EN Today: Misadventures in body clipping

When you’re shaving the body of a half-ton animal, lots of things can got wrong. LOTS of things. Take it from Courtney Due.

From Courtney:

This time of year, hordes of equestrians and their mounts are heading south for the winter. Luckily for me, the Army sent us to southern Georgia—smack dab in the middle of prime Eventing country. But, when you head south for the winter from Kentucky, mother nature forgets to tell your horse that a heavy winter coat isn’t needed down here.

So, like many of my comrades, I decided to body clip my horse.  Though I’ve never done more than finishing clips, I thought, how hard could it be? After all, if people can clip amazing artwork designs onto their horses, surely I can accomplish a basic body clip. I found an awesome deal on eBay on a pair of brand new clippers that would do the job, watched a ton of how-to YouTube videos, and read a lot of helpful tips on professional grooming websites.

The morning of the day that will live in infamy. I set up my workspace in the washrack: a step ladder (to reach Johnny’s 17h back), clippers, a body brush, a bottle of LaserSheen, clipper lube and cooling spray, and of course, my trusty Nikon to capture the glorious results. Johnny stood patiently in the cross ties as I removed as much sand as I could from his coat. Everyone suggests bathing the horse before clipping, but we don’t have heated water or a closed-in barn, and I thought a cold bath would be a bit torturous right before I shaved off his hair. I figured a healthy shot of LaserSheen and thorough grooming would have to suffice. I carefully oiled the clippers and wiped off the excess, then took a deep breath. Here goes nothing, I thought, and I pressed the whirring blades to his shoulder and dragged them upwards against the hair growth. Hm. Okay. That did NOT look like the results I saw in the videos. Well, I could come back and fix that. I pressed on. And on. And on.

2.5 hours later, my horse looked like a plague of horsehair-eating moths had ravaged his body. And every nearby surface had at least a one-inch thick covering of the hair that used to be his fur coat—including me. (Three days later, I pulled a half-inch long piece of clipped hair out of my eye. Gross.) This is definitely NOT what a body-clipped horse looks like, I thought. Well, everyone had said, give it a couple of weeks and it’ll even out.  My trainer had told me to leave his face alone, but the drastic contrast of red-orange hair on his face and buckskin tan on his neck looked comical. I’ve done lots of winter touch-ups on faces, so I decided to go for it. Bad, bad, bad idea. I was at a point where I should have just left well enough alone, but I kept at it. I am still not sure why Johnny stood so patiently, almost dozing, in the cross-ties as I buzzed all his hair off, but my farrier said if I went to work on him with a set of sharp blades, he probably wouldn’t move either. Really, I’m 5’2”—I’m not that scary.

After all was said and done, I asked one of the boarders with lots of clipping experience to take a look at my handiwork. She described it as ‘animal cruelty.’ And, the dressage queen at the barn said, “Don’t worry, your first time is always the worst. It’ll grow out.” My husband asked, “is it supposed to look like that?”

One week later, his body looks much more even, but his face still carries the moth-eaten look. And, don’t get me started on the legs. I gave up and left them—after 4 hours of clipping hair, I’d had enough. Amazingly enough, I’m sold on clipping, though. Now that Johnny is ‘naked,’ he doesn’t overheat when we ride and grooming time has dropped drastically. My suggestion for body-clipping first-timers? Watch somebody else clip first. And get help. Lots of it. It’s kind of like learning to drive a car—you want somebody with an emergency brake sitting fairly close for your first time out.

Johnny’s “moth-eaten face”

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