Competitive endurance horses are highly trained athletes that compete over long distances -- up to 100 miles in 24 hours. Unlike human athletes, your competitive equine partner is unable to shed a layer of clothing as he trains and competes. He depends on you to help him remain comfortable by making his “clothing,” that is body hair, compatible with weather conditions and physical work. Help him by body clipping him when appropriate.
When to Body Clip
Body clips are done typically as the days get shorter, the weather turns colder and your horse’s coat of hair grows thicker. It’s harder for your horse’s sweat to evaporate efficiently with a heavy layer of hair. The longer it takes for the sweat to dry, the more he is prone to getting chills. This is why most body clipping takes place in the fall, and if you train and compete throughout the winter, you’ll likely have to clip again before he starts to lose his winter coat on his own. If you horse sweats heavily year-round and keeps a fairly thick coat, you may need to clip at least some hair all year.
If you give your horse the winter off from training and competition, don’t clip him.
Type of Clip
Select the type of clip you give your endurance horse based on his hair growth and his physical schedule. Endurance hoses train and compete hard, so select either a hunter or full clip. The hunter clip leaves a patch of hair under the saddle, just slightly smaller than the saddle so it can’t be seen, and on the legs. This allows the rest of your horse’s body to sweat efficiently. A full clip is just that: everything is clipped. You also can do a full clip, but leave a patch under the saddle; some horse owners feel this gives horses extra protection from saddle rubs and sores, particularly during the rigors of long endurance rides.
Clipping Your Horse
If you’ve never body clipped a horse before, work with an experienced clipper the first few times, as it takes practice to do it evenly. If your horse is comfortable with the clippers it will be a lot easier on you. Make sure your horse is clean. When he is completely dry, start with whatever part of his body is the least sensitive. If he needs to be clipped and absolutely won’t stand still, ask your vet to sedate him or give you an oral sedation to give to him.
Body clippers are heavier than the smaller stable clippers most horse owners keep on hand for clipping hair on chins, ears and feet. You’ll need a heavy-duty blade for longer hair throughout the body, and a smaller one for the head and ears. Depending on your ability, and your horse’s size and cooperation, it can take you an hour or more to clip a horse completely; clean your blades periodically and keep them lubricated with oil. If your clippers run hot, stop and take a break so they can cool off. If you give your horse a bad experience with body clipping he’ll take more convincing the next time around.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.