How to tension your horse clippers.


Most clippers don’t need tensioning, it’s really only the behemoth shearing type clippers that need tensioning. How can you tell? A clipper that needs tensioning will have a knob at the top for you to twist. And untwist. There’s a handy VIDEO below!

What does tensioning your clippers mean?


  • When you look at your clipper blades, you will notice there are two big pieces to the system. The bottom blade that ends up next to your horse is called the comb. The comb remains in place when the clippers are on. The top blade is called the cutter. The cutter portion of your blade set is what moves back and forth, doing the cutting and creating an awful lot of friction in the process.


  • For the big shearing-type clippers, the comb and the cutter are separate pieces that need big screws to attach to your clipper body. They also need the correct tightening, or tension, to work properly.


  • When the cutter and the comb are not tight enough together, the blades will rattle as the clippers are turned on. You will also find that loose blades won’t cut any hair.


  • If the comb and cutter are too tight, there’s so much friction and heat created in a short amount of time, as the cutter is working too hard to move side to side. This isn’t comfortable for anyone.


lister star side view of blades


How to tension or tighten the shears


  • First, read the directions. I know, I know… Each clipper manufacturer will have specifics for you to follow, they are generally the same.


  • This brings me to the knob. Assuming your giant screws that hold your blades to the clipper body are snug, the next step is to tighten the knob.


  • Turn the know clockwise. Or, if you find yourself reciting the phrase “righty tightly, lefty loosey”, turn the knob to the right.


  • Stop turning the knob when you reach the point of resistance. This should be very obvious. Do not go past this point.


  • Then, turn the knob 1 1/2 times counterclockwise (to the left) to loosen it up.



lister star tension knob up close

This tensioning knob is marked for accuracy.


How do you know you have the right tension for your horse clippers?


  • The best way to know is to follow the instructions, turn on your clippers, and then listen. Tighten and untighten the clippers and listen to those settings also.


  • Then try it on your horse. Is the clipping easy and smooth? Granted, this is a function of how clean and well prepared your horse is as well.


  • How fast do the clippers take to heat up? Of course, they will heat up eventually with the right tension, but they will heat up in minutes or so when they are too tight.



What to watch for as you are clipping your horse, as the tension may need to be adjusted as you are clipping your horse.


  • If your clipping produces lines or uneven cuts or looks splotchy. It might be technique, it might be the clippers loosening up.


  • Excessive heat.


  • You drop the clippers.


  • You have about half of your horse done. Just double-check the tension anyway.


  • The clippers are making weird sounds. This might also be the motor, but it could be the blades, too.


tension knob on oster clippers


What about cooling and oiling the blades?


  • If you have ever read any of my other articles about clipping, you know that my motto is “WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD OIL”. You may also be familiar with my other motto, which is “IT ALWAYS GROWS BACK”.


  • If you need to take a break and apply some coolant, you should. Do this as necessary.


  • Coolant is NOT oil, and will not lubricate your clipper blades effectively. You must add oil following a spray coolant.


  • Some shearing styles of clippers also have a port for you to add oil (or special grease) into, as well as dropping some oil on the teeth and touching parts of the comb and cutter.


  • Add oil every 5 to 10 minutes, even if you think your clippers don’t need it. They do.


  • If you accidentally put too much oil on the clippers, let them run for about 15 seconds, then turn them off and wipe away the extra before going back to your horse.


It’s not going to mess anything up if you re-tension as you are clipping. After some practice, you’ll be able to sense when the blades need some touch-up tightening.


go shopping button for horse products


My fave styles of giant shearing clippers are the Listers. You can pick up a set here, along with some oil and coolant. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are zero extra charge to you. I can’t thank you enough for your support!

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.

Thank you!