Clipping – Fashion or Function


horse whiskers

Okay, okay for all those natural horse people, yes I clip my horse’s whiskers. Believe it or not, they still are able to keep their balance, avoid hitting their head (even in the dark!), and still have not lost their eyes to dragonflies (no, not making that up – actually heard this once).

I am the first to admit I am a little lax in the horse grooming/polishing department. As you know, cleaning tack is one of my least favorite activities within the horse universe. Though I enjoy the act of grooming my horse, keeping up their appearance has never been a big priority (probably another reason I’m not a huge fan of the hunter ring). I mean, really; horses can still jump very well when they have a little five-o-clock shadow.

But, then I was looking at one of my horses’ who was a little past the five-o-clock shadow mark. With two inch long muzzle whiskers, he looked dumpy, un-athletic, unkempt, plain, and ugly! I realized the muzzle whiskers really made a horse look like crap. I never realized that before because I have, for the most part, been in barns where the majority of horses were kept clipped pretty regularly (at least they probably didn’t get past my description of a five-o-clock shadow – 1/2” of whisker length or so).

Horses can still jump very well, even with a five-o-clock shadow.

So, my horse that looked like I picked him up at an auction for $20 got a quick clipping, and “poof”, he was returned to his handsome, statuesque, regal, athletic self. He looked like a well bred jumping machine! I stood back and thought to myself, “How shallow of me”. To actually not be able to see the horse, who I know is a nice horse, behind the shadow of the long whiskers? Tisk tisk.

Again I turned to the barn masses for reconciliation. Look at that! Every horse with five-o-clock shadow whiskers was an unathletic, unimpressive nag! Not to say they didn’t have nice personalities…

Though judging a horse by its whiskers isn’t necessarily a 100% accurate look into their physical ability, always question a horse’s ability to be clipped, especially before purchase.

And getting past the muzzle, I wondered how much of the other “clipping” was done for fashion or function. I regularly clip my horse’s bridlepath, muzzle, eye whiskers, and the fetlock/pastern sometimes cleaning up around the cornet band.

    Muzzle – Fashion
    Eye Whiskers – Fashion
    Bridle Path – Function
    Fetlock/Pastern – Fashion/Function
    Cornet Band – I have no idea – I guess fashion or old habit drilled into my head!
    Ears – Fashion/Function – not a regular clip job

Clipping the bridle path is something I let go way too long. Mostly, I just forget about it until I have a hard time getting my bridle to sit nicely. It definitely appears more comfortable for the horse to have a nice, clean bridle path, and it is WAY easier to install a bridle on their head this way. No doubt, there is fashion within the bridle path clipping. But, for me, the bridle path is purely function.

Clipping the fetlock/pastern area is both fashion and function. A few of my horses do get some draft-like feathers on their legs. Maybe if they WERE draft horses, it wouldn’t bother me so much. But, they are not draft horses, so I would rather them not look like draft horses. The ones that don’t grow “feathers” still look much nicer if the fetlock doesn’t have those long hairs.

There is some function to clipping the fetlock/pastern area. I have had horses that were prone to getting scratches and would clip there legs from the cornet band up to just below the knee from fall to the end of spring. This would keep the leg from staying wet while being outside in the mud or snow. Even if I couldn’t get to the barn everyday to make sure the leg was dry, with clipping, it would dry quickly after they were brought inside. I would suggest clipping here for any horse that gets scratches.

Why I clip the cornet band is really beyond me. You cannot tell unless you are up, very close to a horse whether or not the cornet band hairs have been “cleaned up”. I know I worked for a very anal trainer who required every horse’s cornet band to be trimmed with other regular clipping, so I can only imagine this is just habit.

As far as clipping the ears, I do tend to clean up the outer edge of the ear. If I am showing, I might clip the inside of the ear. I also have clipped the inside of ears for horses that have had fungus, warts, plaque (white spots), or excessive bug bites. Since I use fly masks with ear covers, I don’t worry too much about leaving the ears exposed. But, I don’t like to clip out the ears in the winter, unless showing. Mostly its just because I HATE when my ears are cold, so I imagine that the hair in the ears provides some protection from the elements.

Clipping a horse, I guess, has to do with equal parts fashion and function. As much as I don’t want to be one of those people who always needs a cleanly clipped horse, I am surprised at how much nicer a horse looks when clipped.

And I admit it; I’m shallow. I want my horses to have their muzzle whiskers and eye whiskers clipped. I will no longer allow any of my horses to grow past the five-o-clock shadow mark.

And though my husband faithfully trims his five-o-clock shadow everyday, for me, that’s more function than fashion. I like the scraggly, mountain man look, but damn does it hurt my face.

Clipping is not overrated.