There’s something ironic about the fact that we’re putting our coats on – and getting ready to take our horses’ coats off. Yes, it’s clipping time – a chance to marvel at how horse hair can find its way under the tightest clothing, even if you fasten rubber bands over your sleeves.
Some people have already turned fluffy beasts into sleek beauties. If you haven’t, but plan to, please think twice before removing every hair. How many horses and ponies really need a full clip – and how many owners opt for taking everything off, in a manner of speaking, because they are either frightened of attempting alternatives or simply haven’t thought about it?
Keeping a fully clipped horse warm enough takes an especially conscientious owner, especially when it’s cold, raining and windy. It’s said to see riders standing around in collecting rings or meandering around the roads with fully clipped horses, without at least keeping their animals’ backs and loins dry. After all, they wouldn’t wait around or go for a stroll without a coat.
Some owners are worried that if they try a clip which takes off only part of a horse’s coat, they won’t keep the lines straight, or will end up with one side different from the other. The answer is to use baler string and chalk – place the string over the withers or around the quarters and get a helper to chalk guidelines. Clip just outside the guidelines to allow a little leeway – for example, when your horse decides to rest a leg, resulting in an artistic but unwanted deviation from your line – and you can tidy up afterwards.
If you’re concerned about appearance, a minimal clip can achieve maximum improvement. Unless showing guidelines or personal preference dictates otherwise, trimming jawline hair proves that the beautifully chiselled head you admired all summer wasn’t a figment of your imagination. Similarly, a bib clip, where hair is taken off the throat and chest, means a hairy horse in light work is less likely to sweat on sunny winter days.
Clever clippers can “improve” conformation. A dealer friend can transform a long-backed or short-necked horse with a carefully-planned blanket or chaser clip respectively. All her four-year-olds get what she says is a traditional dealer clip; she clips the front end in a truncated chaser clip and either trims the jawline or clips the face up to the line of the bridle cheekpieces.
Professional clippers may choose to clip out the whole of a horse’s head. I never dare, because I have nightmares of the horse spooking while the clippers are near his eyes. I’ve occasionally seen horses with circles of hair left around the eyes, but that looks – well, I wouldn’t want my horse to be laughed at.
So be brave. Go for what suits your horse and his lifestyle and don’t be frightened of learning your lines!
And if you’re proud of the way your clipped – or unclipped – horse or pony looks in winter, we’d love to see a picture…