types of horse clips

Types of Horse Clips: A Comprehensive Guide


Horse clipping has several benefits for your equine pal such as temperature regulation, sweat management, and keeping its coat nice and healthy. There are loads of different types of horse clips to choose from depending on the needs of your horse. 

To help you choose the right one, I’m going to discuss some of the most popular types of horse clips including:

  • The bib clip
  • The apron clip
  • The Irish clip
  • The high trace clip

So, saddle up and let’s get going!

Types of Horse Clips

There are several different types of horse clips. The one you choose will depend on the types of work you want your horse to perform.

Occasional work

As the name suggests, the types of horse clips in this category are for horses that work occasionally. For example, riding over the weekends at a rehab centre.

When clipping for occasional work the aim is to remove the least amount of the horse’s hair that accumulates sweat between the legs and across the chest.

Luckily, occasional work clips are relatively quick, so if you’ve got a nervous Nelly on your hands, don’t worry.

Just be prepared with some blankets if your horse stays outside or it gets seriously cold in your area. Even though it’s a little trim, clipping chest hair can still make some horses uncomfortable.

Let’s take a look at the different occasional work clips:

Bib clip 

A Bib clip removes hair from the chest and lower neck.

Clydesdale displaying a bib clipBib Clip – area in green is clipped


Apron clip

Similar to the Bib clip, an Apron clip trims the girth area, the lower part of the horse’s neck, the chest, and between the front legs. When doing an Apron clip, some choose to also clip the tops of the front legs to prevent mud from getting in the coat.

Clydesdale displaying an apron clipApron Clip

Neck and belly clip

The neck and belly clip trims the lower neck hair and the chest, between the front legs, belly, and under the jaw.

Clydesdale displaying a neck and belly clipNeck and belly clip

Tail clip

The tail clip (or tail pull) involves trimming the horse’s tail. It’s often done for aesthetic reasons but is also practical as it makes it easier to keep the tail clean and helps to prevent matting.

Light work

Light work is similar to occasional work in that the workload is not heavy, the only difference is the frequency. Light work is more frequent meaning more areas on the horse’s body will accumulate sweat.

Light work clips are good for horses that are prone to sweating around the back of the legs. But one big consideration here is that it’s better to bring horses with light work clips in at night. From this point onward, the clips remove too much hair for horses to be comfortable outside in the winter.

This also means the blankets will need to stay out for times the horse isn’t working but is still exposed to the elements.

Irish clip

The Irish clip involves removing most of the belly hair, tops of the front legs, and between the forelegs. The clip forms a diagonal line from the middle of the underbelly to the jaw.

Clydesdale displaying an Irish clipIrish Clip

Low trace clip

The low trace clip removes hair from the belly, between the tops of the front legs, neck, chest, and tops of the hind legs. Some also cut a curve where hair swirls on the flanks. All the tracer types of horse clip cut the hair in straight lines.

Clydesdale displaying a low trace clipLow trace clip

Moderate work

Moderate work clips remove hair from similar high sweat areas as the light work clip does. But they remove more to allow harder-working horses to work more comfortably.

These clips are perfect for horses that have regular daily rides or working schedules, where sweating might be more prevalent.

Most of the hair on the chest is clipped for the moderate work clips so you’ll have to have the correct rugging, blanketing, and possibly stabling.

Medium trace clip

The medium trace clip closely resembles the low trace clip but requires more hair to be removed with a higher body line. The medium trace clip is the better option for regular working horses that still need some of their winter coat. But as soon as you do this clip, horses need to come in for the night.

Clydesdale displaying a medium trace clipMedium trace clip

High trace clip

A high trace clip removes the hair from the chest, neck, and shoulder but doesn’t remove the hair from the lower body and legs. This helps to prevent the buildup of sweat while leaving some of the coat’s natural insulation in place.

Hard work

The hard work clips are for more intense working horses because over half the horse’s coat is trimmed to make working more comfortable. These types of horse clips leave horses much more exposed than the previous clips and are solely for horses that have stables for the night.

