Horse Clipping Myths
Let’s blow up some horse clipping myths and misconceptions, shall we?
Myth #1 Clipping horses is cruel
- MEH, this is mostly a myth. It’s actually cruel to ignore your horse’s health and comfort. Some horses don’t need to be clipped. Without certain allowances like blankets, skipping a clip is mostly fine if your horse won’t get too hot
However, in many cases, clipping is a kind thing to do! Here are a few reasons why:
- More appropriate for warmer climates or horses with PPID (Cushing’s Disease).
- Your horse is less likely to overheat when exercised.
- He’s also not subject to long drying times and chills in a sweaty winter coat.
- Shorter coats won’t trap sweat, bacteria, and dirt, AKA the perfect storm for skin funk and infections.
- Trapped dirt can also cause rubs and sores on your horse.
- Pastern dermatitis is less likely. Read this eye-opening article about EPD for some pretty drastic photos of what this is.
Some science about clipping
- A preliminary study was done, where horses were exercised in various clipping stages. The unclipped horses had an increased internal body temp while being exercised. Unclipped horses also had higher respiratory rates.
- While this is normal to expect these higher numbers while exercising in a winter coat, it isn’t ideal for all horses. This can be taxing on a horse’s fitness, and it will increase the time needed for recovery after exercise. Not to mention getting all of the sweaty hair dry and clean!
- So much to read about this here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427134/
If your horse’s coat is so long that the sweat can cause problems, it’s time to clip!
Myth #2 You must follow a clipping pattern.
- NOPE! You can clip what your horse needs and leave the rest. If that means he has long stripes across his belly, or big patches that look like oceans on a map, that’s fine. There are no hard and fast rules about what type or style of clip to do, just get the sweat off.
Myth #3 You must leave the hair long on the saddle area.
- This scenario is more of an experiment for each individual horse. Sometimes, the clipped areas are extra sensitive to rubs, so you should leave areas under tack long. Other horses do better when fully clipped.
- I have found, however, that a horse with girth sores does better with that area clipped. Girths can grab longer hair and pull it out, using the hair like a scouring pad. If this is an issue, do a two-step experiment. Use an anti-friction stick on the long hair, and then try clipping the area and using an anti-friction stick to prevent blisters and sores. Anti-friction sticks are deodorant-like sticks that runners and athletes use to prevent blisters.
Use all the blade ice coolant you want! Just be sure to follow it up with OIL and more OIL. Did I mention OIL?
Myth #4 Clipper spray coolant is just as good as clipper oil
- NOPE! Clipper spray can cool your blades and blow some of the hair off. They absolutely do NOT replace clipper oil. And yes, some bottles of aerosol coolant are labeled as a lubricant, but it’s only fleeting, evaporates away, and serves no true lubricating purpose.
- It’s absolutely ok to spray your clippers with coolant. You simply need to follow up with proper oil. Like every five minutes.
Myth #5 Hot blades are normal when you clip
- Well, hot blades are “normal” when your horse and/or equipment is dirty. There’s also the case that your clipper blades are dull or have not used enough clipping oil.
- Your clipper blades should not be getting hot as you clip! This is a clear sign that you need to go back and check off all of the boxes – clean horse, clean clippers, the motor of the clippers is in top shape, the cord is not damaged or bent, the blades are sharp, you have used sufficient clipper oil, and you are stopping every five minutes to add more oil. It seems like a lot – but it’s painting a room. Lots of prep makes for easy work!
OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL OIL *gasp* OIL
Myth #6 You must use your clippers against the grain of your horse’s hair growth
- Well this is just silly. It’s definitely the way to remove the bulk of hair, but there are a few exceptions.
- If you leave lower legs long, but the above the knee and hocks are clipped, you want to blend those areas. Not only will you point the clipper blades toward the ground, but you are also swiping and combing with the hair growth.
- If you are finding that your clippers are leaving lines, you can also diagonally use your clippers across the lines to X them out. Again, not exactly against the grain.
- You may also find that clipping diagonally against the grain works well for some areas of your horse. Certainly, parts of your horse, like elbows, are just logistically tricky to reach. You will be clipping all over the place in those situations.
There are only silly guidelines about how to position your clippers. Sometimes you have to go with the direction of growth!
Myth #7 Hair grows thicker after being clipped
- I see lots of variations of this particular myth. Before diving in, remember that hair is “dead”, and its growth and thickness are determined by the actual root – which is inside your horse’s skin.
- I have read that horse manes grow thicker when you cut them. Wrong. Just as our hair does not become thicker after a haircut. You might notice that it appears thicker if you cut straight across, like a banged tail.
- I have read that horse manes grow thicker when you pull them. Also wrong. This is the equivalent of waxing when the hair and root are removed together. Over time, the hair grows back thinner, and may even stop coming back altogether.
- I have also seen that clipped horses will develop an even thicker coat after clipping. This is NOT because you clipped! What’s happening here is that the initial clip is done before the winter coat has fully arrived. This shedding and growing process are not like a light switch, it’s continual. Clip before things have slowed down, and you can get surprised by how much hair your horse actually has.
Another myth to bust – clipping ruins your horse’s coat.
The main thing to remember is to do what’s best for your horse. Even if that means you clip your horse, despite being a die-hard “it’s not natural” fan.
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This is my favorite clipper.