Monday, October 27, 2014

Should I clip my horse?

I'm really struggling with this question this year, so I thought I would do a straight-up pros and cons list. I'm going to present Tristan as an anonymous case study, and ask you all to weigh in on what you think. Ok?

Background: horse is a 19yo mustang gelding in work 3-5 days per week for 20-45 minutes each, primarily dressage and trail riding. Never been clipped before. Not a huge sweater (rarely more than a slightly damp/tacky coat in the girth and chest area once the weather cools), but typically does get warm enough to require extended cooling off time 1-2x per week over the winter.

- horse exhibited signs of cold weather-related colic when temperatures began dropping this season, and will now be fully blanketed through the winter for the first time ever
- though the plan is to stay at 3-5 rides per week, there will no doubt be periods of time during the winter when 1-2 rides per week at the walk of short duration are the most work he'll get due to extreme cold or snow
- horse was diagnosed with Cushing's in August, is maintained on 1mg/day of pergolide, and is essentially asymptomatic on medication, with a totally normal winter coat and no signs of the classic long/wavy Cushing's coat
- horse is heading into the winter at a body condition of about 5.5/6 after dipping down to a 4.5 or so this fall
- horse lost weight last winter, though not dramatically; say down from a 5 to a
- horse will have access to (essentially) free choice hay through the winter
- horse will have between 4-10 hours per day of turnout, depending on weather
- horse did not add muscle/wind well before starting medication for Cushing's, and work will be harder for him as he regains fitness now that his body is capable of building it again; he has been running hotter than normal for the last 3-4 weeks

Possibly extraneous factors:
- owner is neurotic and terrified that clipping will result in constant vigilance to prevent cold-related colic symptoms
- owner also does not want to pile coolers and walk out for an hour after each ride

So: in my situation, what would you do?


  1. I would probably clip if this was my horse because the horse can get chilled easily after work if they are damp in cold weather. Clipping would let you put blankets on immediately after work and help retain the body heat from exercising. I would not do a full clip though, probably either a bib, or low trace at the most depending on exactly where he sweats

  2. Agreed with Lydia. I would probably do a trace clip or something similar so he still has hair to keep him warm, but it takes less time for him to cool out and in turn less time being wet.

  3. I'm with Lydia and Carly... Be sure you increase his hay/food/calorie intake so he doesn't drop weight adjusting.

  4. I hate hair, so I always pretty much say yes to this question.

  5. I'm in the "yes to clipping" camp, especially given Tristan's age, condition and the Cushings factor. Less hair = easier for him to cool down without getting chilled, especially given the fact that he already had a reaction to the cold and you now have plenty of blankets. The fact that he has been running hotter than usual would also be a factor for clipping. It is easy to add another layer if they seem cold, but you can't do a lot when they are already hot. I would maybe start with a bib clip (chest and underside of neck, including jugular grooves), or a low trace clip (chest and underside of neck, shoulders below points of shoulder and just the girth area) and see how he does with that. Bib clips especially are meant to help the horse cool down quicker without needing to blanket more. :)


Thanks for commenting! It's great to hear from you.