Winter is coming, and for many people that means cozy nights bundled up by the fireplace with a warm hot chocolate. Not if you're an equestrian! For us, this means body clipping season is upon us. While the rest of the world is sporting cozy wool sweaters, we'll be rocking the ever-so-trendy (and rather uncomfortable) horse-hair body suits.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or you're lubing up your first set of brand new clippers and don't know where to start (I personally recommend the legs), here are some helpful tips for your body clipping endeavors!
- Make sure you have the right tools! A few body clipping necessities include clippers, blades, and clipper coolant. These three items are the most basic and important tools when body clipping. A hardy pair of clippers is important because there is nothing worse than a motor blowing out with half of your horse shaved! There are many reputable brands, makes, and models which can be bought online or in-store at most pet or tack stores. Not only is a good set of clippers important, but you won't get far with old, dull blades! A good rule of thumb is to have at least two pairs of new or sharpened blades on hand when clipping just in case something goes wrong with one you'll have a back-up. Also, it is of the utmost importance that your blades cut the same length! Speaking from experience, it is not fun to tag-team a body clip only to meet in the middle and realize your partner in crime shaved their half to a different length. In general, a size 10 or T-10 blade (both cut to 1.5mm but T-10 covers more surface area) is used for a standard body clip, although if you want the hair to be left longer a T-84 is also a good blade. Finally, always have coolant on hand! Your horse will appreciate every effort to keep the clipper blade cool, and (hopefully) reward you by standing still! While these three items will get the job done, you might also need an extension cord, brush to get rid of loose hair, and a replacement blade runner (this is truly life changing) if your clippers are old or frequently used.
- Bathe that filthy animal! Nothing destroys clippers and your final body clip look faster than a dirty horse. And when I say bathe, I mean go the whole nine-yards! Shampoo your horse like your life depends on it! Another pro-tip is to mix baby or bath oil into your shampoo to make your horses coat smooth and easy to clip.
- Dress appropriately! Maybe wearing your nicest show breeches is not the best idea when body clipping your horse. This is a friendly reminder that horse hair will make its way in, on, and under every article of clothing you wear (and your eyes, nose, and ears). Jeans and an old tee-shirt are great for body clipping. For those extremists out there, wearing garbage bags with holes for your head and arms works fabulously at keeping hair out of your underwear. A happy in between is a windbreaker or light rain coat because hair can't penetrate the material, and their hoods provide added protection! P.S. There is no shame in wearing goggles, too.
- Plan a two to four hour window to clip! If you're experienced, well-equipped in the clipper department, and only shaving a small pony you'll finish in less than two hours. For the rest of us, plan for some late nights; make sure your crossties are well-lit, and it never hurts to have a head-lamp on hand!
Shots shots shots shots shots everybody!
So you've made it through the preparation, your horse is clean, and you've both completed the necessary meditative sequences to get into the proper body-clipping-head-space.
- Now you clip! Everyone has their own clipping method; whether you start with all four legs or go half-and-half, there is no right or wrong way to clip a horse.
A few friendly reminders:
- Go against the hair! To get the closest clip with little to no lines make sure you clip directly against the natural hair growth.
- Please make sure your horse is standing level when clipping the little mountain peak on the base of their tail. Nothing screams amateur hour like the Leaning Tower of Pisa on your horse's butt.
- Check your blades and spray coolant frequently! Unfortunately, clippers heat up pretty fast when body clipping, but coolant will help prevent this and your horse will appreciate not receiving a full-body brand (ouch!).
- Have fun!(?)
- Give yourself a pat on the back! You've survived! Your horse looks beautiful and is easily maintainable now that their Rapunzel locks are gone (whew!)
- Give your horse a pat on the back! They've yet to successfully kill you! Your horse (if time and weather permits) will also appreciate a bath after they've been clipped to wash off the excess hair clippings and clipper oil.
- Don't forget to blanket! Now that you've removed your horse's natural defense against the cold, make sure you blanket them appropriately! And if your horse is a destroyer like mine, I recommend having a few back-up blankets on hand as well.