Clipping the Stock Type Head

Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, Paints, Appaloosas, and every other color breed that is of stock type breeding share the same clipping practices.   For these horses, presentation and grooming is crucial.  In order to not distract from the performance of the horse, and to compete in the ring your horse must be groomed to near perfection.  Clipping the head is only one aspect of the whole grooming process, but it is one of the key essentials to presenting your horse.

Supplies:

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.

Clipping

EYES AND MUZZLE

First, prepare your clippers with a size 10 or 15 blade*.  You will be clipping all of the long whiskers and eye feelers first.  If your horse’s coat is fairly long you must be careful to clip only the whiskers and not your horse’s coat.  To do this you can clip with the grain of the hair; this would mean you would most likely clip downward on the face.  If the coat hair is still too long you must hover the blade over the coat hair only clipping the whiskers.

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.  It is also important that you avoid clipping any of the coat hairs just like you avoided the coat on the muzzle; clip with the grain of the hair or hover the blade.

*If your horse has troubles nipping and nuzzling the clippers, a disposable razor may also work for this step in the clipping process.

CHEEKS, JAW, and THROATLATCH

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.

 Take note of the long hairs lining this horse’s jaw line.  These are the hairs to be trimmed.Image

WHITE MARKINGS

For a cleaner look you may clip any white hairs and markings with the 10 blades.   For horses with large blazes or bald faces it is more important to clip the white, but horses with small stars or snips need not worry about clipping the white. Make sure to lay your clippers flat against the face and clip against the grain of the hair.  It is important to run your clippers over the skin over and over to make sure that it leaves no lines created by the clippers.

BRIDLE PATH

Next you will need to prepare your clippers with a 40 blade.  A shorter cut of hair will create the illusion of a more slender throatlatch, and you will need to clip the bridle path less often because the hair is shorter.  The stock type horse should have a bridle path that is the length of the horses ear; however if your horse has large ears the general bridle path is 4-5 inches long.  To measure the length of the bridle path, simply flatten the ear back on the neck, and where the tip of the ear lands is where you should start.  Remember to protect any mane and forelock hair that will not be clipped with your hand.  For a longer forelock you may end your bridle path farther behind the ears, and end nearer to the front of the ears for a thinner forelock.  Make sure to press the blade firmly on the skin to ensure shortness, and that every hair is trimmed equally.  You may also need to run the clippers over the area multiple times.

*REINERS: Note that your horses bridle path should only be as wide as a the crown piece of the bridle

 Below is how to properly measure the length of the bridle path.Image

EARS

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 a 10 blade and clip the outside of the ear making sure 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 outside 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.

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.

Note:

All of this should be done one to two days before the show to insure the cleanest look possible.

Now your horse’s head is ready for the show!

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Clipping the Arabian Head

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.

Supplies:

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.

Clipping:

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.

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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.

THE FACE

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.

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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.

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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.

WHITE MARKINGS

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.

CHEEKS

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.

BRIDLE PATH

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.

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EARS

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.

Notes:

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!Image

Sanding Hooves

What is sanding hooves?

Sanding hooves is the process of carefully scrubbing and sanding away dirt and the outermost layer of the hoof in order to obtain a cleaned and polished hoof.

Why do we sand hooves?

Hooves that are sanded add an extra element of eye appeal in the arena.  People who have never sanded hoove often ask ” why does it matter if their hooves are sanded? They’re standing in the arena dirt anyway!”  Although this is true, sanding hooves matters because it is what the judges expect to see.  It is expected that every horse’s hooves be sanded and polished; if they are not they cause a huge distraction in the performance arena.

In the halter arena is where sanding hooves is the most crucial.  As the hoof grows the wall is impacted by environmental conditions and health issues.  So, the hoof wall will grow differently at different times creating a hoof that has “rings” or lines across the hoof wall.  If a halter horse shows with these rings across their hooves, the judge may suspect health concerns. These rings can be easily sanded off.

Supplies:

  • A hose with a spray nozzle with a “jet” setting
  • SOS pads (easily found in department stores in the cleaning section)
  • A small electric sander
  • Course-grain sandpaper, and fine-grain sandpaper that fit the size and shape of your sander
  • A sanding block
  • Clear hoof polish for white hooves, black hoof polish for black hooves.*

*Make sure to check with your specific horse association rules pertaining to hoof black.  Some breeds are not allowed to use hoof black for certain events.

Getting Started:

It is important that before you start the actual sanding process, all excess dirt and grime be scrubbed from the feet.  First you will need to spray all of the excess dirt off of your horses feet with your spray nozzle.  The “jet” setting works the best for this.

Before spraying

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After spraying

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Next, take your SOS pads and vigorously scrub as much dirt off of the hoof as possible.  You may need to use more than one SOS pad for multiple hooves.  Below is the same hoof after being scrubbed.

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Now it is time for the electric sander.  It is important to realize that the hoof cannot be sanded when wet so you must wait until the hooves are completely dry before you start.  If your horse is not used to the sound the sander makes you will need to spend extra time desensitizing him to it before you can start.

First you will start with your course-grained sandpaper and sand away as much of the rings of the hoof and dirt as possible.  You must hold to hoof like a farrier would, with the hoof lifted towards the front of the horse and the leg resting on your leg.  If this is too hard for you to achieve invest in hoof stand so you don’t need to hold the leg up.  It is important to realize that if your horse wears shoes, the nails of the shoe will easily tear apart the sandpaper.  Therefore, it is important to avoid sanding any areas with nails sticking out.

Below is the hoof after sanding with course grain. Because of the obvious rings still apparent you can tell that this hoof is not yet finnnished.

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Once you have sanded away all of the rings and dirt from the hoof repeat the process with your fine grained sandpaper.  The fine grain will create a smooth, polished look that the course grain cannot achieve.

At the Show:

Every time you bathe your horse at the show use an SOS pad on the hoofs so they are always clean.  At least an hour before you go into the ring take your horse into an aisle that is free of dirt and clutter, and preferably concrete.  First pick out the hoof like any other day and sweep away the dirt that comes out.  Next, take your sanding block and touch up your hooves sanding away any left over or new dirt.  Take your hoof polish that matches the color hoof you are working with, and carefully wipe the sponge applicator across the coronary band.  Excess polish will drip down the hoof but that is all right.  Continue wiping back and fourth across the hoof until you reach the bottom; make sure not to touch the applicator on the ground or it will become dirty.  Also make sure to view the hoof on the other side to check for any missed spots.  The most common missed spot is the heel.  Now, your horse must stand in the aisle until the hoof is completely dry!  If the hoof is even a little sticky dirt and shavings will stick to it and ruin all of your hard work.

Now your hooves and sanded, polished and show-ring ready!

About The Show Groom; Christine Whittier

Christine has been riding and showing horses since she was four years old.  Since she was eight she has been a self taught rider, and at 13 she won her first Pinto World Championship title in the Open division. In 2009 she was recognized as the American Youth Horse Council’s Youth Leader of the Year.  She has one more year left at William Woods University where she will receive her Bachelor of Science in Equestrian Sciences with an emphasis  in Business Administration.  “The Show Groom” was created for every day horse owners who want to present their own horses like a professional.  The Show Groom does not represent one specific breed; however, it does present specific grooming practices for different breeds and common practices used on all breeds.