Suggestions on clipping horses and keeping clipper blades sharp
John FuhringAs far as I've been able to observe, there are things that make for successful and good looking clipping of a horse's winter coat while keeping the clipper blades sharp, clipping at an optimal rate and running cool. In the following paragraphs I will outline my suggestions starting with experience.
Clipping is not for someone who has had no experience with clippers or with cutting a horse's hair so that it looks professional. There is a certain art to cutting a pattern on a horse's body and unless you plan to do a full body clip (including the legs and face), perhaps you should get some help and advice from somebody who had done good work.
The next item is the equipment I feel that you should have. Clipped horse hairs get into everything and on everything, on your clothes, into your clothes, under your clothes and on your skin and therefore I recommend wearing a "hazmat suit" or some form of coverall. Hairs and particles will get into your nose and breathing passages and so a good dust mask is necessary.
While it is possible to clip a very well prepared with an A5 type clipper (with a number of very sharp blades), it is so much better to use a large animal clipper with a powerful motor and large blades. In all cases, the blades should be sharp and kept well lubricated.
Perhaps the most important thing is the preparation of the horse's coat. To keep the clipper's blades sharp and cutting the horse's coat must be very, very clean, much cleaner than a simple shampoo. If you explore deeply into a horse's coat, you will see an amazingly nasty bunch of stuff. First there is bunched up old hairs from the summer coat all mixed in with dirt, dust and old skin particles that absolutely will clog clipper blades. This trash will cause the clipper blades to stop cutting because the hairs and grime gets between the blades, lifts them and stops their cutting action. What really kills blades is the hard sand sized particles. Small sand size particles are generally made of quartz which is actually harder than the very, very hard steel of the clippers. Mixed in with quartz sand are a few particles of zirconium crystals and these are next to diamond in hardness. All this trash has to be removed (as far as humanly possible) before attempting to clip the horse or the clippers will not function properly, the job will look terrible, the job will go slowly and you will need spare blades.
I have had the best experiences when I throughly scrubbed the horse's coat with a degreaseing detergent (not shampoo) and then brushed the coat with a stiff brush until it was mostly dry. I'd then brush some more until sand and other particles stopped falling out. I follow the scrubbing and brushing with a detailed vacuuming of the coat to suck out all of the sand and grit possible. When I feel that the coat has been reasonably treated, I examine the coat down to the skin. If there are sand or dirt particles still remaining, I repeat the process until the horse's coat is clean down to the skin and all the particles, which will clog or dull blades, is removed. I admit that this sounds like a lot of time consuming work, but I've found that it actually saves time and frustration when the actual job of clipping the horse begins.
The final item I would like to give my opinion on is the vital necessity for good lubrication of the clipper blades while clipping the horse's hair. By far, the most successful trimming jobs involve two persons: the one doing the actual clipping and an assistant who stands nearby ready to apply Kool Lube or some other suitable spray lubricant. In the past, I watched clipping where the person doing the clipping had two or three clippers. As one would overheat, a fresh clipper would be used until that one would overheat also. While the earlier clippers were cooling down, the blades would finally get some lubrication. I noticed that it was always a good idea to have multiple sets of blades ready to change if the ones in the clipper stopped cutting.
The last time I watched a clipping (some time ago now), I took it upon myself to be an assistant even though I was reasonably sure that my help would not be all that welcome and would be rejected if I asked. Not long after the job began, the clipper overheated and had to be left to cool and the job had to stop for a while (no other clippers were available). When the job resumed, I grabbed the can of Kool Lube and stood near where the clipper as it was working. When a stroke was completed I asked the person doing the clipping to hold out the clipper and at that point I would spray the clipper blades and then she then would resume clipping. This proved to be very convenient and effective and so I was not asked to stand clear. From then on the clipper remained quite cool and the entire clipping job was completed quickly and without jamming or overheating.
What I'd like to suggest is that an assistant stand close to where the clipper is being used and for the clipping person to hold out the blades after each major stroke to receive a shot of spray lube. If you keep the blades well lubricated like this, their sharpness will be maintained and the clipper will not overheat and, of course, the job can proceed quickly and efficiently. I urge anybody doing clipping to at least try this arrangement and if you do, I believe that only one clipper and one set of blades is all that will be necessary.