Tips and Techniques from a Master
Dana’s life as an equine professional encompasses more than 40 years of experience. With an industrious background ranging from hunters, starting Thoroughbreds and other young horses for racing, ponying youngsters, working stock horses with cows, employment with several top trainers and having her own successful boarding and training business, Dana has done just about everything in the equine industry. But in 1992 a major life change sent her on a new path when she began a new career specializing in body clipping.
Unbeknownst to Andis Company, but while using their equipment on horses, Dana carved a niche for them in the horse industry they had no idea existed. When Andis learned how Dana was using their equipment to body clip, they asked her if she would be willing to make an instructional video for them, teaching people how to clip their own horses. From 1997, Dana began representing the Andis Company as Andis’s first Equine Education Specialist. Part of her job included traveling across the country as a clinician, giving talks and demonstrations on the finer points of body clipping including clipping basic hip designs such as hearts and stars. This further evolved as Dana began using her own horses as “reusable canvases” clipping entire scenes on both sides of their bodies. These techniques, now known as Creative Clipping or Artistic Equine Body Clipping, have begun their own competitions, something Dana is quite proud of as they further bring this artistic specialty to others.
Most of us know the basics of body clipping; clean, dry and cool. Clip into the direction of hair growth. Use an overlapping stroke to help prevent lines. Clean and oil blades regularly, every 15-20 minutes to keep them cool or warm, not hot. Doing this helps prolong the life of the blades and equally important gives you and the horse a short break. Personally, Dana uses these breaks to stretch and keep hydrated, as she has been known to clip all day, even in the summer. During show season, days can turn into weeks and frequent breaks help to keep a level attitude, something the horses really appreciate.
While Dana claims she is not an artist and respects those that are, there are many of us who beg to differ. Art is one’s personal vision and can be accomplished in many forms. Regardless of how art is achieved, it is still recognizable as art—attributed to the level of skill involved and to its vision.
Dana’s visionary clippings are inspired by a variety of subjects, some tributes, some whimsical, but many with their own personal connection. “Life in Florida” was Dana’s first of many pictures. An ironical tribute to the beach she so loves but doesn’t have time to visit. Whimsical scenes like “Winter Vacation” and “Mustang in a Mustang on a Mustang” lend to the free spirit of this artist. A clipping entitled “Spring” is a memorial tribute to friends who have passed on.
Dana cautions would-be artists to be careful not to be over-ambitious with too much detail or too small of a picture. It is difficult to make busy detail look like it should.
Dana creates her own stencils to design her pictures. Then, removing the stencil she will free hand the intricate details. While some people can free hand an entire picture, stencils make it possible for everyone to be successful. Through trial and error Dana determined a number of tools to aid in her artistic creations.
Dana’s list of tools and techniques:
- Thick plastic stencils (cardboard will not hold adhesive as well)
- Repositionable spray adhesive
- Colored hair spray (to mark small details to be clipped after you remove the stencil
- Clippers, may use more than one set with different length blades
To begin, lay the entire picture out on a clean disposable surface, such as an empty feed bag. Turn the stencils over and spray the adhesive on the back side. Attach all of the stencils on the area you are working on at the same time. For example, if you are working on the shoulder, attach all the stencils for the shoulder. When you move to the barrel follow the same procedure. This will help prevent clipping away hair that may be needed for detailed parts of your scene.
Once the stencils are in place, simply clip right over the stencil. Then turn your clippers over for a closer cut which will make the edges sharp and clean. This is a technique used in the beauty and barber industry. Make sure to clip as much of the hair from the stencil as possible. Next, use the colored hair spray (if needed) to mark the hair you were unable to remove. Finally, remove the stencil. Carefully clip the marked areas free hand. Your picture will be the result of the color change of the hair and, of course, does not hurt the horse in any way.
Clipping pictures has actually made Dana a better show clipper. The intricate work has fine-tuned her awareness of the direction of hair growth. One of the secrets with top notch work is not to leave any clip lines or patches, and clipping it correctly the first time saves time. When asked what are the benefits of artistic clipping Dana had a number of responses for us.
“First of all, it’s a great way to profile a sponsor’s logo and it gets a lot more attention than a shirt or saddle pad,” she responded. “Secondly, it’s therapeutic. Regardless of the reason for therapy, clipping a design on your horse can bring you both a closer connection or awareness. And finally, and most importantly, it’s fun!”
Dana loves to step back and watch people when they realize what they are actually looking at on the sides of a horse. For this equine artist she is only too happy to share with us another fascinating jewel of the equine industry and hopes she will inspire others to follow suit.