When horses with hard work clips are not working, you need to blanket and rug them properly. They also benefit from a neck cover if they do go out for a walk during the day but aren’t necessarily working.

Chaser clip

The chaser clip sees hair removed from the belly, between and on the front and back legs, the neck, chest, and the entire head. Generally, hair on the upper neck is left to maintain muscle warmth. The chaser clip is usually for competition horses and hard-working horses.

Clydesdale displaying a chaser clipChaser Clip

Blanket clip

The blanket clip removes the entire body coat except for the saddle area, upper hind quarters, and rump. Some choose to remove all the hair from the horse’s head but others prefer to leave the top section to keep the warmth in. The blanket clip is usually for working or show horses, but both need full-time stabling with this clip.

Clydesdale displaying a blanket clipBlanket Clip

Very hard work

If horses are working extremely hard regularly, then removing most of the coat isn’t a bad idea. The build-up of sweat will make horses uncomfortable, but in the same breath, as soon as the hard work is done, horses with these clips should come into the stable and have the proper blankets.

Some horses handle these types of horse clips well, while others get cold quickly. So, you’ll need to be prepared with extra blankets, rugs, and neck warmers, just in case. If your horse gets a very hard work clip for the first time, you’ll need to monitor them closely to ensure they have what they need.

Hunter clip

The hunter clip originated for hunting horses that galloped long distances regularly. This clip sees all the hair removed from the horse’s coat using a straight clip line, except for the legs and saddle area. It allows horses to cool down quickly, but should only be used for very hard workers or on long-distance trail companions. It’s also one of the most popular horse racing clips.

Clydesdale displaying a hunter clipHunter Clip

Full clip

The full clip is exactly what it sounds like – clipping the entirety of a horse’s coat including the head and legs. Horses with a full clip will have no natural protection, so be prepared with warmers and blankets. This clip is only for horses requiring speed and that work consistently hard, which is why it’s a popular clip for racehorses.

Look out for mud fever and rain scald with this clip. Also note that if we ever did this to one of George Skinners Clydesdales he’d never speak to us again…

Clydesdale displaying a full clipFull Clip

Ultimately, the choice is yours as a horse owner as to which clip is right for your trusted companion. But it’s better to have all the information to make an informed decision based on the needs of the rider and the horse.  Watch our video below as a handy reminder of each type of clip.

Why Do Horses Need Clipping?

When winter comes around, horses naturally grow thicker coats to protect them from the elements. As horse breeds have evolved so have their coat-growing patterns. If we think about it, wild horses might require much more hair than domesticated horses. Since a wild horse stays outdoors and doesn’t receive human care, its coat grows as needed, to keep the horse warm.

This may be an issue for domesticated horses that don’t need the insulation. Even if domesticated horses are working outdoors regularly the thick, long coat may cause excessive sweating.

While the insulation protects them from the elements, as a horse sweats moisture can become trapped in its coat leaving them vulnerable to catching a chill or getting sick.

Clipping a horse correctly allows the coat to breathe and for heat to escape while the horse is working. As you’ll come to see, the types of horse clips that are best are largely dependent on your horse’s workload.

For the rider, clipping can make rides a lot more comfortable. The right clip decreases the chance of rubbing from riding equipment, and clipping the saddle patch can make the saddle more secure.

Also, clipping around the legs and fetlocks prevents mud from getting stuck in the coat which could lead to mud fever. This is no fun for anyone, if left untreated, mud fever can lead to chronic infection—so keep an eye out.

If the thought of hours of grooming makes you want to ride off into the mountains, you’re not alone. Many horse owners choose to clip their horses to decrease grooming time. Less hair means less to get through when grooming time rolls around.

By far one of the most popular reasons for clipping is for the aesthetic. If you’re into shows or racing, clipping your horse makes them look a lot neater. It also makes getting the equipment and outfits on and off a lot quicker.

For dressage, there are plenty of creative horse clips that allow you to accentuate the natural patterns on horses.

When Should I Clip My Horse?

In the UK, horse coats begin growing around September or October, as the mild weather sets in after summer. So, most owners prefer to clip their horses at this point.

