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To clip or not to clip?

Friday 7th October, 2016

As the temperatures drop and we pull our winter woollies out of storage you could be forgiven for thinking that clipping a horse at this time of year is nothing short of cruel. True, the thick woolly coat which appears as winter sets in is nature’s way of protecting your equine from biting winds and freezing temperatures, but it can also cause no end of issues for horses up and down the UK.

Sweaty situation

There is no question that hardy breeds such as draught horses and cobs that live out all year round will need their winter coats, however they can cause big problems during exercise as a hairy horse will sweat far more than his clipped counterpart. Now this in itself is not a major issue, the problem arises when the exercise is finished. A clipped horse will dry easily following a quick rub with a towel, and rugging with a stable blanket will keep him toasty. However, an unclipped equine will not dry off if left to fend for himself, and the cold sweat will lower his core body temperature, making him extremely uncomfortable and predisposing him to chills.

Rug routine

If you do decide to clip your horse, you will need to be prepared to rug him up each day. Understandably, this could become more than a little inconvenient for horse owners with long working hours and hectic schedules, so you need to consider if it will be easier for you to deal with a hairy horse rather than the rigmarole of rugging up. Furthermore, clipped horses will require stabling which will also add to your daily routine, so make sure you have adequate shelter provision for your horse.

Unclipped horses can still be exercised throughout the winter, but owners need to be careful to exercise long before sunset to give the him chance to dry out fully and prevent the inevitable chill setting in as the sun goes down. That said, even the hardiest of breeds may still need a turnout rug in extreme weather conditions, so don’t assume you won’t need one if your horse is unclipped.

Choosing the correct clip

There are several ‘styles’ of clip used on horses, and the clip you choose will depend upon the exercise or competition schedule of each horse or pony. The ‘Bib clip’ is the lightest clip where hair is only removed from the neck and underbelly. This is the most common clip for field kept horses who are only worked lightly as they still retain the bulk of their winter coat for protection.

Horses that have light to moderate exercise may require a ‘Trace Clip’ is an extension of the bib clip, but all hair is removed under the belly to the loins and part way up the flanks. A ‘High Trace Clip’ can extend higher up the horse’s neck to the cheeks and up to the saddle area. Competition horses will often have the ‘Blanket Clip’ which removes all hair, leaving just an area as big as an exercise sheet, and the ‘Hunter Clip’ goes one step further, leaving the area of a numnah.

If you are unsure as to whether you need to clip your horse or pony, and which clip would be most suitable the consult a more experienced owner or your local tack shop owner for advice.

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