A groom’s nightmare is a horse that has a long thick coat, comes back overly sweaty after a workout, takes twice as long to bathe and rinse them and takes forever for them to dry. I can say this because I have been there and done that. If your horse is turned out in the bad weather and only has a lean-to for shelter, then he or she of course depends on that long coat for survival. On the other hand, if your horse is being stalled for the majority of the day, body clipping your horse is a good idea as long as you are committed to daily monitoring of the weather in order to insure that your horse will have their blanket on them when necessary, or having the blanket taken off of them if the day is too warm or if they are being turned out for awhile into a pasture or a paddock as long as it not too cold. Body clipping your horse is not the easiest of tasks. First of all you will need a very good pair of body clippers, preferably two body clippers, in order to speed up the process. The reason for two sets of clippers is when one set starts to get too warm, you switch to the second set and this way you can keep going. You will need lubricating oil for the blades. The old timers would dip the blades in turpentine while they were running but this can sometimes burn your horses hide so that is not my recommendation. Not all horses need to be tranquilized but I would say that a fair amount of horses will be in need of this especially when you are clipping the more delicate areas. You will need to consult your veterinarian and be aware of what tranquilizers you are using as some of them will cause your horse to start sweating and may make it impossible for the clipper blades to cut the hair. It may also be in your best interest to have an extra set of blades available just in case you run into a problem with one set. Some blades have a tendency to dull very quickly. You should actually be able to clip three or four horse per set of blades depending on how much dirt the horse is carrying in their coat. It also may be in your best interest to put a very slick type of parka on you so that the hair will just slide right off of you.
The very first thing that is necessary for body clipping is a horse that has just had a soapy bath and has been allowed to dry completely. You will get a much cleaner cut with less streaking. Also, your blades will last much longer when cutting cleaner hair. You will need someone to hold your horses head especially when you are first introducing the clippers to them. Personally, I prefer to clip a horse in his or her stall. You can clear the bedding from the middle of the stall in order to clean up the hair when you are done. Some people prefer to clip in the isle way. If you are going to tranquilize your horse it really does not matter. Have your horse standing with someone at their head and walk slowly towards them with clippers in hand, talking to your horse and try to gently stroke your horse with the clippers. If the horse is comfortable with them, you then can turn them on. If all is well you can start clipping and always against the hair. So this means that you will be moving the clippers mostly upwards in many different positions. Most people usually start at the shoulders and go towards the neck and head area, later moving towards the back and rump of the horse. Remember that you are clipping the whole horse, head, legs and under the belly, and up inside of the hind legs. As long as you are clipping against the hair you will get a good clip. I found out that it is easier to hold the legs up or have someone else hold them up for me when clipping and the horses seem to do better that way. When clipping the hind legs, be very, very careful. If a horse is frightened of the clippers, they may be inclined to try and kick at them or even you if they become angry and are not tranquilized. Another option is to use a humane twitch. A twitch is used by placing it on their nose and applying pressure. This is an acupuncture point and will help some horses to calm down and be more accepting of their situation. I do advise an inexperienced horseman to have someone show them how to use a twitch before actually using one. When clipping a horse’s face, you may want to switch to a small set of clippers that are usually quieter and more acceptable to the horse. Clipping out the inside of the horses ears is optional. If the horse object strongly, hold the horses ears closed tightly with one hand and just clip flush to edge of the ear. At least you can get the worst of the fuzzies that are going every which way. Clipping an average horse can take approximately two hours or so depending on the horses’ cooperation.
Body clipping your horse is a daunting task but the rewards are worth it. There are other options. There is what is called a trace clip. This is where you clip starting from behind the ears in the center of the neck, across the shoulders making a wide berth across the sides of the ribs, over the flank area onto the side of the horses’ rump. There are many variation of a trace clip and after you become more familiar with clipping, you can make your own decision on exactly what clip is best for your horse. The other option is to hire a person that does this on a daily basis and can clip a horse in about an hour or so. If you have a horse that is horrified by the whole process, please heavily sedate your animal with the help of a veterinarian. A severely frightened horse is a dangerous animal, especially if you are adamant about getting the job done. Safety for you and your horse comes first. If it gets to be too much of an issue, just abandon the whole idea. Better to be safe than in the hospital. The main objective here is to make life a little easier in keeping your horse clean, well groomed and comfortable during workout sessions. As usual, another act of love but not just for the horse; the groom will love you as this will certainly make their job considerably easier.
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