A desirable trait when looking to purchase a horse is the term “100% to clip” but not all horses are so relaxed about being clipped. In some cases, horses so can become so stressed by the experience, that the only way to the to get a pair of clippers near them is through intravenous sedation by a vet. Not only is this a big inconvenience for an owner, but is also very expensive!
Most horses that are difficult or nervous to clip dislike the noise and vibration of many of the powerful heavy-duty clippers. However, if a horse is a little nervous, but tolerant, there are certain types of quieter clippers that are well tolerated. Some horses can be fine to clip in certain areas but otherwise become very anxious when the clipper goes towards their head and ears. In which case, using a very quiet cordless trimmer to clip these more sensitive areas can reduce the anxiety in these horses.
To ensure your horse is the least distracted, it is best to clip inside a stable or other contained area away from the ongoings of a busy yard, or out of the wind and elements. Its also much easier to clean up the hair!
Tie your horse up securely and if necessary, have a friend to help hold a up a leg when clipping the fiddly areas in the armpits. They can also serve to watch for twitchy behaviour and warn you if the horse is becoming aggravated by the clippers.
Wear a hat and steel toe capped boots for clipping and try to keep in ordinary clothes that are familiar to your horse. If you do use a clipping suit or overall, ensure your horse is used to the sight of this.
Give your horse a hay net to keep him occupied. Focus on food can be a great distraction for some horses whilst you are busy clipping.
If your horse is worried about trailing cables, invest in a cordless or battery operated clipper that eliminates a worrying ‘snake’ on the ground.
If your horse hates being alone, make sure he has a friend nearby within eyesight, but not too close that they become a distraction too. Ensure though that the horsey friend won’t be removed halfway through clipping, to distract you horse.
Avoid clipping at am important time for your horse such a turnout time. Horse are such creatures of habit, and instinctively anticipate the next event in the day.
Always introduce your horse to clippers at the start of each clipping session. Let him sniff and investigate them when they are off and then once they are turned on, away from him so he can adjust to the noise. Never start up a clipper when you are stood behind him.
Start clipping at the neck or towards the front end of the horse. This way you can gauge his first reactions in the safest place.
Give you a horse a break, or a few. Clipping can take quite a long time. Ensure your horse doesn’t get annoyed by allowing him a break, reassurance and a hay top up! This also allows for you to give our clippers and blades a good a clean.
Do the simplest clip you can. There are many types of clip but don’t be afraid of tweaking any to your horse’s taste. For example, if your horse hates his head being clipped, why not just do half a head or leave his head completely unclipped and grade the clip from his jawline, down his neck to join the rest of his body clip.
Ultimately a horse is rarely tolerant of clipping on the first attempt and is generally improved by experience through training and desensitization. If you plan on giving your horse his first ever clip, take time to get him used to the feel and sensation for a certain amount of time first. This initial practice will make all the difference in the long run.