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It’s coming to that time of year where we need to get out the clippers and give our horses and ponies much needed haircuts.
Firstly, when going to view horses and ponies for sale, if being good to clip is important to you make sure you see this for yourself, obviously, you can ask the vendor over the phone but if you want to be certain or if the current owner does not know how the horse is to clip then its a good idea to check yourself.
I’m not saying you need to actually clip the horse, but either take your own set of clippers with you or ask when arranging a viewing if it would be ok to turn some clippers on near the horse when coming for the viewing, most horses you’ll know as soon as you turn them on what the reaction is before you’ve even placed them on the skin. furthermore, you can simply run them backwards along the coat to gage a reaction (or hopefully lack of reaction).
Most important is your safety, especially if it is a horse or pony you have just bought or a reactive horse. For clipping horses we recommend wearing a hat and have a helper there to hold the horse for you. This is a dangerous job if the horse is not accepting what you are doing and they can be very fast to react when you least expect it!! No point in clipping horses if you can’t ride it after because its injured you!!
First when clipping horses, decide what type of clip you want the horse or pony to have. This will vary depending on workload, coat length, weather, and turnout, plus whether you want to or can-do lines well. I personally love a blanket clip, I think it offers the best of both worlds the neck and belly are removed so the horse doesn’t over heat and is easy to clean but still has a nice covering of hair over its back for those cold wet winter days. It is best to look at photos online to give you an idea of what you want.
Types of clip include, full, hunter, blanket, trace, chaser and bib or you can always try and create your own. If you are asking someone else or a professional to clip your horse be specific with what you want, showing a picture may be best to get what you are after, there’s no going back once you’ve clipped it off
Like when decorating a room of your house, you put tape around the plug sockets, wipe down the walls, put dust sheets down, etc. Before clipping horses, remove any water buckets from near by and find somewhere the horse is comfortable in but ideally has good lighting too.
I find spraying the horse with a mane and tail conditioner is best (better than coat shine spray) to allow the clippers to glide through and remove any mud to save your blades. If the horse can be bathed that will help remove any grease but this isn’t always possible plus you need to have enough time spare for the horse to dry afterwards. You can also tie up the mane to save yourself the embarrassment of an accidental half hogged look. (We have all had that moment or horror when a big clump of mane falls out in front of us!!)
Once you think you’ve finished and checked for any missed spots, I get some warm water (We only have a kettle at our yard) with a bit of hibiscrub or no-rinse wash in and wipe the horse over with a cloth or sponge to remove any of those annoying itchy hairs and grease (Hot cloth). If you have access to more warm water and can allow the horse to dry and not catch a chill then a good bath and shampoo would be even better.
If you have a horse that’s a bit nervous or sensitive to clip and you want them to become easier to do, you will have to put in the work.
For example: training a horse to do a dressage movement correct repetition is key to getting the desired outcome. I personally don’t think it’s fair to expect a horse that’s nervous to accept something when you only do it a few times a year.
You could use an old electric toothbrush (I don’t recommend using your own personal one!) or electric shaver (I bought one that was useless on my legs but is very handy on the yard) and just for 10 minutes a day when grooming or after riding, just simply run them over the horse. Reward the horse by removing them or turning off when it gives you the desired behaviour, give the horse a stroke and a pat, and repeat.
If you feel like you’ve tried everything and it’s just not going to be safe to do or the horse just needs more time and you need to clip right away, then you may find it’s best to get some sedation from the vet, whether this is oral or an injection administered by the vet. It’s most important to keep yourself safe!