The horse’s coat grows and is shed with the seasons of the year. It grows to its full length by the first part of the winter, is shed in the spring, and is at its best by mid-summer. An early cold spell may encourage the coat to grow early and a warm early spring may cause the coat to be shed early. The growth and texture of the coat vary very much from breed to breed. Whilst well-bred animals in most breeds have silky coats, the mountain and moorland breeds tend to grow longer, thicker coats than the thoroughbred or the Arab.
The active riding horse, or competition horse, cannot be fully trained or worked without being clipped at some stage, or stages, throughout the year. The horse is clipped for four main reasons: to enable hint to be worked hard; to enable him to dry off quickly after work; to facilitate grooming and keeping him clean and healthy; to improve appearance.
Electric clippers are now universally used, making clipping at ask within the ability of most competent horse owners. When selecting a set of clippers, apart from the price, the following points should be considered:
- 1. How much work will they be required to do? Should they be heavy duty, capable of clipping many horses or will they bemused for only one horse perhaps twice a year?
- 2. How heavy are they? Clipping horses is quite hard work and the weight of the clippers may be a consideration.
- 3. Do they get hot in use?
- 4. Are they easy to clean and maintain?
- 5. Are spare parts available?
- 6. Can the blades be re-sharpened?
- There are many makes and various types of clippers on the market, from heavy-duty to lightweight, battery-operated models. It is therefore worth making a thorough study of those available before deciding on which model to buy.
There are several accepted types of clips, and the one selected should be the one most suitable for the horse and the work in which he is engaged.
Having decided upon the type of clip several preparations must be made before clipping can start.
The horse should be clipped in a suitable, well-lit loose box on a dry floor. A thick rubber floor is an advantage but not often available. A competent assistant can be very helpful, particularly when the horse is difficult to clip. It is sensible for the person clipping the horse to wear overalls, a hat or head scarf, and rubber-soled boots.
Spare blades should be readily at hand, together with a can of light machine oil and a small plastic dish of paraffin for cleaning off the blades from time to time. Needless to say, clipping should start with at least one, preferably two sets of new or newly sharpened blades available for use.
Consideration should be given to the extra rugs that the horse will require after his coat has been removed, and these should be readily at hand.
The most important aspect of all in preparation for clipping is that the horse should be thoroughly clean and dry. Clipping will almost certainly be difficult and uncomfortable if the horse has not been thoroughly groomed. He should be fitted with a head collar and loosely tied to a ring in the wall or held by an assistant. A hay net will help to keep him occupied.
The type of clip to be made can be marked out on the horse with chalk to help those who may not have an eye for a straight line. Tailor’s chalk is useful for this purpose. Where a saddle patch is to be left, the numnah can be rested on the horse’s back in the correct position and drawn around with chalk to help to get the correct size and shape of the patch.
Clipping should start at the neck and work towards the rear of the horse. The clippers are used in long strokes against the lie of the coat. It should not be necessary to apply pressure, the weight of the clippers is sufficient to achieve an even clip. The machine must be cleaned and oiled at regular intervals throughout the clip. If it gets hot clipping must stop while it cools down. Should the horse break into a sweat, work must stop, as it is not possible to clip a wet horse. If the blades become blunt they must be replaced and the tension carefully set with the adjuster screw to achieve the best results.
Horses that object to being clipped are usually distressed because the clippers are hot, blunt, or both, or they have not been introduced tactfully to the sound and feel of the clipping machine. If necessary a twitch can be used, but this should only be as a last resort.
The head, ears, and other difficult parts should be left until last. The hair that protrudes from the ears can be trimmed level with the edge of the ear. Heels and fetlocks can be trimmed with scissors and a comb, but scissors must never be used on the mane or tail.
Sometime at the end of September or the beginning of October, the coat will begin to look dull and coarse. This is an indication that the winter coat is about to start growing. Hunters are usually required to look their best for the opening meet during the first week in November, so most owners will therefore delay the first full clip until the last week in October. This is a good time to clip as the winter coat will be well established. The horse may well have been given a ‘chaser’ or a ‘trace’ clip six to eight weeks before this to enable Hint to be got fit for the hunting season.
The coat will continue to grow during the winter and a se condor even a third clip may be required. The final clip should not be made after the end of January as this may well spoil the growth of the new spring coat. The rate of growth of the horse’s coat will vary considerably between types of horse, and the climatic conditions will also have an effect. The decision on when and how to clip must be made bearing these factors in mind.
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