like the sweaty horse. 


  • Sweaty horses need to return to their normal temperature with walking, coolers, hand drying, and time. For some horses and their people, this isn’t always easy.


  • Your horse’s coat doesn’t match the climate, so clipping can be helpful. A horse grows a winter coat when the daylight hours start to decrease. This happens even in warmer climates. A horse living in the heat of the desert will still grow a winter coat, but it won’t match the temperatures.  


  • Some horses with metabolic changes, like Cushing’s disease, exhibit excessive hair growth all year. Summer temps can be brutal for a winter coat in hot weather.  


  • Aesthetically speaking, some show horses are clipped to maintain the show ring sparkle year-round. 


clipped gray pony head in bridle

This horse is clipped all year long for the show ring.


When should a horse be clipped? Only in the fall?


  • If you are clipping for the health and comfort of your horse, then clip them when they need it. If you are clipping for a horse show, two weeks before you head into the ring is a good idea. This two-week buffer gives your horse time to shine up and even out.  

What style of clip would work for my horse?  


  • As a general rule, clip your horse where they sweat the most. You may only need to clip a strip down their neck, and maybe around their flank. Or, you could follow a specific trace clip like a hunter clip or a blanket clip.  


  • You can absolutely throw all traditional patterns to the wind and only clip where your horse needs it. If they end up looking like swiss cheese, then so be it. 

horse with a half face clip

You can see a bit of color change in this horse’s half face.


How do I pick the best type of clippers?


  • Use the type of clipper that matches your needs. Trimmers are smaller, usually cordless, and for touch-ups, bridle paths, and smaller areas. 


  • Body clippers can handle body clipping, trace clipping, and touch-ups. These clippers are more powerful than trimmers, and come in corded and cordless varieties. 


  • Shears are the largest and most powerful body clippers, designed for thick-coated breeds and the hair horse with Cushing’s. They can body and trace clip, but are too cumbersome for touch-up trimming. 


trimmers body clippers and shears

(L to R) Trimmers, body clippers, shears


What do the blade numbers mean?


  • For trimmers and shears, most blades are numbered. You will find #8.5 up to #40 or #50. The higher the number, the more hair is removed. For body clipping, a #10 blade is pretty standard. 


  • Many trimmers come with adjustable blades that slide from a #9 to a #40 without popping off the blade. Body clippers have a hinged arm that allows you to switch blades between sizes.


  • Shears are not usually numbered. Instead, they are fine, medium, all the way up to covercote. Most clippers, including shears, will have the length of hair (in mm) that remains printed on the blade. 


clipper blade number 10 and green trimmers

This #10 blade leaves 1.8 mm of hair


How do I prep my horse for body clipping?


  • Think of clipping like painting a room – there’s a ton of prep work, and when done well, the painting is fast and easy.  


  • Your horse needs to be clean for the best results. You don’t have to remove stains, but there should not be a speck of dust or dander on your horse. A thorough grooming and a full bath are best. You also want to clip your horse when fully dry. 


  • To add extra glide to your clipping, use a grooming oil to oil buff your horse before clipping. Grooming oils add shine, condition the hair, and make the coat slick for the clipper blades to slice through. The oil reduces friction, and your blades won’t get hot.  


  • You could use sheen spray instead of grooming oil, but many have a lot of alcohol that can dry the coat and skin.  

This article gets your started on oil buffing.



applying horse grooming oil with a sheepskin mitt

Using a grooming oil before clipping helps the clipper blades glide through your horse’s coat.  


What tools do I need to clip my horse? 


  • Now that your horse is clean, gather up your clipping tools. You will need the following: 


    • clippers
    • blades – sharp and clean
    • blade cleaning brush or toothbrush
    • rag or washcloth
    • coolant – optional
    • clipper oil – of the upmost importance


  • Your clipper body should be in good working order, and your blades must be crazy sharp and rust-free. 


clipper coolant spray on km cordless

Spray clipper coolant is great, be sure to follow up with clipper oil.


How do I even get started? 


  • After your horse is clean, and all your tools are together, it’s time to start clipping.  

Marking your design


  • If you are trace clipping, you’ll want to create some borders to delineate where to stop clipping. The easiest way to do this is with a friend and a long piece of twine. You can also trace your saddle pad or numnah if you leave a fuzzy patch under the saddle. 


  • Find two anatomical markers on your horse (behind the ear, point of shoulder, point of hock, etc.) and have your friend hold the twine between the two marks. Hold your clippers like a pencil and gouge a line in the hair along the twine. Wah-lah, instant border. Just remember which side of the border you are clipping! 


stencil for design on your horse

You can also use stencils to create cute designs on your horse. 


Start clipping


  • After clipping your horse a few times, you will find a system that works for you. I like to start with the larger areas of my horse, like the flanks, rump, and neck. You can get a lot done quickly, and the more prominent areas are not as touchy as others.  


  • Then I move on to the legs, and I might do one or two of those before switching to something high again. I will also flip side to side. All of this jumping around gives my body some variety, and I don’t get sore or cramped from being in one area forever. 

General horse clipping tips


  • It grows back, so don’t worry about mistakes. Generally speaking, push your clippers against the direction of the hair growth. However, you may find that you break this “rule” in tighter areas or where there are whorls.  


  • Use the “squish and slide” method to clip loose or wrinkled skin. Around tendons, elbows, and faces, the skin is slippery. Pressing slightly and then sliding the skin over makes the surface taut and easier to clip. 


  • Stop clipping every five minutes to brush hair out of the clippers and re-apply clipper oil. Yes, you can use coolant if you like. In that case, brush off the blades, apply the clipper coolant spray, and wipe off any excess. You must follow up with clipper oil! Coolant evaporates quickly, and your blades will not have protection from friction. Oil’s primary purpose is to reduce friction, thus reducing heat and preventing your blades from becoming dull. 


  • As you clip, your horse may become twitchy and itchy. When you stop to oil your clipper blades, give your horse a quick curry and brush in finished areas to temper the itch.


  • Give your horse some breaks to get water, walk around a bit, and go to the bathroom.  


km10 gliding through winter coat

Generally, work against the direction of hair growth.


How do I prevent these common horse clipping mistakes?


Clipper lines, uneven finish, and gouge marks


  • There are two main reasons your finished clip is less than stellar. One, you may need to practice more. We have all been there; keep going! Two, your horse or blades are dirty. The grit on the coat jams up the blades and makes everything a hot mess. 

The clippers are tugging on your horse


  • When clippers get clogged up with hair or dirt, they pull on your horse’s skin. Your blades may also be dull, in which case they grab along instead of gliding through the coat. Lastly, you may need to oil your blades more. 

The blades are not cutting smoothly. 


  • This is likely due to dull blades. You may find that it takes a few passes over the same area to clip the hair, which is also a sign you have dull blades. Or, you need to clean and oil the blades more frequently. 

The blades are too hot


  • When you clip a clean horse with sharp blades that are oiled consistently, your clipper blades should not be hot. If the motor feels like it lags and is getting hot, your clippers are likely due for service. Little bits of hair and dirt can make their way into the clipper body. 


10 wide blade getting oil

Most clipping mistakes can be fixed with more clipper oil.


Just like riding and most things horses, it does take some practice to become skilled at clipping your horse. Allow yourself some grace and time, everything will even out and look amazing soon enough. 


For more info, the Complete Guide to Clipping Your Horse has you covered. 






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06/12/2024 04:38 am GMT

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