To be totally competitive, you need a peeled out ear, looks neater, sharper, and yes, judges notice. Great tips with the electric tooth brush, but come show day, if your horse fidgets & his ears looks ragged from him moving around while you are trying to clip, twitch him to fix it up. After a few years, they finally give up & stay still. My horse did, I even worked with him as a foal on the de-sensitizing with clippers & ears. He was fine & stayed still except with his left ear (his sire & 1/2 sister were the same with same ear, odd?), now he just lets me & even lowers his head & tilts his ear towards me. Guess he decided he didn't like twitch. Good Luck!
I clip about 10-20 horse's for each of our shows. We used to twitch them all and get it over with quick with no fight. But now I can clip many of them with no twitch and on the naughty ones I have a helper hold the horse still.
I've tried stuffing cotton in one of our horse's ears but that annoyed him too much and just shook his head till I took it out.
If the horse is super bad (rearing, kicking out, pulling back, etc) we may give them a little ace and twitch them for the first time and get it over with quick. The second time they'll be better with it and we'll use only a twitch, once they get to be better about it i'll start them without the twitch and if they're still naughty I put it back on.
It helps the most if you can have a helper to hold the horse's other ear so they're not moving away from you continuously. Then right before I go inside deep in the ear I will tell my helper and they hold the ear a little bit harder and then release the pressure when I'm done or the horse relaxes.
It's a lot of give and take on the helper's part, cause they are training the horse to know what behavior is good and bad. While I clip I try to be as fast as possible, and i've found if I hook a finger into the back lower outside of their ear they sit still a lot better.
Using clipper blades that are not sharp can be one of the problems here. If you haven't had your clippers oiled, cleaned and blades sharpened, do so. They will need to be taken care of well, so as to be less aggravating or even painful.
Also, use of a product like Kool Lube, or something similar helps keep the heat of the blade from being so hot. Clean and oil your blades before storing in between times too.
A twitch helps, and the more often you do this, the better. I've only seen one Saddlebred that had to be tranq'ed, and there are a couple of QH's.
We don't show and our horses have hairy ears. We just clip it even so it doesn't stick outside the edge of the ear. Show horses sure look nice, but every time I hear what they have to put up with, I'm sure ours are just as happy to avoid the whole mess.