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A horse in his natural state is fully protected against the elements and can survive even the coldest winters. In the wild horses grow long, thick protective coats during the winter and are much better at staying warm than cooling off. Their bodies are designed to generate and store heat unlike humans who evolved from a warmer climate.

Horses begin to shed their summer coat in the beginning of August (UK) and grow a thick coat as their bodies prepare 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.

If you wish to do more than gentle hacking your horse will need to be partially clipped to remove excess hair; this allows the horse to work more effectively and also helps keep him clean.

Reasons for clipping

·          For quick drying after exercise

·          To allow a horse to carry out fast work without too much stress

·          To conserve condition by avoiding heavy sweating

·          Makes grooming easier

·          Maintains a smart looking horse

·          If your horse is too hot during exercise, winter or summer, and is in danger of overheating, or

·          Is in danger of becoming chilled while waiting to dry in cold weather

Your choice of clip depends on the type of work your horse will be doing over the winter period, taking into account how much he usually sweats. You need to establish why and ultimately what sort of clip you need to give your horse

Types of clip

Belly and neck clip

This is where 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 too hot. 

Chaser clip

The chaser clip is where the hair is removed from under the belly and continues upwards between and around the front legs and up a line on the neck. This clip and variations are often seen on thoroughbred horses at many racing yards where the staffs are dealing with new and unknown horses which may be likely to kick. It is also a good for young horses that are being clipped for the first time as it is a quick clip and stays away from the tickly parts.

Trace clip

There are two kinds of trace clip, 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 horses 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 on. 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.

Blanket clip

A blanket 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

Hunter clip

The hunter clip is when the legs as far as the elbows and thighs and a saddle patch are left 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 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.

Full clip

A Full clip 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 become unusable or require repair.