Clipping for Beginners

Get started clipping your horse with these top-notch tips from Dana Boyd-Miller.

Dana Boyd-Miller has been a professional in the horse industry for more than 25 years. With a long list of equine specialties, she is highly sought after for her talent as a master body clipper, and she works on some of the country’s best show ponies, hunters and jumpers.

Here she offers advice to America’s Horse Daily readers:

Start With Trimming

Trimming is different than body clipping and a lot less overwhelming. Common areas that are trimmed are the whiskers, bridle path, ears, jaw line and lower legs.

Remember that horses are animals of flight. When they get nervous, they move around. They aren’t being obstinate; they are just following their instincts. Having someone hold the horse while you trim him can be helpful.

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It doesn’t matter if you work on the legs or trim around the head first. What does matter is that you touch the animal in the area you will be working on before actually clipping. This will let him know where you’ll be and it allows you to read his acceptance to being worked on.

The more frequently you practice trimming, the more comfortable you and your horse will become.

Body Clipping Techniques

I use a two-speed detachable blade clipper. I like to use the slower speed on sensitive areas, such as the face and parts of the leg. I also start body clipping in the low speed and switch to the higher speed after determining that the horse is comfortable.

It’s important to acclimate the horse by desensitizing him to the clippers. Turn on the clippers in one hand and touch the horse with the other hand. If he’s nervous, be patient. Don’t force the clipping process. Wait until he is more comfortable.

Next, with the clipper turned on, touch the horse with the back of your hand while holding the clipper. If he is accepting, rub your hand with the clipper all over his body and down all of his legs. Remember, horses are left-and right-brained. Do the same thing on both sides. Then, place the clipper directly on the animal and touch him all over. You may choose to remove the blade for the desensitizing. If you do, remember to hold the machine with the blade end pointing down.

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Clipping Strategies

Once the horse seems comfortable with the clipping process, begin in a large neutral area. The left shoulder is a good place to start. It is a large clipping surface, and the left side is where we walk up to the horse normally. Don’t go directly in front of the horse or directly behind him.

Think in terms of progressions of the horse’s body, and always touch the spot you are planning to clip before you begin clipping. After you’ve finished the shoulder, go toward the barrel, then the hip, then touch up the shoulder and go up the neck toward the head. Clip the outside of both left legs and clip the inside of the right legs. You have safe access to the inside of the opposite legs here.

Once you’ve finished the left side, go to the right side, following the same pattern.

The last area to clip is the head, because horses are most likely to be sensitive about it.

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember, there are a variety of educational tools available to guide you in the process like AQHA's FREE Clipping Tips report.

Once you feel comfortable with the grooming process, you will convey that confidence to your horse.

Dana is also featured in the Andis DVD "Clipping Your Horse."