A Little Off the Top and Sides…and Belly?

October 01, 2010

My horse, who was born about five miles from where he lives now, apparently thinks he lives in Siberia. Every year in September he begins to grow a wooly winter coat suitable for life on the tundra. This is unfortunate, because we do not live in a tundra-like environment. We live in a tropical-rainforest-like environment: hot and sticky for much of the year. Once he’s grown his winter coat, he can be covered in sweat just from standing placidly in his paddock. If you add in a ride, he’s one soggy and overheated mess.

 So every year at this time, knowing we have at least three more months of not-so-wintry weather, I pull out my trusty clippers and give him a whole body clip. (He immediately begins to regrow that winter coat, but by the time it comes in completely, he’ll need it for the few cold winter days we have.)

This year before clipping, we added a new service to salon day at the barn: hair color. Since our horses live outside, not in stalls, their manes and tails bleach in the sun. So before his bath and clip, Tank had his mane and tail dyed. (You can imagine how much we all enjoyed this.)

At work on Tank's tail--a two-person job
Pitiful forelock
 After the dye job, it was time to clip. Clipping a horse is one of the less-fun jobs a horse owner has, because to get a good clip without ruining your clippers, you must bathe the horse, let him dry, then clip him. The whole process takes hours. So here, for the uninitiated, is what happens when you bathe and clip horse.

Take horse to wash rack. Spray all over with hose (the horse, not yourself, though you might just as well spray yourself and be done with it). Shampoo horse, taking special care with legs, as the hair there is often particularly thick and hard to clip. If you’re a girly horse owner, shampoo and condition mane and tail. While rinsing off shampoo, try not to let water from hose run down your arm and into your shoes as you spray the taller parts of the horse. Fail.

Are you sure we have to do this?
Squeegee horse with sweat scraper and dry with towel as much as you can to shorten air drying time. Go change your socks and, possibly, your shirt and shorts. (I frequently wear a bathing suit top and quick drying shorts when I bathe my horse.) Take horse for a walk, looking for edible things until you’re too tired and thirsty to do that anymore. (You can’t just turn him loose because he’s sure to roll and dirty up his clean coat.) While he’s drying, spray the hair with a silicone spray, such as Show Sheen, to help the clippers glide through easier. This adds a little to the drying time, but is worth it in the long run.

Tie up horse, and even though he’s still a little damp, you optimistically think there are some areas dry enough to start on. Begin clipping. Keep even pressure on the clippers so you have no gouged spots. Some people clip the legs first because they’re more technical (and ticklish) and it’s good to do them when you and the horse are fresh and your clipper blades are sharp. Some people start on the face. I personally like to see immediate progress, so I start somewhere I can see inroads, like the neck, chest or hindquarters. I also skip around when I get tired of working on one area, so my horse looks like nothing on earth until he’s completely done.

Making inroads
If you’re lucky and you have a cooperative horse, you may finish your horse clipping in one session. If you tire out, your clippers die or your horse decides he’s had enough, come back another time to finish the job. Better to have a funky-looking horse for a day or two than risk either of you melting down in the process.

Horse hair sticks to everything, so when you are done, you will be covered from head to foot with little pieces of hair. In fact, YOU will look like you need clipping. Turn your horse out or put him in his stall and offer him treats for being such a good boy. Go home, take a shower, pour yourself your adult beverage of choice and inform the family that dinner will come from the nearest pizza place that delivers.

The finished tail
Right about now you're thinking you're really glad you don't have a horse.  It's a testament to my madness that I think salon day is a whole lot of fun. (Many thanks to my friends Marianne and Mary Ann for their help in coloring and clipping.) 

P.S. I have to go back this weekend and clean up a few areas--I'll post a picture of the finished product at that time. Stay tuned!

You Might Also Like


  1. A day at the horse spa! I hope he's got a hot date in the near future. Nice storytelling.

  2. Oh my, dye? And shampoo?! And conditioner?!! And trim jobs!!!

    Girl, you amaze me!! ;•)

    And I'm sure Tank loves you for his "salon" days!

  3. Krista--Well, I'm not sure about the date, but he has plenty of girlfriends in the paddocks nearby!

  4. Laure--He might not enjoy the actual "salon services" all that much, but he certainly enjoys the extra hay and treats he gets while submitting to them. Yesterday he was definitely "done" with the standing while being dyed/bathed/clipped, though, so I'll have to go back in the next couple of days to finish up.

  5. Kathy,

    What a lot of hard work, but he sure looks HOT now! Great job, and I enjoyed reading about this. I haven't ever had horses.

    Take care,


  6. Kathy--Thanks! He looks pretty handsome, I think. I have to finish clipping his face and then I'll post an "after" photo.

  7. What an entertaining - and informative - read this was! I've never heard of coloring a horse's hair! He gets better salon treatment than I do!!

    When can I schedule an appointment with you for my next color and clip?

  8. Teresa--it's true! He gets better salon treatments than I do!

    I'm afraid you wouldn't be happy with my services for you. You never want to look too closely at my clipping job for a week or two... I could probably do your color though!

  9. I didn't know horses needed all this. My goats lose their winter coat naturally in spring (rubbing against the hut, the fence or the rocks helps) and they gain a new one in the fall. With the rock pile for them to climb on we only have to trim their hooves once every year or two and that is nice since the goats love to kick when you grab for their hooves!

    I didn't know their hair got dyed either. I think I don't know much about horses, lol.

  10. Timaree--Goats sound quite low-maintenance! I didn't think about having to trim their hooves, either. Interesting. All horses don't have to have these "spa services," of course. Tank falls somewhere in the middle (believe it or not) of horse pampering. The expensive show horses get much more grooming and pampering.