Tips for trace clipping your horse


Trace clipping is the perfect way to get the best of both worlds – your horse won’t sweat through his winter coat, and all of his other parts are still fuzzy and protected. But trace clipping your horse is often more complicated than a body clip – you must contend with borders. 


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gray horse with full body clip and saddle pad area


Which trace clip is best for your horse? 


  • There are many traditional clipping options, one of which is called the trace clip. I tend to call anything, other than a body clip, a trace clip to keep things simple. But technically there are more styles. 


Horse clipping options:


  • The bib clip – Clip away a stripe of hair from the throat latch to the area between the front legs. It’s up to you how far up the sides of the neck you want to go. 


  • The strip clip is the souped-up bib clip. The stripe of clipped hair goes from the jaw to the sheath or udders.  


  • Irish clips are usually a half-face clip, plus a little more. A diagonal line goes from the poll to the stifle, and all hair below is removed, except the legs. 


  • A trace clip turns the bib clip into a racing stripe. There’s a horizontal line from the point of shoulder to the gaskin area. You may see an upswing of clipped hair around the flank as the hair growth changes direction, and the legs stay fuzzy. 


Or, remove more hair.


  • A blanket clip removes almost all hair, except for the legs and an area shaped like your horse wearing a quarter sheet. You could do a half-face with this also. 


  • Hunter clips remove even more hair, leaving fuzzy legs and maybe some hair on the saddle area. 


  • A personal favorite is the “swiss cheese” clip, where you remove the hair that gets wet from sweat. You don’t have to follow a pattern – clip for your horse’s needs.  


  • All of these styles mean you will be making some lines and boundaries on your horse. Oh, joy.


horse with a half face clip

This horse has a half-face and saddle patch remaining. 


Tips for creating borders on trace clips


Use something as a guide 


  • This could be a saddle pad, a piece of baling twine, your horse’s anatomy, or even a stiff piece of something else. The goal is to give you a visual and a guide to run your clippers up against. 

Cut a guiding line 


  • Once you have something to clip up against, grab a pair of trimmers with the blade set to #40. Hold these trimmers like a pencil and carve out a line. This line is your border, giving you a visual place to stop clipping.  

Have a friend help you 


  • It’s tricky to hold your template and clippers simultaneously, so bride or blackmail your barn friends to help you line things up. 

Practice first


  • If this is your first time clipping lines and borders on your horse, practice in an area you know will be clipping away. Mess-ups erase away.  


Trace clipping tips for the best results


  • If there was ever a time to use fresh blades on a ridiculously clean horse, this is it.  


  • And all of that other stuff about oil buffing before and after clipping. Don’t forget to stop every five minutes to brush off your blades and apply some clipper oil. 


stencil for design on your horse

You can use templates for fancy designs, too. 


To make the sides match


  • Ok – this is a bit tricky. Luckily, most people can’t see both sides of your horse at the same time. But, if you’re striving for something more exact, try these:

Use your horse’s anatomy as markers. 


  • Align your baling twine or template with distinct parts of your horse’s anatomy – points of shoulder, stifle, parallel to the jugular groove, etc.  

Measure each side from the spine 


  • Using twine or string, have a friend hold it on the withers. After clipping one side, measure down to the line. Transfer that measurement to the other side, and mark with a pen or even a little notch with your clippers.  


  • Do this a few times, transferring measurements from side to side, and then you have a dotted line to follow.  


Or, body clip instead. Denial helps, too.  


Tips for making borders for your trace clip

General horse clipping tips for the best results


Now go shopping for all of your clipping stuff!


go shopping button for horse products


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