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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is probably a common problem. I bought my mare as a rescue. I'm pretty sure that she was never groomed for the first 5 years of her life, and it's unfortunate because she's half Shire and is a hairy beast! I would love to keep my mare neatly clipped for show season, but she hates the clippers. Her reaction to them used to be absolutely explosive. I could turn them on in the wash stall to clip another horse and hear her from the other side of the wall, freaking out in her stall. She would paste herself up against the farthest wall of her stall and tremble regardless of the clippers being anywhere near her.

I've done quite a bit with her to get her over it. I continued to clip other horses in the barn within ear shot until she got used to the sound. I then started to leave a small pair of pocket clippers on the ledge by her feed hole while she eats so she has to listen to and approach the sound to eat. Because's she's a food motivated horse, this worked pretty well. She didn't stand in the back of her stall for long. She soon ventured forth to eat her dinner even with the clippers buzzing right in front of her. Once she was comfortable with that I worked with her in a halter and lead in her paddock. I just practiced walking her around. I had the clippers in my left hand and would turn them on and off as we walked. She would jump, but I would just ignore her and keep walking. Eventually she got over that too. I also used treats. I would approach her stall door or gate with her favorite treat in hand and the clippers on. I would wait for her to decide to come to me to take the treat. As soon as she took the treat, I'd turn the clippers off. I then started working with a halter and lead in her stall. I would have the clippers on in my pocket while I pet her and held onto her. Once she stood still for being touched while the buzzing was going on. I would hold the clippers in my hand and pet her with the back of my hand, so she could start to feel the vibrations through my hand. I eventually graduated to massaging her with the butt end of the clippers and she actually seemed to like this. I could then flip the clippers around and was able to clip the underside of her neck and the backs of her front legs just below her elbow. She got a little tense as I worked my way up her neck closer to her face, but I was slowly gaining inches towards my goal of removing her 4" long beard!

This is when the weather turned cold and my clippers stopped working. I can't get my battery operated clippers to work when the temperatures are below 25 or so. The good news is, it's going to be above freezing for a few days so I can work on this again! I'm sure she'll have forgotten some of it and I'll have to repeat a lot of the things we've already done to get back to where we were. I feel like we were making decent progress, but I want hear if anyone else has any suggestions on other exercises we can try to help get my horse used to the sound and feel of the clippers!
 

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I think it sounds like you have made great progress, showing that slow and steady wins. Personally, I wouldn't work on clipper desensitizing in a stall because the horse has no outlet and in some cases they can panic so badly that they shut down (example, your mare cowering in the corner of her stall)

Work on turning on the clippers when you are standing in an open area, and if she moves to walk away from it, just move with her until she stands again. Then turn clippers off.

I also think that all the treats is a great way to go.

Just remember to take it slow and try not to jump back in where you left off, build up to it again. You're doing great so far. Good luck!
 
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Let the clippers vibrate on her shoulder the quickly move them up her neck toward her ears and back before she gets a chance to react. Repeat 4 or 5 times then go to the other side. BTW, it's not the clippers they dislike. It's the sound they make, like a big insect and the horses hearing is much more acute than ours.
 

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I solved a clipper issue by taking the horse for a walk...I let her follow the clippers. we'd stop, I'd let her look at them, then we'd move on. It wasn't long before I could touch her shoulder, them move them up, and she was soon standing to have the bridle path trimmed. Once she found out the buzzing thing wasn't going to hurt her, she accepted it.
I would never get in a confined space or tie a horse that was terrified. Hand holding in an open space at least gives them an out if they panic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks guys! Don't worry! The cowering in the back of her stall happened when I was working with another horse within ear shot of her and I could hear her freaking out in the stall. This is how I learned she hated clippers. I never entered the stall with her with the clippers while she was in panic mode. I clip my sister's horse for her before shows and he's great with clippers. The first few times I clipped him in his own stall or in the wash stall (where my own horse can't even see us) she freaked at the sound, but she got over it after she heard it a few times. I then put them on the ledge by her feed bin. At this point she didn't cower, just hesitated to approach them. I knew if I came after her with them, she would freak, and if I worked with her somewhere else without a food motivator she would just go to the other side of the enclosure and stay there. This is why I just left them on by her food, and walked away. I let her food motivation drive her to approach them on her own.

The first time I ever worked with her with the clippers and entered her space with them was in her paddock where she had plenty of room to get away if she wanted to. I moved on to stall work after she got past the panic phase. This is only because I do a lot of grooming in her stall already, and she's most comfortable and relaxed in there. It's not a cramped space and I don't tie her so she can move away if she's uncomfortable. I don't shove her into a corner and stick the clippers up her nose or anything! haha
 

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If I know a horse has never been clipped before then I will always stand it alongside a quiet horse that I am clipping. If they act the idiot then I will ignore them and let them stew. It doesn't take long for them to pick up on the calm horse and settle. If possible I will have them in touching distance of the horse being clipped and odds on that before you have finished doing a full clip they are looking over the door touching the quiet horse.

I will not take any nonsense from a horse if it says it is not going to be clipped and will flood it by making it go backwards around the stable until it shows submissive signs then I will continue as if nothing had happened.

What you are doing is correct and battery clippers are the best for uncertain horses. I just never had the time to spend days and days getting a horse to get use to the clippers.

I cannot count the number of horses that owners could not clip. They would ask me to do them and I never had to dope or faff around with any of them. I probably clipped them two to four times and then they were fine for their owners to do. Never twitched any of them either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks LadyDreamer. I will remember that tip for the future, however, this is the one good thing about my mare. She has never so much as pinned her ears at a person, much less offered to kick or strike. There isn't a mean bone in her body! I really love that about her!

Just as an update. I resumed clipper training by turning them on while she was eating, to see what she would do. I got no response. I took her out in the barn aisle and walked her up and down the aisle turning the clippers on and off (because we just had an ice storm and can't walk outside without falling on our heads). No reaction. Then I fed her treats out of my hand with the clippers in the same hand so she had to touch the clippers with her lips to take the treat. Once again, she was fine! I think she remembers what we did last year and we may be able to go to a show without a beard for once! Of course, temperatures are supposed to drop again tonight, so I'm unsure if the clippers will be in working order over the next few days. :(
 
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