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by Downunder Horsemanship

Training Tip: Horse is Afraid of Clippers Near His Ears

Question: My horse Winchester, a 6-year-old Quarter Horse, is afraid of the clippers by his ears. How do I teach him to accept the clippers and let me clip his ears? – desalenatallman2002

Clinton’s Answer: You’ll use the Approach and Retreat Method to desensitize your horse to first your bare hands moving around his head and then to the clippers. If your horse has any resistance to your bare hands on his face and head, you can hardly expect him to stand still for clippers.

Step one, then, is to get your horse to accept your hands on his face, muzzle, ears and around his eyes. If you find an “Oh no! Don’t touch me there!” spot on your horse, continue to rub him in that same area until he stands still and relaxes. When that happens, retreat and rub him somewhere else on his face or body that he is comfortable with. Then approach the sensitive area again. Continue using the Approach and Retreat Method until there are no off-limit spots around your horse’s head.

Now place the clippers in your hand—turned OFF—and desensitize the horse to having the clippers around him. Let him smell the clippers. Then rub them over his face and wave them around his eyes and ears. If your horse won’t stand still for the clippers when they are not even turned on, he won’t stand there when you turn them on. Using the Approach and Retreat Method, make sure that he will tolerate the feeling of the clippers on all parts of his face, eyes and ears—especially inside his ears.

Be patient. This may take a few days, but it will save you time in the long run if you take the time now to do this step right. As before, make sure that the horse is showing no resistance to this step before you move on.

Remove the blade and turn the clippers on to let the horse get used to the noise. Without touching him, wave the clippers around the end of his nose, his eyes and his ears. Don’t touch him with the clippers yet. Desensitize him to the sound and movement first. When the clippers are close to his ears, he will probably lift his head and act a little frightened. Leave the clippers up there and wait until the horse relaxes his head. When he relaxes, turn the clippers off and rub him.

Once the horse accepts the clippers around his head while they are turned on but not touching him, it is time to rub them all over his face and nose, around his ears and on the poll with the clippers turned on. This will create a new sensation, since the clippers will vibrate against his skin. If the horse gets frightened, just keep rubbing the clippers around the area he is uncomfortable with until he begins to relax his head. As soon as he does, turn the clippers off and rub him.

When your horse is absolutely perfect with all of the previous steps, you are ready to begin clipping the hair on his face and ears. However, if you are still getting resistance from the horse to any of the steps up to this point, you will only make matters worse by proceeding. Actually clipping the hair is another new feeling, and the horse may react to the sensation. Again, don’t start with the ears. Start at the muzzle and work your way up to the ears. From the muzzle, go under the chin, up his face, around his eyes, then on the bridle path and poll area. Then you can start to work on his ears.

If you work on these steps a little bit each day, after a week or so you should be able to clip anywhere on his body with no resistance.

Have a horsemanship question or looking for more training tips? Check out the No Worries Club.