prep your horse for clipping

How to clean your horse for clipping when you can’t bathe!


Bust out your elbow grease and your horse clippers – you can tidy up your horse in the winter without giving him a full bath.

When’s the best time to clip your horse?


  • Clip your horse when your horse’s hair coat and his environment don’t mix. The time of year does not matter when it comes to body clipping!


  • Consider clipping when your horse’s hair is too thick for the weather! Or, too thick for your horse to be happy when he’s ridden and exercised. Horses in light work may not sweat in their home-grown coat, but horses in medium work or heavy work are more likely to be uncomfortable while exercising and then cooling off.


  • This happens in the fall, as winter coats come in before the weather gets cold, and in the spring, as the weather warms up before shedding season starts. Many horses are also mismatched all the time! A horse’s genetics and metabolic status may insist that the coat be extra thick for a climate that doesn’t warrant that.


  • Springtime clips do not interfere with your horse’s shedding cycle. He will still let go of loose hair, and it will be shorter!


horse hair on the ground in the spring after clipping

Springtime clips are a thing!


Horse clipping “secrets”


  • The secret to successfully clipping a horse is to start with a spotless horse, clean clippers, and sharp blades. Bathing is the way! But when the cold weather makes bathing impossible, how do you get him clean? Down to your horse’s skin?


  • The next course of action is to decide what pattern you are going to sculpt. Which honestly, it doesn’t have to be a set pattern at all.


What clip should you give your horse?


  • Deciding on what style of pattern rests mainly on where your horse sweats. Those are the areas to focus on when prepping your horse. There is no single rule anywhere that says you have to follow a trace clip, bib clip, or Irish clip. If your horse has excessive sweating in a Swiss cheese-like pattern of bubbles, then that’s what you clip.


  • It’s going to take some effort, that’s for sure. Luckily, variations of the trace clip may be more suitable for your horse than a full body clip. Only clipping your horse’s sweaty areas means there’s less to get spectacularly clean!


  • Many horses will sweat in the saddle area. While it’s tempting to clip this area off, the extra hair will protect his skin from tack rubs. Clipped horses have shorter coats than their summer hair, and rubs and chafe happen. When you clip a pattern on your horse, his overall body temperature will be better regulated, and sweating in the saddle area is reduced. This small area is also quick to dry compared to an entire horse.


gray horse with full body clip and saddle pad area

I prefer to leave a fuzzy saddle pad.

Why your horse needs to be ridiculously clean for clipping.


Two reasons – comfort and money.


  • Dirty horses make your body clippers work extra hard to cut through that hair and dirt. Your clipper blades will also get trashed in the process.


  • Dirty horses also make the entire clipping process uncomfortable! The dirt causes pulling and tugging of your horse’s skin.


  • You will be spending more on sharpening and new blades, as well as clipper body service, in the long run.


How to clean your horse for clipping in the winter.


  • Your mission should be one of dirt lifting, not stain removal. There’s a good chance those stains are getting clipped away!


  • Follow your usual grooming routine, but crank it up a notch. Or many notches. Curry your horse’s body like crazy! If your horse’s winter coat is quite long, don’t hesitate to use a hard brush to groom against the direction of the hair growth.


  • Use various brushes – dandy, hard, finishing, to go over the winter coat several times. If you have a horse vacuum handy, this is the perfect time to use it.


bucket and no rinse shampoo and washcloths for hot toweling

It’s easy to hot towel your horse!


Add in some hot toweling for more dirt lifting.



  • Get started with a few tools. Use two buckets, one with HOT water, one with cold rinse water. Add some spot cleaner like Easy Out to the hot water. For two gallons of hot water, I would add about two glugs of no-rinse shampoo.


  • I use a stack of washcloths to hot towel a horse. They are small and easy to handle while wet. By the time they cool off, you have covered them with dirt and are ready for a new one.


Here’s how to hot towel:


  • Grab a hot towel from your hot water and no-rinse shampoo bucket. Wring the snot out of it. REALLY. I use kitchen gloves for this part so hot water doesn’t drip all over my arms.


  • Your rag should be hot, the tiniest bit damp, and ready to use. Wad it up, and use it as a curry comb on your horse. Your horse should not get wet from this process!


  • When the rag is dirty and cooled off, toss it in the cold water rinse bucket to cycle through again. Cover your horse with a cooler to dry the damp areas.


bucket with dirty cloths hanging on the side

You will probably cycle through a lot of cloths!


Follow up with a conditioner.


  • Once your horse is clean, adding a conditioner, grooming oil, or sheen spray is a good idea. My preference is a grooming oil; these act like clipper oil would but on your horse. Conditioners can get goopy if you can’t rinse them, and some sheen sprays have additional alcohol, which dries out the coat.



  • Your clipper blades will absolutely love you for this!


shiny dark horse outside on the grass

Grooming oils restore luster after a clip, too.


Horse clipping tips


  • Some parts of your horse will have thicker and denser hair than others. The top of the croup and the horse’s legs are incredibly thick. Spend more time grooming these areas, and expect to make a few more passes with your clippers.


  • Stop clipping every five minutes. Your clipper blades need oil! Brush off the blades, dunk them in some blade wash, or use coolant. These techniques clean them, but you still need to add more clipper oil!


  • There are some general rules about clipping to keep in mind. Typically, clip larger areas by working against the direction of the hair growth. For smaller patches with whorls and tight spaces, forget about that. Use the squish and slide method – press down, and slide the hair and skin over until it’s taut. Clip it off in whatever way you can!


  • If you are clipping to alleviate sweat from tack and the major muscle groups, consider leaving a patch of hair under the saddle. A hair stripe down the spine or a patch outlined by your numnah is perfect for keeping your tack fitting well.



10 wide blade getting oil

Oil your clippers! Every five minutes!


Now go out and enjoy your freshly clipped horse in the winter months!



go shopping button for horse products

If you’re in the mood to SHOP, and you are in need of some blade wash or clipper oil, use these links! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. **No extra charge to you!** Many, many thanks to you!

Wahl Professional Animal Blade Ice Coolant and Lubricant for Pet Clipper Blades (89400) – for hot blades during the clipping process.

Wahl Professional Animal Blade Oil for Pet Clipper and Trimmer Blades (3310-230) – for after coolant, after cleaning, before use, before storage, all the time.

WAHL Professional Animal Clini Clip Blade Cleaner and Disinfectant Spray 3701 – to sanitize your clipper blades.

My favorite shears – the Lister Stars!

My fave corded clippers are these:

Wahl Professional Animal KM10 2-Speed Brushless Motor Pet Clipper Kit, Turquoise (9791)

My fave cordless super powerful clippers are these:

Wahl Professional Animal KM Cordless 2-Speed Detachable Blade Clipper, Poppy (9596-200)

And my fave lightweight cordless clippers (with a 5 in 1 blade) are these:

Wahl Professional Animal ARCO with 5 in 1 blade

Easy Out No Rinse Shampoo

Hot water kettle

Grooming Oil