How often coats need a clip is down to each horse’s growth pattern and the personal preference of the rider. Generally, you should clip a horse’s winter coat every three to five weeks to keep everything neat.

In the summer the coat will grow, but not nearly at the same rate. So, you can get away with a clip at the end of February and let the coat grow out.

However, if you’ve got a horse with a naturally thick coat like Cobs, then you may need to keep the clipper within reach throughout the year.

As you get to know your horse, you will sense when the need for a clip approaches.

How to Choose the Right Clip for Your Horse

There are so many different types of horse clips that it can be tricky to work out which one is best suited to your horse. With that in mind, here are some tips about choosing the right type:

  1. If your horse has a heavy workload or takes part in competitions, then a more drastic clip like the hunter clip is usually your best bet.
  2. If your horse is turned out 24/7 during the winter, then you should go with a lighter clip like the bib clip to make sure it stays warm.
  3. Horses that tend to sweat heavily will need a larger clip like a blanket clip.
  4. When clipping a young horse, you should opt for a light clip at first so that it can gradually get used to being clipped.
  5. Horses tend to feel the cold more as they age. So, you should usually choose a lighter clip for an older horse.

Top Tips for Clipping a Horse

First and foremost, if this is your first rodeo, you might want to leave the clipping to someone more experienced. Clipping a horse takes serious patience and skill. Some horses hate the clipping experience, so it’s better to bring in the big guns to get the job done.

With that being said, don’t force your horse to do something it’s not comfortable with. Eventually, they will get there, but it takes time, particularly if you’re taking in a wild horse that hasn’t had human interaction or seen or heard a clipper before, let alone had one used on their coat.

The most important thing when clipping a horse’s coat is monitoring them after the clip. Firstly, you need to see if your horse reacts to the clip. It’s like when humans shave, some skin gets irritated and itchy, it’s the same for a horse. If the skin is irritated, consider running clean water over the area to remove any stray hairs.

Using the right size clipper blade is also important to ensure you’re not taking off too much hair for the trim.

Grooming is a big part of owning a horse, more so for certain breeds, but overall, grooming is part and parcel of being a responsible owner. This includes managing the tail, mane, teeth, hooves, and everything in between. It’s not often considered, so please take note of grooming needs, because it is a big undertaking.

Are there cons to clipping?

The only real con to clipping is that you’re removing your horse’s natural protection from the winter cold. This means you need to practice careful stable management such as stabling your horse and providing the right blanketing to keep them from getting caught by the cold.

We always want our horses to be as comfortable as possible, so it’s up to you as a horse owner to look into what your horse prefers. Most do perfectly well with a clipped coat, as long as they get blankets when it’s cold.

Horse outside in winter wearing a blanket

Clipping your horse will mean it needs a rug on cold or wet days


Do young horses need to be clipped?

Whether or not a young horse needs to be clipped depends entirely on its breed, the climate it lives in, and the specific needs of the individual horse. However, if a young horse isn’t engaged in any work, then it may not need its first clip until it’s an adult.

Are there specific tools or equipment required for clipping a horse?

Yes, you need a proper pair of body clippers, specifically designed for horses. You should also use the right-sized blades for the type of clip you’re going for. Beyond that, you also need a way to secure the horse during clipping and the right safety equipment for yourself like gloves and boots.

Are there any aftercare measures following a horse clip?

Absolutely, the way a horse regulates body temperature will change, and this can affect diet and temperament. You should also always remove any stray hairs left on the horse’s body that could cause irritation. Additionally, keep an eye on the outside temperature to know when blanketing, stabling, and rugging are necessary.

What is horse clipping?

Horse clipping is when you shave the top layers of your horse’s coat, making it shorter. There are various types of horse clip to choose from, depending on your horse’s activities and the season. You may also choose a specific clip if you notice a certain area of the coat bothering your horse.

If clipped correctly and for the right purposes, clipping can provide major benefits to riders and the horse.

Norwegian fjord displaying a blanket clip

Regean our hairy Norwegian Fjord sporting a blanket clip to keep him cool

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