Clipping a new, young or nervous horse?
Clipping a horse for the first time
If you’re clipping a horse for the first time, assume that he’s never been exposed to large, heavy-duty body clippers. This means that you will need to allow some time to get him used to the clippers, which may take days rather than hours. Follow the steps below to do this:
- Find a safe place to introduce your horse to clippers, preferably in the same place that you intend to use when you start clipping
- Use an extension lead for the clippers so that you’ve got plenty of spare cable, but don’t wrap it around your hand or hold it in the centre of a loop
- Make sure your own body language is calm and non-threatening
- Show your horse the clippers while they are turned OFF, then gently rub your horse with the clippers along his neck, barrel, belly and quarters. Remember to do this on both the near-side and off-side, until the horse is completely comfortable
- Stand a little away from your horse and turn the clippers ON. Let your horse get used to the sound. Stand still with the clippers switched on until your horse is comfortable and relaxed
- Now let your horse feel the vibration of the clippers on his body. Do not clip at this point, just gently run the body of the clippers over the neck, barrel, belly and quarters
- If your horse objects to a particular part of his body being touched, go back to an area that he didn’t mind. As soon as he relaxes, e.g. drops his poll even a little, turn the clippers off and reward using verbal reassurance, gentle stroking, or a treat if you prefer. A full hay net can also be a useful aid when you want to keep your horse calm
- Repeat by turning the clippers on and touching your horse with the body of the vibrating clippers, starting at the shoulder. Again, if your horse becomes anxious repeat the previous step
- Don’t rush or become frustrated. Expect to repeat this daily until you are happy with your horse’s responses. Also, know when to stop for the day and always stop on a positive note.
Clipping a young or nervous horse
- Stand your young or nervous horse next to an experienced horse while the experienced horse is being clipped. This will help the young or nervous horse get used to the noise of the clippers without anyone approaching him with them
- Spend a lot of time with your young or nervous horse with the clippers just on but not near him, so that he gets used to the sound of them
- When you think he's OK with the sound of the clippers, run them over his body with the clippers switched OFF. Again, allow a lot of time for this, and do it as many times as needed until he gets used to them
- Once the horse is comfortable with the clippers when they're switched off, switch them on and place the clippers on his body with your hand between him and the clippers - this will allow him to feel the vibrations with a minimised 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
- Ensure your horse is comfortable with the noise, vibrations and sensations of the clippers before you attempt to clip
- When you decide that the time is right to clip, follow the steps outlined above for clipping a horse for the first time and you should be OK
- Don’t expect too much from the first clip. Maybe clip a small section on his neck and then stop. The next time, do a bit more. Increase it each time
- Start with an easy clip for your first clip on a young or nervous horse - ideally a bib clip - to build his confidence
- A positive experience at each clipping will ensure that the next time you can go for a larger clip, if you choose to.
Some horses accept the clippers quickly whilst others won’t. However, with patience and following a process that uses small steps to build your horse’s confidence, you can avoid the need for sedation as well as creating a safer environment for you and your horse.
Do you have any tips for clipping a horse for the first time? Share them in the comments below! You never know, your comment may just help a fellow equestrian.
Read our tips on how to stay safe when clipping.