This video shows a simple Masterson Method yoga-style exercise which can help release tension in your horse’s neck, shoulder and withers. Jim Masterson demonstrates how it should be done and the responses to look out for, using his unique method of bodywork that recognizes and follows the visual responses of the horse to touch.
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
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.
LOW OR HIGH 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.
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.
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.
It may be the media buzzword, but is obesity really a threat to equine health?Read More
It can be hard to tell whether your horse has a weight problem. The likelihood is that - unless you feel pretty certain he hasn’t - he could well do!
Leisure horses are at particular risk of being overweight as their workload isn’t great and they are treated with loving kindness by their owners. But overfeeding and underworking a horse are not the signs of a caring owner.
If your horse is overweight then following the advice outlined here will help a great deal.
Get the weight off your horse
- Late winter/early spring is the ideal time to get and keep the weight off your horse – before the spring grass kicks in
- Take rugs off your horse earlier than usual, as he will use fat to keep himself warm. Unclipped natives with shelter shouldn’t need rugging at all – and if you are used to rugging your horse up very warmly, try using a lighter-weight version of the rug you would normally use.
- Section your field off for strip-grazing or invest in a grazing muzzle, and use these before the spring grass arrives. Remember it is better for your horse to be carrying less condition as he goes into spring, as he is designed to put weight on as the grass grows.
- Put more animals in the same field to share the grass between more mouths. Maintain the grazing correctly, picking up droppings and so on.
- Mow your grazing to mimic having more animals in the same area. Make sure no cuttings are left in the field.
- Start an exercise regime. If your horse is very overweight you will need to take it slowly. The best form of exercise for weight loss is actually regular brisk walking – so try to build this into your daily routine.
- Remember never, ever to put your horse on a starvation diet. He is a trickle feeding and needs regular food going through his system to avoid complications such as colic. Speak to a feedline for advice on your individual situation.
- Soak your hay for 12 hours to remove the calories so you can feed your horse lots of bulk without adding to any weight problems. Use fresh water each time.
- You can also feed oat or barley straw as an alternative to soaked hay or to dilute unsoaked hay. Check your horse’s droppings to make sure the straw fibres are no more than 2 mm long. If they are, straw is not suitable for your horse and you could risk colic.
- If you feed straw or soaked hay, you must feed a general vitamin and mineral supplement as well. You could also use a small-holed haynet to help slow down your horse’s eating.
Assess his diet
- If you are giving your horse a small feed simply to carry a supplement, it could be enough to stop him losing excess weight. Can you feed the supplement in a way that provides fewer calories?
- If you use a concentrate feed, speak to the manufacturer to find out whether you are doing light, medium or hard work – their definitions may be different to yours.
Weigh your feed
- You may be surprised how much extra you are feeding. Find a container that fits exactly the amount you should be giving and no more. It is very easy for half a scoop to turn into three-quarters or more.
Do you really need that rug?
- It’s very easy for us to rug our horses because we wouldn’t like to be out in the winter without a coat, but remember that horses already have waterproof coats and their own central heating systems. Digesting fibre generates a lot of heat, which helps keep the horse warm from the inside out. Some horses will need to wear a rug but if your horse is overweight consider whether he could go without or if a lighter weight rug would be more suitable.
Keep monitoring your horse
- Fat-score and use a weightape on your horse every two weeks. You will notice any changes in weight far more quickly than you could by eye. Make sure you use the tape at the same time of day, as horses’ weight fluctuates significantly over a 24-hour period.
- Keep an eye on how your horse is affected by any changes you make. What is suitable at one stage may not be suitable a few weeks down the line.
- Remember, if your horse’s weight changes significantly at any point, his tack may no longer fit. Poorly fitting tack can lead to a variety of problems, so get this checked by an expert.
- Finally, always give your horse time to adjust to any changes you make.