With our show season in full swing and all the bigger shows coming up because the weather is nice, sorta, its been cloudy and a bit rainy here this week..., horses are being body clipped by the dozens. Most of them are sporting a sleek new look of being nearly bald. There are a few advantages to this, but the main concern should be the horse and their warmth. If you are considering shaving them down, have a plan. Have adequate feed, blankets and shelter for them before you even think about picking up those clippers!
Everyone might be wondering why I say that, because I live in Arizona for heaven sakes. It gets hot in the desert! But it also get cold too. We hit temperatures in the mid to high 20's at night, waterlines freeze and break and yes, horses get cold when you shave them bald this time of year. Why else would they have a thick winter coat? You know, the one you are about to clip off...
So you have a blanket on hand, maybe even a slinky, sleazy, jammies or whatever you wish to call them- a stretchy Lycra hoodie and maybe even a full body sheet. You may have a stall with walls or not, but at least try to have something with a roof to protect them from rain and or snow. Figure also to have plenty of hay for the horse to munch on and produce his own inner warmth.
But there is still much to do before you even get started... Who knew there was so much planning involved?
There are a number of different types of clippers out there, just like there are a number of clipping styles to be found. Each brand has plenty of different models and each model has plenty of different features. It can get confusing if you let it.
Of the brands of clippers out there, the four that come to mind are Andis, Laube, Oster and Wahl. Each has a number of models, for everyone from the home haircut do it yourselfer to the professional grooms handling horses, dogs, sheep and even cattle get their "do's" done before hitting the show ring. You will find an assortment of wall mount, hand held, corded, cordless, rechargeable, adjustable blades, removable blades, big, small... and a wide price range for each to match. They grace the pages of catalogs and websites as well as shelves in feed and tack stores.
For the most basic of clipping, there is no need to go all out. Nothing fancy needed, single speed are just fine, detachable blades or adjustable, many of them come with a size 10, most clippers come standard with a 12-14 foot long cord and you can reach a lot depending on where your electrical outlet is located.
I have yet to find the cheapy set (usually around $25-$50, with the plastic hair length adjustments) to hold up long outside, nor do they seem to have the Ooomph! to get through the thick strands of hair that make up manes. A lot of times they come in a plastic package and have a picture of a fluffy dog on them. That's because they seem to have no issues going through the finer strands of hair.
With all of the detachable blade clippers out there I have found the Laube blades do not fit the Osters or the Andis. Blades between the Andis and Osters are interchangeable- Yay! for the checkbook there.
If you are just clipping your horse for the sole purpose of neatening their appearance, a 10 blade and a 30 blade should do the job just fine. I use the 10's in the winter on the bridle path as they don't make it look ridiculous beyond everything and the 30's in the summer. If you have the adjustable blade clippers, this translates into the lever being all the way back- bottom blade all the way forward for the longer cut and lever all the way forward or up, bottom blade back for a shorter cut. If you are going to be clipping for shows- I recommend getting a couple pairs of 10 blades as well as a 40 blade. I will explain that in the body clipping post soon to come.
At some point your blades will go dull. They can be sharpened and used over and over for quite a while. Your clippers may also need a once over to keep them in top shape. But where do you take them? Call your local dog groomer and ask them for a referral. Where do they take their blades? Call a barber shop. Where do they take theirs? This will give you an idea of where to take your clippers and blades as well as a place to find replacements.
I recommend you take the clippers in once a year or before a heavy season of use and consider it insurance towards catching anything that may break BEFORE you get half way through the horse and leave them really looking strange. Also get the blades sharpened before you start on a horse. Dull blades pull the hair as they rake through it. Trust me. Your horse will NOT enjoy that.