Saturday, 17 October 2015

Let's think before we clip!

Now that the nights are drawing in and our clippers are being serviced in readiness for the first clip of the winter, let’s consider why we are clipping our horses, and the type of clip that they need.

Chaser clips are great for horses in light work
Horses grow their coat at this time of year, as a natural instinct in the wild, to protect them from the elements, keeping them warm and dry during the winter. Needless to say that when we exercise horses in a domestic environment that have a big thick coat, they will sweat heavily and become uncomfortable, in the same way that we would if we exercised in a big down jacket!  Of course we will need to clip them to ensure that told they stay sweat-free and comfortable whilst they are working. However, we also need to consider is how hard they are working before we decide how much of a clip they will need.

Blanket clips are great for horses in light - medium work (eg dressage horses)
So often in my work as a trainer and massage therapist, I see horses in light work that are fully clipped out, ears and face included, simply because it looks smart and avoids having to worry about lines. These horses will be snugly wrapped up in rugs in the stable, but will probably spend every ridden moment during the winter feeling cold, because they are not exercising hard enough to keep them warm. It is a bit like when girls go for a night out in winter wearing a tiny dress and no jacket – but at least for them it is a choice, and quite often they have their beer jackets on! We all know how it feels to be cold…our shoulders hunch, our muscles tighten and it is thoroughly unpleasant. A few weeks into winter, many horses that are clipped out and don’t get their heart rates up during exercise develop a sore back, which is often a result of bracing themselves for such long periods.  This results in hefty bills from back specialists, which can be avoided. Most horses in light to medium work will suffice with just a trace, chaser or blanket clip. Horses that hack and do light schooling would benefit the most from a trace or chase clip, and dressage horses probably a blanket clip. There is a reason a hunter clip is called a hunter clip! If you have a horse in medium or hard work that needs to be clipped out, exercise sheets are a great way of keeping your horse warm on a cold day until they are properly warmed up.
Hunter clips suit hunters, eventers and horses in hard work

So… let’s consider how much coat we take off our horses this winter, and always use an exercise sheet until the horse is thoroughly warmed up. A warm horse will be a happy horse, and a happy horse will perform far better for you, which will be reflected in your results!

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