Creative clipping – one woman’s advice and insights into how to achieve the perfect clip. Or possibly not…
October has arrived, and overnight the sleek showjumpers of summer are morphing into native ponies faster than you can say “Pumpkin Spice Latte”. The bearded cretin that greeted me over the stable door last week was certainly in dire need of a scalping.
My current yard offers clipping – thus, one can arrive to a beautifully balded animal, haircuts provided by someone with significantly more experience and talent than yours truly has. However, due to a misguided sense of economy resulting from having previously purchased my own clippers, I insisted on playing horse hairdresser myself.
Never mind that the bargain basement clippers have paid for themselves numerous times over.
Never mind also that my clipping skills are akin to those of a blindfolded barber with a butter knife giving free haircuts in the back of a bus (see above referenced previous creative clipping attempt…).
As I whinged to all who would listen, non-equestrian companions queried the process of removing the natural coat, only to replace it with an expensive synthetic one. Clearly this is the same thought process that condones buying pricey white jodhpurs to wipe green bit goo on, and €500 handmade leather boots for standing in dirty puddles. Keep up, please.
Having completed no less than maybe 15-20 clippings in my lifetime, I of course have valuable knowledge to impart. Below is a vital checklist.
Preparation is key
Before you commence operations, ensure that you have checked over your clipping apparatus. Make sure your blades are sharp enough, and no teeth are missing. Clear the fan of any dirt or hair. Check that your tensioning is correct.
Or, you know, whatever way you threw them back into the box last year is probably fine too.
You will have chosen your clip pattern in advance – hunter/blanket/trace/chaser/bib. Prepare by tracing out your lines with damp chalk before beginning to clip.
Start clipping the shoulder while considering which clip you can finish fastest. Decide on own creation of some sort of pseudo blanket/chaser combo, which essentially just means you don’t have to do that stupid half moon bit on the side. Painstakingly do first line on the side with pinpoint accuracy. Repeat on opposite side.
Discover six-inch height difference between the two. Try for half an hour to even out. Succumb to rash impulse and start hunter clipping hindquarters, very nearly forgetting tail triangle which is now approximately the size of a 2 Euro coin. Begin to immensely regret rash impulse with two-thirds of horse still to complete, a dead right arm from holding clippers, and the discovery that your teeth are now rattling due to the vibrations.
There are numerous reasons to clip your horse’s legs. A hunter clip can be visually completed by sleek, tidy legs. For non-cosmetic reasons, you may choose to remove feathers etc. to prevent mud fever or keep it under control.
Or, as you were halfway through straightening up from spending twenty minutes contorted upside down dealing with tummy fluff, you noted you fudged one of the leg lines – and decided to remove the whole lot. Opt first for clipping with the hair growth to create a softer look. Then, nearly drop the clippers on the way down and take a large chunk of hair from the very visible area at the front of the knee. Resort to standard, more aggressive upward clipping instead. Ignore fiddly bit at back of heel when you accidentally connect the clipper with the shoe and horse gives you horrified look. Horse can now wear overreach boots on all legs.
Inspect your work in natural light and put the finishing touches to any areas you may have missed or need to go over. Step back and admire your work!
Pull horse out into daylight the following day to discover he looks like you’ve gone at him with a potato peeler. The initial patchy strokes, born of a combination of fear and rustiness, give way to the smooth, sweeping strokes of impatience as you move from neck to hindquarter. The razor sharp face lines you created by the light of the iPhone clamped between your teeth? In the harsh light of day, these are similar to the work of a toddler left with a freshly painted wall and some warm crayons.
Make mental note to ride only under cover of darkness until mid-November when hair growth will have softened your complete lack of skill.
I hate clipping. I really do. I hate the hair up my nose, all over my clothes, the hairball that forms in my throat. However, every year when I reach Costa’s face, I’m happy I did the job myself. My little horse stands like a lamb (as he does for the whole process) with no headcollar on as I prop up his chin with one hand and freehand the rest of his head, brow furrowed, tongue stuck out of the corner of my mouth. The only movement is a wiggle from his nose as he tries desperately not to sneeze.
Alongside the dubious abilities I am also slower than a lost parcel in the Christmas post and his patience astounds me every time. All I get is the odd enquiring look when I poke a tickly bit and a few loud sighs as I bumble around him, intermittently standing on the clipper cord and chattering away to him incessantly. Now to bundle him up in a million rugs so we can keep the annual buzzcut to just that – an annual occurrence.
 “Completed” is a relative term based on how quickly your patience runs out.