Body Clipping in Late Winter

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Partial Clip

Q: I was thinking about body clipping my horse in February when he goes back to work to prepare for the spring show season. Is that too late to clip? Will it harm his summer coat?

A: There is no set point that is too late to clip or that will interfere with your horse’s summer coat. He will constantly shed old hair follicles, which are replaced with new ones. I always tell people to base clipping decisions on their horse’s workload and how much he sweats, not by the calendar.

There are numerous types of clips you can use, starting with a strip clip or low trace, which would be similar to keeping your jacket on and just unzipping it. The next step up would be the high trace or blanket clip for a horse in heavier work that still needs to keep warm when you’re in the slower stages of activity. After that would be the hunt clip, which leaves the legs and sometimes the head and saddle pad area unclipped for protection. Finally, there is the full-body, head-to-toe clip.

If you live in any of the Southern states where it is warm during the day and cold at night in the winter, I’d probably lean toward clipping and using blankets.

Here in Florida, we have high humidity, so unclipped horses are more prone to bacterial and fungal issues. Since there is never a hard freeze to kill anything in the soil, long hair can be a perfect place for bacteria and fungi to grow when a horse rolls and gets sandy soil trapped in his coat.

The Southwest also gets very hot, but since the air is a lot drier, you don’t see the fungal problems. Body clipping is strictly to help horses cool out.

In the Midwest and Northeast, horses may not need to be clipped at all in the winter if they aren’t in heavy work and getting sweaty. If you ride throughout the winter in an indoor arena, a partial clip might be a good idea, depending on how much your horse lives outdoors and how hard you work him. Even something as simple as a strip clip can help keep your horse from getting belly scald when the mud thaws in the spring.

Liked this article? Here are others on clipping:
Partial Clips: The Best of Both Worlds
Great Clips

DANA BOYD-MILLER has been a professional body clipper since 1997.


This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe!

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