October 21, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter
Question: Does your horse enjoy being clipped?
My mare is really uneasy with clippers. I’ve been desensitizing her for the last 12 months. No rush. I have managed her body no problem at all but her legs, she hates. I managed front legs but she was kicking out with her back. How do I go about it?
It is commendable that you are incrementally helping her become comfortable with clippers around her body. It is often the sound and vibration which bothers a horse. If your horse trusts you enough to clip her body now, the next step is for her to become tolerant of the buzzing on her legs. With a horse who cannot have certain areas of their body clipped (it is often the ears) my first procedure is to use plastic bags on a stick to rub her all over with an emphasis on the legs. The process is to approach her with the handle end of the stick first, keeping the plastic bags behind you, and rub gently at her withers which is a sweet spot on most horses.
If she is relaxed with that end, turn the stick around and repeat the rubbing with the plastic bags this time. Timing your bags to go away when she relaxes is imperative and you should study my lesson series on Horses Fear the Clippers on my Online University. It is now possible to buy electric toothbrushes almost anywhere. Get one, and tape it to a bamboo pole or similar light stick of some sort. Make it long enough so that you are completely out of any danger. I recommend the use of the Dually Halter so as to educate your horse to stand while you are out of the kick zone. Stroke your horse first with the toothbrush off.
Once you have her standing, allowing the toothbrush and the pole to touch her everywhere, then turn on the toothbrush and begin at the wither. Continue to work broadening the area you touch. It may take some time, but every horse will eventually learn to like the massage effect of the vibrating toothbrush. Give her a good reason to trust the sound as well as the vibrating movement. In everything you do with your horse, start with what is easier for the horse and work toward what is most difficult. When she shows even a small sign of relaxation, take the toothbrush away. Remember to work on both sides of your horse.
When ready and relaxed, use rechargeable clippers (no cord) to rub without clipping at first until she can tolerate that vibration too. Another tool you could employ is a rechargeable handheld massager over the withers first and then down on the legs. The experience your horse has should be completely pain free in order for her to learn to accept your clippers eventually. I think you will find the learning goes quite quickly when you have taken the incremental steps to introduce each level of sound and vibration to her. Let us know how it goes.
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