The most defining characteristic of the Arabian horse is its head; no other breed portrays a dished profile with large expressive eyes, and flaring nostrils. Therefore, clipping the head of an Arabian show horse is not only crucial to the appeal of the face, but it is extremely different than other breed’s standards for clipping. Although it is not an Arabian Horse Association rule to clip these horses, a well clipped horse offers more eye appeal in the arena, and can mean the difference between a first place horse and a second place horse.
To clip properly you must have a pair of electric clippers with different sets of blades. You will need size 40, size 30, and size 10 blades. It is also acceptable to use an adjustable clipper blade such as a 30-15-10 blade. The higher the number on the blade, the closer to the skin it will cut; so a 40 blade will clip much shorter than a 10, which will leave the hair longer.
Also, you should be prepared with proper cleaning and cooling agents to use periodically while you clip. This will lengthen the life of your clippers.
Before you start:
Gently remove any excess hair off of your horses face with a soft curry comb or hard bristle brush. It is important that there is no excess dirt or hair on the face because it can make your blades dull, hot, and jammed.
Also, it is important to make sure your horse is not scared of the sound of the clippers. If your horse has never heard or felt a clipper you must first desensitize your horse before you will be able to clip him properly.
EYES AND MUZZLE
First prepare your clippers with the blades that cut the shortest; preferably a 40, but a 30 may work also. Clip all of the whiskers and eye feelers first. It is important that you clip against the grain of the hair to ensure closeness. When clipping the whiskers keep your blade pressed flat against the horse’s skin so you never stab or poke your horse with the blade. When you clip his whiskers on the muzzle some of his regular coat may be clipped too; this is how you know you are clipping close enough.
Pictured first is an eye that has not been clipped, and below is an eye which has been clipped.
When clipping the eye feelers it is important to not clip your horses eye lashes instead. The feelers are located just above and just below the eye and resemble the whiskers on the muzzle. When clipping the lower feelers move very slowly and gently as to not poke your horse in the eye. You may need to gently lift your horse’s eye lid to ensure you do not clip any eyelashes. When clipping the upper eye you will be clipping all of the body hair off of the eye lid as well as the upper feelers. It is important that only the hair on the eye lid be clipped; it is almost a rectangular section of hair you are clipping above the eye. This area is simply the bulge that is naturally created by the eye. Clipping the hair on the eye lid such as this will create the illusion that your horse’s eye is bigger than it truly is.
Now that you have clipped the eyes and muzzle you may move on to the face. You will use the 40, or 30 blades; preferably the blade you used on the eyes and muzzle. You will be clipping the side of their face right in front of the jaw and on the forehead creating a diamond shape.
When clipping around the jaw you must follow the shape of the jaw muscle on the side of the face, and the straightness of the jaw bone underneath the eye. It is important not to clip any hair on the cheeks with this size blade.
Pictured first is the side of the face before clipping, on the bottom is how it should look after clipping. Notice how there is an obvious difference in the color of the hair where it is clipped and where it is not clipped.
Creating the tell-tale diamond shape on the forehead is the most distinctive part of the Arabian head, and it is much easier to create than expected. If you look closely, there is already a diamond shape on the forehead created by the muscles holding it together. Carefully line the edges of the blades along this diamond and clip downward against the grain of the hair. Then repeat this until the diamond is formed. Then, you may finish clipping rest of the designated area of the face with the clippers until all excess hair is removed. Always make sure that you are clipping against the grain; so you will be clipping upwards along the bridge if the nose, upwards on the side of the face, and downwards on the diamond.
For a more natural look, take a 10 blade and clip the forehead around the diamond. Clip the temples, in the divots above the eyes, and the top of the head around the forelock. Make sure not to clip too far down the side of the face on the cheek; if you do, you may need to clip the rest of the cheek because it is hard to blend.
Any white markings found on the face can be clipped with a 10 blade if you wish the white to be more prominent. If not, it can be clipped with the appropriate blade for the area of face you are clipping.
Your ten blades are used to clip any long hairs found underneath the jaw on the bottom of the head.* When clipping the long hairs of the throatlatch DO NOT press the blades flush with the skin. It is important to clip away the long hairs without removing body hair in this area to create a natural look. These hairs may also appear on the cheek and the same technique can be used.
*If you have recently body clipped your horse, your 10 blade will be used to clip all the hair on the cheek and upper head with the blades pressed flush on the skin in order to match the body clip.
The bridle path is next to be clipped. A 40 blade should be used in order to clip as close to the skin as possible. A shorter cut of hair will create the illusion of a more slender throatlatch,and you will need to clip the bridal path less because the hair is shorter. For the Arabian, the bridle path should be twice the length of the ear. To measure this, flatten the ear back on the neck to measure one ear-length, then eyeball a second ear-length back; this is where you should start. Remember to protect any mane and forelock hair that will not be clipped with your hand. Make sure to press the blade firmly on the skin to ensure shortness, and that every hair is trimmed equally.
Pictured below is how to protect the mane while the bridle path is being clipped.
Before you start the ears you must make sure your horse is used to having his ears handled. If he is uncooperative you may need to make use of a twitch, or chain, yet personal experience lends me to suggest that earplugs will be your biggest asset when clipping the ears.
Start with either 10 or 30 blades and clip the outside of the ear; this is the only instance in which you clip WITH the grain of the hair. Once the long hairs on the outside of the ear have been trimmed evenly, then switch to your 40 blades. Take the ear in your palm and close it so that the long sides of the ears are touching. Clip only the edges of the ears making sure you don’t clip the very tip of the ear. After the edges are uniform then clip the inner hairs of the ear. These hairs are the trickiest to trim however you must make sure to bend the ear as little as possible! The cartilage of the ear is not bendable like a dog or cat’s ear, and to avoid discomfort it must not be bent. Lastly, concentrate on the tip of the ear; there will be only a small section of unclipped hair on the tip. Clip around this tip in a diamond shape to finish the ear. It is to be noted that the ears should only be clipped one to two days before the show!
After you clip:
Brush all the hair off of your horse’s face with a very soft brush. Additionally, if your horse lives in a pasture they must be given a fly-mask with ear attachments. If they don’t have a fly-mask they must not go outside if there are any biting or annoying bugs where they are housed.
This clip job should be done two weeks prior to the horse show.
A few days before the show, touch up the muzzle, eyes, and bridle path, and clip the ears.
The face can be touched up with the next longest cut of blade you used. So, if you originally used a 40 blade the face can be touched up with a 30.
If you are new to clipping, you may need to practice this clip multiple times before the show.
Now, your horse’s head is ready for for the show!