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.  The secret to a great body clip or trace clip is to clean your horse for clipping as best you can. 


Jump to video and shopping


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.


  • You can also clip at any time of the year.  In the fall, you may clip as winter coats come in before the weather gets cold, and in the spring, as the weather warms up before shedding season starts. 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, which will be shorter!  If your clip lobs of any part of the incoming summer coat, it will all grow out and get smooth. 


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. No single rule anywhere 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 chafes 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.


Clean your horse without bathing


  • 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 one gallon 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 your horse:


  • Grab a hot towel from your hot 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 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!


For the Complete Guide to Horse Clipping, read this!


Here’s how to hot towel before you clip


go shopping button for horse products

You can click these links if you want to shop for horse supplies easily. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!  You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.

Shapley's Easy-Out No Rinse Shampoo 32 fl.oz

Spot removing, deodorizing, dust busting, shine adding spray.

02/20/2024 12:33 am GMT
Shapley's Hi Shine Shampoo, 1-Gallon

Other sizes, too! Adds shine with the most gentle formula.

02/20/2024 09:52 pm GMT
SHAPLEY'S Medi-Care Med Shampoo W/Tea Tree & Lemon Grass, 32 oz

The best shampoo for shine and soothing.

02/20/2024 06:13 pm GMT
Shapley's No.1 Light Oil
$19.99 ($0.62 / Fl Oz)

For shine, conditioning, detangling, and stain protection.

02/20/2024 11:02 pm GMT
Shapley's No.2 Heavy Oil

For deep conditioning and detangling - coat, mane, and tail.

02/20/2024 02:47 am GMT
Rubber Latex Waterproof Dishwashing Gloves, 2 Pair Medium Long Cuff
$9.99 ($5.00 / Count)

It's fashion and function

02/20/2024 10:17 pm GMT
Shapley’s 32 oz. Color Enhancing Shampoo - Whitening Formula

For all colors - to add shine and help lift stains.

02/20/2024 01:57 am GMT

Thank you!