How to Clip a Horse's Ears: Step-by-Step

How to Clip a Horse's Ears: Step-by-Step

Expert advice for trimming a horse's sensitive ears.

western horse with clipped/trimmed ears (Credit: AQHA)

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By AQHA Professional Horsewoman and judge Margo Lea Ball 

A lot of horses are sensitive about having their ear hair trimmed, and it can be due to a number of reasons.

  1. Handling the horse’s ears too roughly.
  2. Using blades that are not sharp, which pull the hair instead of cutting it.
  3. Letting the blades get too hot.

To troubleshoot these issues, especially Nos. 2 and 3:

  1. Make sure your blades are sharp and clean before you begin.
  2. Clip the ears first, then the muzzle and the rest of the horse's face. By clipping the ears first, you're clipping the most sensitive part before the blades heat up.

With a perfectly clipped horse, you'll be ready to compete in early spring shows. Learn tips and tricks from AQHA Professional Horsewoman Margo Lea Ball in the free e-book Horse Clipping Tips. Margo shares horse-grooming tips and secrets with her step-by-step process for clipping a wooly horse.

Think about the horse's welfare when clipping and you can alleviate a lot of discomfort. Here's the step-by-step instructions for how I trim a horse's ears:

Step 1 – When a horse is especially hairy, I use regular clippers with size 10 and 40 blades, a smaller set of clippers for inside the ear and a product to lubricate your blades. I use Oster Kool Lube because it also cools your blades if they get hot.

Step 2 – Think about blending. When a horse's ear is especially fuzzy, you can’t clip the same as you do when the hair is shorter. You don’t want to clip too closely because the hair is too long; instead, you want to think about blending the hair.

Step 3 – When I start, I turn the clippers on and let the horse get used to the noise a little first. As you handle the ear, think of supporting it with your hand, don’t grab it.

Step 4 – On a fuzzy ear, I start with a No. 10, which is the largest blade available. When a horse is coming off the winter with a thicker hair coat, you want to start with the larger blades – you’ll be able to blend the hair better. The key is to make long, sweeping cuts and use a real soft touch. You start with just getting off the extra hair and trimming from the tip around the outside of the ear.

Step 5 – Take care of the longer fuzzy hairs on the back of the ear, too. Stay with your No. 10 blades, and turn your clippers over so you clip with the hair and blend it. I’ll come back later with a smaller blade to touch it up.

Step 6 – Before I clip the inside of the ear, I take some old pantyhose, such as a knee-high, and gently put that in the horse's ear. It keeps the hair from falling in the ear and helps with the noise. It makes it more comfortable for the horse.

Step 7 – For the inside of the ears, now I put the No. 40 blades on. Again, you want to support the ear with your hand and make long, smooth strokes with the clippers. To get the hair inside, support the ear and gently turn it inside out. Don’t grab.

Step 8 – When I want to get the inside corner, I use my smaller clippers. They are equivalent to No. 40 blades. They are a lot easier to use there. These smaller clippers are especially handy for clipping foals or yearlings because their ears are smaller.

Step 9 – After you get the hair out of the inside of the ear, then touch up a little bit around the outside edge with the No. 40 blades. The key here is a light touch and a lot of blending – turn your clippers over to clip.

Step 10 – The ears are done. Now we can move on to clipping the rest of the horse's face.

Must-Have Tools for Clipping Ears

  • Clippers
  • Size 10 blade
  • Size 40 blade
  • Oster Kool Lube (see Step 1)
  • Pantyhose (see Step 6)

Learn how to clip your horse's entire body – ears, muzzle, face, legs, you name it – with AQHA's free Horse Clipping Tips e-book. Get more horse-grooming tips and secrets with her step-by-step process for clipping a wooly horse.