Help with clipping a headshy horse

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If your horse is headshy and hates clippers going anywhere near his face, it makes clipping rather hard to achieve. Clipping expert Lisa Edmed explains how to approach clipping this tricky area.

Passive body language

First, don’t make yourself threatening to a nervous horse. Sometimes when people are nervous themselves, it can make them threatening in their stance. Be calm, quiet and understanding. If you feel unsure, get a professional to clip your horse for you, but make sure you tell them about any tricky areas so that they’re prepared.

Treat time

Treats are your best friend in this situation and a good tip is to have someone competent standing at your horse’s head, with one or two nuts or treats in their hand. However, really make your horse work to get them. This may be just enough to take his mind off the clipping process.

Outside for safety

I prefer not to clip in a stable in case the horse feels closed in and panics. A safe area outside, with someone competent holding the horse, is my preference.

Small is best

If you know that your horse is headshy, don’t even attempt to put big clippers near his face. Stop using the big clippers just past his shoulders and swap them for small cordless clippers when you come to do his neck and head.

Slow and steady

Don’t rush. Allow yourself extra time to clip a headshy horse. Sometimes covering your horse’s eye with your hand as you clip is enough to stop him panicking. You could also try plugging his ears with cotton wool to lessen the noise of the clippers.

Desensitise him

You could try desensitising your horse over time with an electric toothbrush, which can sometimes help a headshy or nervous horse. You then gradually build up to using clippers.

Consider sedation

Sometimes, sedation is required, but be aware that your horse may still react even when sedated. Clipping should be done mainly to improve the welfare of your horse by making him more comfortable, but if clipping causes him such severe stress and anxiety that he becomes dangerous, you have to ask yourself whether it’s really the right thing to do.

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