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Advice for clipping the sensitive horse for the first time.

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Clipping should be pleasant for the horse and should develop confidence, cooperation and trust between horse and groom, but too often it is anything but a pleasure. Some horses dislike being clipped with clippers or trimmers, or on certain parts of their bodies.

Their behaviour can range from expressions of discomfort and protest such as making faces, head tossing, kicking gestures or making snappy faces. When a horse hates clipping, he may eventually come to hate that person who clips him, and the dislike may become mutual.

The underlying factor in all such behaviour is pain and the anticipation of pain.

While you must protect yourself from getting hurt, threats or punishments only momentarily suppress the behaviour and will make the problem worse. Remember the horse is not being a jerk just to annoy you, and he does not plan or plot his actions. Allowing yourself to get angry with him makes it harder to change his attitude and behaviour and can lead you to loosing your temper , punishing him inappropriately and perhaps causing an incident you will regret.

How to deal with the difficult horse when clipping.

When a horse is difficult to clip, the first thing to check is your clipper and technique. Horses that have very fine coats, need a gentle hand and time. Use long and very gentle strokes until you find a level he can tolerate without protesting. Horses that have associated long-term discomfort or severe punishment with clipping often have strong habit patterns that are triggered by clipping, even before the clippers are placed on him.

When clipping a difficult horse, you must protect yourself from injury. Keep one hand resting gently on the horse while you clip with the other, this will allow you to feel him tensing to kick or move and may help you deflect a kick. If you must work low down, bend your knees but never kneel or sit near him.

When you start to clip, begin on a less sensitive area like the shoulder. Turn the clippers on and draw the clipper backward down the shoulder several times to get the horse used to the vibration. Once he accepts it, you can begin to clip. Keep the bottom blade close to the coat and with an even, light touch start to clip. Don't dig the teeth into his skin - this is uncomfortable and will create a welt.

Keep an eye on the clippers

You must stop frequently to check on the blades. If you hear a high-pitched, labouring noise, this indicates the blades are becoming clogged with hair and need cleaning. If the blades do not cut efficiently, try turning the tension screw a quarter of a turn at a time until you find the tension at which they produce a clean cut.

New blades do not need to be tightened as they wear down quickly. Over-tightening the tension screw will cause the blades to heat up and will give great discomfort to your horse. For further advice on how to tension your clippers, heres a great article- How To Tension Your Clipper. If you notice that the blades are beginning to heat up, stop and brush off the excess hair and spray with an oil, such as Easy Oil.

When clipping the head, be patient and be careful. Instead of using big heavy clippers, you will need a smaller clipper like the Quattro Cordless Clipper with a #10 blade to manipulate around the eyes and ears. Never try to clip the head with finer blades, because you will leave a scalped-looking face.

When clipping, stop frequently to give your horse a rest and a pat and brush away the clipped hair from the area you have been working on. This is the time to check your work and catch any mistakes that need re-clipping.

Helpful tips for clipping the sensitive horse

  1. If you are a novice to clipping, learn to clip on a patient, quiet horse.

  2. Have an experienced person to help you.

  3. Have sharp blades.

  4. Be patient and give yourself extra time.

  5. Only use a lip twitch if nothing else helps.

  6. Pop some wads of cotton in the ears to help lessen the clipper noise.

  7. Always have clipper oil close by to lubricate the clipper blades frequently.

  8. Have your vet sedate your horse, it saves him and you stress.

For further advice on clipping a difficult horse, click here

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