The best clipping patterns for your Icelandic horse

Isländer nach der Schur im Winter

You know the pros and cons of clipping and now you want to take the first step? But don't know which clippers to use? Here are our tips.

Author: Marie-Theres Conen, Sportsfreund Studios

Why do we clip our horses?

So they don't sweat so much and freeze less. Strange, isn't it? But if you take the weather into account, the whole thing actually makes sense.

Horses sweat a lot when riding in winter: A problem arises when the sweat makes the undercoat wet and the coat sticks together when it dries afterwards. Then the warming effect of the coat is lost.

You can counteract this with a Cooler Rug , but it often takes a long time. A shorn horse can cool down and dry faster after training, which reduces the risk of colds and muscle tension.

High transition temperatures: In September and March, temperatures can reach 20 degrees and more. This is simply too warm for a horse in winter coat, even if he is not working much. We want to give him relief.

Shearing helps, not only because the horse has less coat, but also because other mechanisms of thermoregulation such as heat radiation and heat convection function better again. By shearing the coat, the horse's body heat can be dissipated more efficiently to prevent overheating.

A sweaty coat can lead to colds or tension.

How do I know which clipping pattern to use?

The clipping patterns we show you differ mainly in terms of area. Basically, the more fur is clipped, the more effective the cooling, but also the greater the risk of freezing. Partial shearing is definitely winter-friendly and does not need to be covered. Now you just have to weigh up how much your horse sweats. Pay attention to these points:

Thickness of the winter coat or mane.

Whether you shear your horse and how big the shearing should be depends on the type of coat your Icelandic horse has. More modern breeding lines often have fine winter coats, while more old-fashioned Isis still come in the mammoth version.

You should also consider how long the mane is. Under a thick mane you can safely shear off all the coat, if the side of the neck is free of mane, you may leave more coat.

Icelandic horses can develop coats of varying thickness.

Training programme & sweat points
How much do you ride your horse in winter? If you have very little time to ride in winter because you only come to the stable in the dark, your horse will not sweat so often that it is worth shearing. 

Observe where and how much your horse sweats after a normal ride. Shear the areas that match the sweat pattern. If your horse sweats only a little on the chest, the shearing will be smaller than for a horse that is completely soaked and sweats all the way down the neck to the shoulders.

Of course, as always, we recommend the use of a Cooler Rug sheared or unsheared. The aim is to put the horse back in the paddock dry. If your horse is dry again after 30 minutes in its normal winter coat, it does not need to be shorn. But if it is still wet to the skin after two sweat-off blankets, it should be clipped. This way you can minimise the sweating time.

Do you ride a lot or not much?

Remember: It is better to put a dry shearing in the paddock than a soaked long coat.

How much a horse sweats is a matter of disposition and is not good or bad. There is nothing wrong if your horse starts sweating very quickly during light work (provided he is healthy and not very overweight). It just means that it is a good thermoregulator. This is how you can improve your horse's thermoregulation.

There are also horses that control their temperature more through their breath. They sweat less with the same effort, but pant more. Neither of these is worse, they just need to be managed differently. It is never a good solution not to move the horse for fear of sweating. That is the most unhealthy.

For ease of care, we recommend only shearing the neck area. These never need to be covered. In spring or warm autumn you can also include a belly shearing if you take care to cover the horse when it is wet. A full shearing is always covered. We don't want horses to stand in the paddock with shorn backs and get cold tension.

Think about how your horse is standing. Is it protected from the wind, is the ground wet, is there a shelter, is it in the warming herd? If there are many points that can cause the horse to freeze, you have to adjust the shearing in each case. How can I tell that my horse is cold?

We always recommend uncomplicated partial shearing

A good time for the first shearing is September. Just have a look at the weather forecast. If it is going to be particularly warm, shear earlier. If there are still a few cold rainy days, it is better to wait until the winter coat has developed a little further. Most horses will then shed again, so it is worth re-shearing as soon as you see the first shearing less. This is usually about 6-8 weeks later around November.

Watch how long the coat has become again and what the weather forecast says for the next two weeks. You can always get a good idea of how the weather will develop.

If I train my horse a lot over the winter, I would re-shear in February if there are no cold spells in the next few days. If it's going to be very warm , I take off some more coat in mid-April.

Think about what your horse needs
Does he sweat a lot during work in winter or only during the transition when the temperature is warm and the coat changes? Is it particularly prone to sweating in the transition, but is hardly ever exercised in winter? If so, you can simply remove a large piece of coat from the neck at the beginning of September and then stop clipping.

Does your horse sweat a lot in winter but has a very thin coat in the transition? Just shear a little later, when the undercoat is already fully developed, shear earlier and let the coat grow again in spring.

Does sweet itch have an effect on shearing?

Basically, no. Since an eczema sufferer should still wear an eczema blanket in the phase where his coat is so thin that mosquitoes can bite through it more easily than usual, it doesn't really matter how he is clipped. 

