Our equine disciplines really do differentiate themselves by the way they clip. Even if you know your own clipping rules inside and out, we think you’ll enjoy learning what “the other guys” are doing when they groom equine hair for show ring success.
Make Them Notice
The hunter/jumper divisions, which can seem so complex in their rules, seem to be the simplest when it comes to clipping.
“In hunters, no prize is given, but the more professional, the better cared-for a horse looks, the more we’ll notice,” says Debbie Sands, trainer, hunter/jumper judge and steward, of Encinitas, Calif. “It makes a better first impression to the judge. As for jumpers, you don’t really have to clip, but they should look neater.”
She likes to see ears clipped, preferring an “inside job” but acknowledges that horses living outside need Nature’s protection. In that case, fold the ear closed and clip excess on the edges, advises Sands, who likes a two-inch bridle path only. Eyelashes are better left alone, but whiskers should be removed. For legs, “take big clippers to remove the feathers.”
In the Arabian disciplines, “very specific rules exist in the USEF rulebook (Chapter AR) about what you can and can’t do,” says Jill Frieders of Rochester, Minn., chair of the USEF Arabian Horse Division Committee.
It’s important to differentiate between the main and the sport horse rings, she says. In the former, you’ll see divisions such as English and Western Pleasure, Halter and Hunter Pleasure, while in the arena allocated to sport horses, dressage and over-fences classes are held.
In the sport horse genre, “don’t expect to see an extreme clip job,” says Frieders. “Judges who judge in sport horse are not Arabian judges. They are judges of their disciplines, so their eye expects to see horses clipped less than for the main show ring.” For Arabians in dressage, for example, “you’d never clip ears out completely. Judges would think that’s bizarre, but showing English Pleasure in the main ring, you clip the ear out all the way.” If you didn’t, Frieders says, “it would be like showing a horse with hairy armpits.”
In the main Arabian ring, Frieders predicts that you’ll usually see a bridle path “longer than in other breeds or disciplines. It’s what shows off the neck best.” Hair is removed from outside edges and inside of ears, and from the muzzle, plus guard hairs around eyes come off, but eyelashes stay. Legs are closely clipped up to the knees.
“This is an art,” explains Frieders, who adds that she once owned a book that illustrated in exacting detail how to clip for the Arabian main ring: “It was like a Clip by Numbers.” Taking it a step further, horses are often clipped with a half moon shape over the eyes, to make them look bigger; a diamond shape may be clipped into the forehead for added aesthetics.
Like American Idol
In spite of the nuances, a lot of similarities exist between disciplines. If the horse has a nice, sleek summer coat, “you don’t need to do much,” says Jayne Ayers, member of USEF’s Dressage committee, and international dressage and sport horse breeding judge of Hearthstone Farm, Inc. in Dousman, Wisc. Trim up the fetlocks, leaving no extra hair hanging off, and possibly do the coronet bands. “Just present a neat, tidy appearance overall,” recommends this veteran competition judge and trainer.