Equine | 15 December 2020

Advice on clipping nervous horses

Sometimes clipping a horse can be a bit of a challenge especially if they are nervous, young or new to clipping. Having a horse that is fearful of clipping can be difficult and as the winter coat gets thicker this can add a level of stress to the horse and the owner.

We know it’s not a nice feeling clipping a nervous horse and we know sometimes sedating them just feels far too harsh just for the clip. Sometimes sedating can be the only option to get your horse clipped, especially if they have been violent previously. However, there are many ways to get your young or nervous horse prepared, feeling calm and comfortable for their clip, as well as making sure you are safe.

When clipping a particularly young or nervous horse, it’s important to get them used to the clipper. There are several ways you can do this, the best way of getting your horse used to the clippers is by running the clippers on but not near them so they can get used to the sound of the clipper and even the smell. Horses senses are a lot stronger than ours therefore smell and sounds will be a lot stronger and louder, the smell of the clippers and oil can have a very distinct aroma and the sound can be unique maybe something your horse is unlikely to have encountered before.

Once they have got used to the clippers at a distance you can start putting the clippers near them, getting them used to the feel of the blades and plastic whilst the clippers are OFF. Once the horse is happy with having the clippers placed on him whilst off you can then gradually start putting  the clippers on around them briefly and starting to place the clippers on the body. If you place your hand between the clippers and the horse they will be able to feel the vibrations but will minimal hum. If the horse is comfortable with the vibrations through your hand, start by moving the clippers along his body in the direction of the coat, without cutting. Repeat until he is comfortable with this.

Furthermore, petting your horse with the clippers in hand but turned off will also work wonders when it comes to getting them used to the clipper. It helps to keep an eye on your horse’s emotions, as this may save you from receiving a kick, and you wouldn’t want that! When you are sure your horse is comfortable with the noise, vibrations and sensations of the clippers you can start attempting to clip. With this, when you come to clipping your horse, start clipping on the bottom of the shoulder muscle, avoiding clipping the face area, legs and stomach, as these are more sensitive parts! Make sure to work out what your horse is comfortable with. Many may prefer to be cut on one side completely first, whilst others prefer to be cut on different parts, so switching sides will help them feel relaxed and more comfortable.

Avoid using dull blades, they will leave lines in the coat, and you’ll run the risk of overheating the blade motor, also forcing you to press down harder and you’ll find yourself repeatedly clipping the same clip areas many times.


Some expert tips –

  • If your horse is raising their head or twitching its tail, it’s a sign that they are becoming aggressive, usually because they are not fond of being clipped in that area, so it might be good to leave it a few minutes before carrying on
  • Give your horse regular breaks. Often, clipping can take a long time, and your horse might need a toilet break, so don’t forget to give them one! This could be the culprit for bad behaviour at the time.
  • Be careful when clipping the sensitive belly, near the stifle, by the elbows, legs and ears. They may be spooked by this and could kick out!
  • Avoid ‘flooding’. This is when your horse is fearful of being clipped, but still is clipped anyway using a restraint. This increases the level of stress and fear your horse will fear when being clipped again.

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