In fact, most eczema sufferers do quite well to have the fur on their neck and chest clipped. Especially between the front legs, as this allows skin impurities to air out and heal better, and it minimises itching.

However, I would always make sure that the coat on the side without the mane is not sheared to the comb, but always kept at least a hand's width away. The biting insects are also active in the colder months and like to sting in this area. This protects the coat from chafing on the mane comb.

For sweet itch: Leave at least a hand's width to the mane.

Tips for clipping yourself:

Your horse must be clean and dry.

Our clipping patterns are the most favourable cuts for your horse. We want to emphasise the conformation and clipper with the body lines of the horse. Step one for a good outline is confidence. Simply wield the clippers confidently and naturally and the lines will be cleanest.

It is important to clipper in such a way that the lines you draw with your clippers overlap. If you keep leaving little tufts and strips of hair, it will never be neat. Also, you should run the clippers in long strokes rather than small short ones.

Top line shearing: When shearing the visible side of your horse's neck, you can make sure that the line goes up in a small arc, making the neck look better shaped. The only important thing is that it does not curve downwards, thus creating the image of a stag's neck. Again, this will look best if you shear in one even stroke. Wedge on front legs: We find it the most beautiful shearing when a triangle tapers from the front legs towards the end. This makes your horse look longer-legged and slimmer. The longer and more pointed the triangle, the more beautiful it is. Wenn du die sichtbare Halsseite deines Pferdes scherst, kannst du darauf achten, dass die Linie in einem kleinen Bogen nach oben geht und so den Hals besser geformt aussehen lässt. Wichtig ist nur, dass sie keinen Bogen nach unten macht und so das Bild eines Hirschhalses entsteht. Das wir auch wieder am schönsten wenn du in einem gleichmäßigen Zug scherst.

Keil an Vorderbeinen: Wir finden es die schönste Schur, wenn von den Vorderbeinen sich am Ende hin ein Dreieck verjüngt. Das lässt dein Pferd langbeiniger und schlanker wirken. Je länger und Spitzer das Dreieck wird, desto schöner. 

Clipping can also flatter your horse's body.

To do this, first place the clippers behind the foreleg at elbow level. Find a spot wide enough for the clippers to follow the shoulder muscles and pull the clippers upwards in one stroke. 

For the second side, start at the front of the leg at the bottom of the chest and shear upwards to meet the first line. The angle at the top should be as acute as possible.

Between the front legs: No matter how big your clipping gets, it is always good to remove the hair between the front legs, as dirt crusts tend to form there in winter.

Other clipping patterns
To be honest, we often don't find other clipping patterns as nice, especially if they involve single stripes. Like a stripe on the hind leg or one under the mane. It's inelegant and doesn't do much because you need a larger area for cooling.

Ralley shearing: Not so flattering, not so effective
When does my shorn horse need a rug?

We have a detailed article on this. Not all horse shearing is the same and therefore there is no general answer to this question. Depending on where and how much you shear your horse, it will need a blanket because it cannot protect itself sufficiently from moisture and warmth in the sheared areas.

One thing you always need, even with shearing, is a sweat blanket. The sweat must dry off completely after riding. But this happens very quickly. If the shorn horse is still wet despite the blanket, it should be put back with a paddock rug .

Does shearing damage the coat? Explanation of re-shearing:

A myth that persists is that shearing damages the hair structure in the long run. It is said that if you shear your horse too late, you will not get a beautiful summer coat. We can say from experience that this is not true.

It really doesn't matter when you shear your horse, the coat will grow back year after year in normal thickness and hair structure and absolutely evenly. The fact that the coat does not grow back as beautifully after shearing as before happens with woolly dog breeds. However, these cannot be compared to horses because of the coat and skin structure alone.

The only thing that changes when you postpone shearing is how quickly the coat grows back. If you shear at the beginning of September, when the winter coat is pushing, the shearing may not be visible after two weeks and you have to re-shear faster. If you shear your horse again in January, the coat will take longer to grow back.

Despite shearing: the coat always grows back evenly.

The facts behind it
The hair growth cycle consists of three main phases: Anagen phase, Catagen phase, Telogen phase. These phases take place all over the body. This means that the coat in the shorn areas changes at the same time as the coat on the rest of the body.

For example, if the anagen phase (growth phase) occurs, the coat on the shorn neck grows at the same time as the unshorn belly. The body does not receive information like: Stop, the coat is short there, please don't grow any more here.

Likewise, the length, thickness and texture of the coat are genetically determined. Horses have denser and longer coats on their bellies compared to their faces. This means that the information of the hair structure is laid down in the hair root. That is why the coat grows differently on the different parts of the body.

After a shearing, the hair root is unchanged and produces the same hair again as before the shearing. A horse does not suddenly grow a thin, short coat on the neck as it does on the face, or much longer hair with the thickness of tail hair. That is simply not possible.

However, choosing the right clippers can make a difference. High quality, sharp blades minimise damage to the hair. Poor quality or dull blades are more likely to break or damage the hair. However, this is only true until the hair falls out again.

