Clipping Problems – as we move into autumn, horses in harder work benefit from being clipped. Although some horses don’t react to the clippers and the job can be done without incident (or wonky lines!), some have a real fear of the blades and noise and become virtually impossible to clip. I often speak to clients who choose to sedate their horse to get it done – a costly and impractical exercise! Therefore it is important to make sure your horse’s first clipping experience is a good one and that with time and patience, they will accept the process quietly.
There is a lot of preparation work you can do to make life easier for yourself! Before introducing the clippers, your basic groundwork must be good enough to enable you to place your horse where you want them to stand. You need to be able to back them up, lead them forward, and move their shoulders, ribs and hindquarters to each side independently of each other. Then you will be able to keep repositioning your horse easily and with minimum fuss. The second process to go through with your horse is desensitising them to the clippers and the noise. I tend to start with other objects such as plastic bags and a bottle with some rocks in it with the aim of being able to move it all over their body. The head, ears and legs are the most sensitive areas of a horse so make sure they are confident with contact on their body before progressing to these parts. Should you find a sensitive area, stop progressing and try to stay where you are until your horse stops moving and relaxes. This rewards your horse for stopping and standing.
When you have been through the desensitisation process with range of objects you can try an electric toothbrush or similar device that makes a noise like clippers but on a smaller scale. You can then move on to the clippers themselves but start with them turned off then move on to them turned on but with your hand between them and your horse. Work progressively until your horse is able to stand relaxed with the clippers making contact with their body.
This process may take several sessions, and be prepared for quite a lot of work if you horse has an ingrained fear of clippers. Start slow and small and build progressively.
For a comprehensive look at the desensitisation process, which you can use for all manner of management and husbandry procedures, please click here.