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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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!