A guide to clipping your horse

Before you fire up the clippers, think carefully about how much hair you need to remove. Take your horse’s workload, lifestyle and age into consideration – can you keep him well-rugged and warm enough if you clip out his body completely, or would a partial trim where he sweats most frequently be sufficient? The horses I work with need short coats, but a leisure horse won’t have to be so closely clipped, and most don’t need their head clipped right out.

Neck and belly clip

Neck and belly clip

An underside trim, ideal for the horse in light work who is turned out.

This popular clip is not too involved: mistakes aren’t obvious and it still leaves your horse with plenty of coat all over. It’s also called the ‘sweat clip’ as it takes off hair only where the horse sweats most. You can also remove hair over the tops of his front legs.

How to clip a belly and gullet clip

1.     Chalk your guidelines. For the belly, take a line from his elbows, horizontally back to his stifles.

2.     Clip as for a bib clip, or an apron clip if you’re taking off the hair over his forelegs, too.

3.     Move to the belly: if he’s wary, stroke along it with your hand in long, firm strokes first.

4.     Don’t be too light with your clippers as it tickles him more.

Clipping over and inside the elbow

1.     Have a helper pull the foreleg forwards to make the area you’re clipping flatter and firmer. Pull any loose skin taut so you don’t nick it.

2.     Follow the muscle that runs diagonally along the top of the foreleg to get a neat angle.

Remember, a horse’s winter coat provides protection from the elements, so if you clip any hair, rug up accordingly to keep him warm – especially if he’s spending time in the field. Remember, too, that he’ll be pretty fresh to ride on a frosty morning if you remove all his winter woollies.

Trace clip

Trace clip


Suitable for the horse in light or medium work. A higher trace can include the whole or part of the head. 

Named after the traces of a carriage, this clip follows straight horizontal lines along the horse’s body and demands accuracy. Trace clips can be low, medium or high. A high trace clip also takes off hair from the horse’s head. High trace clips give the illusion of making the legs appear longer on a short-legged horse.

How to clip a trace or chaser clip

1.     For a low trace clip, take a line around 7in below where your saddle flap lies; for medium, use the bottom of the saddle flap as a guide; for high, take a line about 5in above the bottom of the saddle flap.

2.     Make your guidelines clear, straight and symmetrical on each side, especially over the backs of the hindquarters.

3.     To neaten up a horizontal line, turn the clippers side-on so the blades cut neatly across the jagged edge.

4.     For a chaser clip, take a line from behind the horse’s shoulder up to behind his ears. Take off more neck hair and all the head hair.

Hunter clip

Hunter clip


Suitable for the horse in light or medium work. A higher trace can include the whole or part of the head. For hunting or athletic activities, the legs and saddle area are left on for protection. For a full clip these can be removed completely.

The hunter is a variation of the full clip, but with leg and saddle patch hair. It’s good for horses who work hard but are likely to pick up thorns, knocks and cuts. Leaving the hair over the saddle patch helps keep sweat away from the skin.

For a full clip, the whole coat is taken off. It can be used as a first clip and swapped for a different one later in the year. Great care must be taken to keep horses with a full clip warm, especially at night.

How to clip a hunter/full clip

1.     For a hunter clip, mark neat diagonal guidelines on the tops of his front and hind legs. Place his saddle on and draw an outline around it, with a 2in margin all around. Clip all other hair apart from the legs and saddle patch.

2.     For a full clip, take off all hair.

3.     When clipping the inside of the hind legs, move the tail out of the way and clip from the opposite side.

4.     Leave a neat ‘v’ of unclipped hair above the root of your horse’s tail. Take a point about 6in from each side of his tail and take a line up to his spine.

Blanket clip

Blanket clip


The blanket clip offers warmth over the back but allows efficient cooling during and after harder exercise.

A ‘blanket’ of hair is left over the horse from wither to tail and on his legs. It’s good for horses in medium to hard work but still leaves leg and hindquarter hair, which is good for warmth and protection. You’ll need warm rugs and neck covers if you use this clip and want to turn your horse out in winter. Blanket clips give the impression of your horse’s back being shorter, so can flatter a long-backed horse.

How to clip a blanket clip

1.     Be guided by your saddle: the front edge of your blanket should sit just in front of the saddle, and the bottom edge in line with your saddle flaps (you can come a little higher if you like).

2.     Take off the hair from neck, chest, head, belly, and the tops of his hind legs, taking care to go over straight lines with the edge of your clippers: this clip needs to be neat.

3.     You’ll take off all the neck hair: brush the mane over to the wrong side and then clip up to a centimetre below the roots of his mane. Repeat on the other side. Don’t come up too high or you’ll clip into his mane, which will result in messy regrowth.