The shedding cycle does not depend on temperature
Horses have a natural hair growth cycle that is influenced by the daylight cycle. When the days become shorter again on 22 June, this signals the horse's body to produce the winter coat. From 22 December, when the days become longer, the horse begins to shed its winter coat and develop the shorter summer coat.

The solstice heralds the next coat change. Growth information is in the hair root, not the tip. Hair roots also do not have a built-in thermometer. That is why the coat continues to grow normally after a shearing.

Is clipping an intervention in the horse's natural thermoregulation?

Yes, and frankly, we want it to be.

Icelandic horses were bred for the harsh conditions of the island. Their thermoregulation has adapted to these climatic conditions over hundreds of years. Thus, the horses have developed thick skin, dense undercoat and long top coat. In addition, their conformation is such that the horses have as little surface area to their body volume as possible, which further helps them to keep warm.

Our horses live in Germany with very different conditions than in Iceland.

Winter coat consists of:

Top coat: The top coat of the winter coat consists of longer and coarser hairs that have a protective function against wind and moisture. This top coat forms an outer layer and protects the more sensitive undercoat.

Undercoat: The winter coat contains a dense undercoat consisting of short, fine hairs. This undercoat insulates the horse by creating an air-cushioned layer that retains heat while warding off cold.

Thick skin: It is important to note that the thicker skin layers of Icelandic horses are an evolutionary adaptation to Iceland's specific climatic conditions. These adaptations allow horses to survive in the island's harsh weather conditions and regulate their body temperature.

When Icelandic horses are imported to warmer regions, they need to take extra measures to protect themselves from excessive heat, as their thick skin is less efficient at dissipating heat.

The top coat is the first thing that grows during the coat change and falls out again in spring. The top coat starts to grow on our horses in August. Undercoat forms gradually until the horse has developed its complete winter coat in November/December.

We interfere with the natural thermoregulation by shearing, because we also no longer keep the horses in their natural form. In contrast to the conditions under which they were kept on the island in the past, the horses do not stand in the rough landscape during snow storms, but have sheltered paddocks. We don't have such snowstorms in most parts of Germany anyway. 

An Icelandic horse equipped for the German winter in the paddock can be compared to an off-road vehicle with snow chains driving in the slush inside. Practical, but a bit exaggerated.

If we are talking about the naturalness of the horse, then perhaps it should also be mentioned here that horses were not built to be ridden and trained. Therefore, it is already unnatural for a horse to sweat in winter through any activity such as riding.

In autumn or spring, horses also suffer from temperatures that are too warm for them. For this we only have to look at the climate data of Germany and Iceland in comparison. Here we have a difference of almost 10 degrees in the average temperature in September and 5.6 degrees in March.

Shearing horses affects their metabolism and there are both positive and potentially negative effects that should be considered

Just because we make life easier for our horses with a little less coat, thus affecting their thermoregulation, does not mean that all other mechanisms are disrupted because of the missing piece of coat on the chest and neck. The remaining fur can still puff up and warm, the skin still protects with its thickness, the blood vessels still contract and so on. Read here when horses get cold in winter.

Icelandic horses will not freeze even with partial shearing, unless it rains extremely hard and soaks the horse. But if you look at the shorn part of the horse, you will see that you cannot see through the skin, even with the shortness of the coat. This means that there is still enough protection.

Due to their thick skin and undercoat, Icelandic horses are nevertheless sufficiently protected.

Positive effects:
Shorn horses can cool down more quickly after exercise or in warm weather, as they can release their body heat more easily. This can help prevent overheating and reduce the risk of heat stress. 

A clipped horse can dry out faster, which helps prevent muscle tension and colds.

Potential negative effects:

Loss of insulation, more feeding needs, grooming requirements, risk of sunburn, apply if the horse has a full shearing and otherwise also thin coat that shows down to the skin. However, this does not apply to a partial shearing of Icelandic horses.

The transition period makes horses sweat

It is important to note that not all horses need or should be clipped. The decision to shear a horse should be made carefully and depend on several factors, including climatic conditions, the horse's activities and individual needs.

However, we consider partial shearing of the neck to be risk-free. If you want to shear the whole body of your horse or even the belly, you should definitely invest in a good paddock cover. Otherwise, if you are extremely unsure, we can advise you to start with the smallest shearing and see how it works. The coat grows back quickly.

Isländer nach der Schur im Winter
Worth Reading
Welche Farbe steht meinem Islandpferd?

Which color suits my horse?

We offer you a wide range of colors for sweat rugs, rain rugs and saddle rugs. With this large selection of colors you may

All about our sweet itch blanket

Everything you need to know about our sweet itch rug. Fabric, cut and fit. The blanket is designed for the highest protection and comfort of the horse.

Abschwitzdecken von Sportsfreund Studios
Sportsfreund Studios

The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

Hot right now
Our Magazine
Even more
Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner