Tips for clipping your horse’s face and legs.
Why would you clip your horse’s face and/or legs?
- In the winter, this is the standard way to body clip a horse – everything goes. Some show horses will also be fully clipped – faces and legs – in the summer. You can also do a half face or leave the legs long – lots of options. Clipping legs and faces is optional – and in some cases you want to leave some extra hair there.
- If you are clipping in the winter and don’t want anything to go, you have every possible trace clip to pick from, or just make your own up. The important part of clipping in winter is that your horse’s extra sweaty places have some relief. It’s entirely possible that he may look like swiss cheese when you are done, but that’s totally fine.
- If you are worried about your horse’s face and legs getting cold after a body clip, you can do a body clip early, and then a trace clip a bit later. When my horse starts to grow a winter coat, I will do a total body clip. The weather is not yet cold enough where a clipped face will stress me out.
- By the time winter truly comes around, the body clip has grown out. Now it’s time for a trace clip, where I leave the legs and face but clip away the body. Now I have a horse that won’t sweat into a heavy winter coat, and his legs and face are shorter and more manageable than 100% YAK and are just right for winter.
In the summer, it’s sometimes easier to clip lower legs for a few reasons.
- This makes grooming for horse shows easy, and the lower legs can stay bright and clean and tidy for the show ring. Horses with a lot of chrome on their legs stay cleaner and brighter, and any dirt is easier to remove.
- If your horse is prone to skin conditions like scratches or other skin infections, clipped hair on the legs can help. You can keep the skin cleaner, drier, and meds are more effectively applied.
- You can also find ticks a bit easier with clipped legs. I’d much rather clip legs than miss a tick.
- A simple fetlock tidy may be all you need to make your horse look amazing. I will often do this in the winter to help with mud management. It’s also a lot easier to see the coronary band if the lower legs are tidy. No need to clip all the way down, a trim is fine.
How to do a quick leg tidy
Options for clipping your horse’s legs
- You can clip your horse’s legs from the knees and hocks down all year long if you like, and you can clip your horse’s face. Or not. I like to clip faces on bays, blacks, and chestnuts when I body clip for winter due to the color change of clipped hairs.
- My gray looks the same color clipped and long, so for him, I blend the hairs on the cheeks when I body clip. Some horses are body clipped for show year-round, in which case their faces are generally clipped as well.
This dude has half of his face clipped. It’s nice to leave them some hair on their noggins.
- On the face, your best bet is to use a small clipper and small blade, such as the ones that are good for ears. I like these trimmers clippers because they are super quiet. Go nice and slow and lots of positive rewards.
- You can see from the photo above how different clipped and non-clipped hair can be, so for darker horses, it’s likely you need to clip the face if you do a full body clip.
- You can also do a half face. The line down the cheek is just about where the cheek pieces of your bridle sit. This is great for winter.
Be smart about safety when you are clipping.
For clipping your horse’s legs, once you get the swing, it’s pretty easy to clip them.
- If I’m pressed for time, I’ll just do the coronary band to fetlock and do the rest later. It’s important to remember that most horses are a totally different color when clipped, and the longer you can leave the hair, the easier it is to blend around the knees and hocks. The length of hair left after clipping is dependent on what blade you choose.
- Pick a clipper blade that leaves a little bit of hair for coverage and ease of blending. There’s no need to prep for surgery with a #40 blade. You can refer to this article to learn about clipper blades and what size to pick. A #8 or #10 blade is usually just fine for clipping legs.
- If you are clipping the entire lower leg, pick up the leg as if you were picking out a hoof, and then clip up the tendons. Much easier! You can also use the “squish and slide” method – where you press on the skin and slide it over. Loose areas become taut and easy to clip. Around the tendons, you reach all of the hair if you slide some skin over.
Tips for clipping legs and faces
- When clipping, it’s best to go against the direction of hair growth, until you get close to the areas you need to blend.
- When you want to blend a bit, go with the direction of hair growth. Raking the hair in the direction of the growth can help with the blending.
- For the tendon areas, you can pull the skin to the left and right to get the hairs that grow in between, or you can pick up the leg as if you were picking the hoof. This makes clipping the tendons quite easy.
You don’t have to clip all the way down on the legs, sometimes it’s just fine to trim up the fetlocks.
Clip a clean and dry horse, and use super sharp clippers!
- This minimizes the tugging and skipping of the clippers. Oil and cool often for your horse’s comfort. If you are worried about a major color change, start with clipper blades that leave the hair a bit longer.
- You can always go back again with another blade to make the hair shorter. Be warned that a super short clip on “chrome” legs can leave your buddy open to sunburn on the legs, face, ears, etc.
Hudson’s face is clipped, except for the sensitive skin around his eyes. The hair is quite short there anyway, so no need to risk a wayward clipper mark.
****A quick note for the horse show lovers out there – if you show FEI, you are no longer allowed to clip your horse’s legs while on the showgrounds. More details here.
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The Chromado, also available in black.
The Creativa, also availabe in pink.
The KM10’s are the gold standard for body clippers.
The Power Grips, also a nice body clipper.
The Pro Ion, this is a body clipper that uses 30-15-10 blade system.
The Lister Stars – the best shears!
Blades for body clippers, the detachable style.
The 10 Wide blade for body clippers, the detachable style.
A 5 in 1 replacement blade.
Lister Star blades, fine cut.
30-15-10’s adjustable blade.
Clipper Oil – please use this every five minutes as you are clipping.