How much of the horse do I clip?
A horse in his natural state has all the protection he needs against the winter weather, unfortunately to do more than gently hacking they need some or their entire winter coat removed to enable them to work efficiently and to help us keep them clean.
Horses in the wild grow long, thick protective coats during the winter; they are better at staying warm than cooling off. Their bodies are designed to generate and store heat unlike humans who evolved from a warmer climate.
Beginning in August (in the UK) horses and ponies start to get rid of their light summer coat and grow a thick coat as their bodies prepare a defence for winter. This thick coat serves them well in cold, wet weather with sparse feed; as a free roaming herbivore and a prey animal they are constantly on the move, but we ask them to work and perform in ways that nature never expected.
In addition, we have created an unnatural winter environment by stabling our horses out of the elements, feeding well, and providing artificial warmth through stable rugs. The extra protection is no longer needed and can sometimes do more harm than good, especially if your horse is being asked to work regularly. Leaving a long thick coat on a horse that is stabled or one that is often exercised can cause problems. Being too hot can actually cause a horse to lose condition, even if he is being properly fed, keeping a horse in good condition can become almost impossible.
Reasons for clipping: -
The hair is removed from under the belly upwards between the forelegs and up the lower line of the neck and lower jaw. This is suitable for a child’s pony or an adult’s hack as it permits the horse to be turned out into a field but also allows the horse or pony to do some work without getting overly hot.
The hair is removed from under the belly upwards between and around the front legs and up a line on the neck, (dependent on how high you require the line to be). This clip and variations are often seen in thoroughbred yards where the horse is unknown or is likely to kick. It is useful on a youngster, which is being clipped for the first time as it does not take as long as the others and is practical.
There are two types, the high and the low trace. The coat is removed from the belly and the underside of the neck. Hair is left on the head, the topside of the neck, body and legs for warmth and protection. For a low trace only a small section of hair is removed from the belly and neck. A high trace takes more hair from these areas going further up the horse's flank.
This clip allows horses and ponies to be exercised without getting too hot. It also permits them to continue being turned-out in the winter with a New Zealand rug. This clip is a useful compromise for a horse kept at grass, which cannot have a hunter clip. A trace clip was often used on carriage horses and follows the lines of harness traces on the underside of the neck and belly, but remains popular for riding horses.
This type of clip would suit a horse that has regular exercise, is turned-out in the field and does various events at the weekends. The coat is removed completely from the head, neck and flanks, leaving only an area of hair that looks like an exercise sheet over the back and hindquarters and on the legs. The hair on the legs is left mainly for warmth and protection
The legs as far as the elbows and thighs, and a saddle-patch are left with unclipped. The hair on the legs acts as a protection against the cold, mud, cracked heels and injury from thorns, however they can be carefully trimmed and the saddle-patch saves a sore or scalded back.
Care must be taken when clipping around the saddle-patch; if it is too far forward the horse will look short in the shoulder and long is the back. If however it is cut straight behind the shoulder and allowed to come slightly back behind the saddle it will improve the appearance of the horse. This clip is often used on a horse, which is in hard work. The hunter clip is smart looking but requires an owner with a good sense of stable management and rug routine. A horse that is clipped out should never be left un-rugged as he will quickly become cold and his work should be active.
This is usually given to competition horses that compete in the winter months. The whole of the coat is removed, including body, legs and head. This clip looks very smart but does require careful stable management. Horses with a full clip need to be rugged up at all times and may need to wear stable bandages to help maintain warmth during the very cold months. These should be applied carefully and evenly, not too tight but must be secure to stop them coming off and becoming tangled possibly causing injury to the horse. It is also wise to have spare rugs, just in case your main rugs becomes unusable or requires repair.