"What do you do if your horse hates the clippers

"What do you do if your horse hates the clippers

Having a horse that is difficult to clip can be very frustrating never mind downright dangerous. It always seems to be the ones that need to be clipped as well that have a problem with the clippers.

Whether your horse has had a bad experience in the past or came with an already established problem, our handy guide will give you some useful tips to get you going in the right direction.

Preparation is key

It is really important to spend time with the horse over the warmer months getting him used to the clippers without the actual need to clip.

Different horses have different trigger points. For some, it is the noise, for others the vibration or the cable. If you can use quieter clippers with a battery pack then do so. This also gets rid of the cable which some horses object to.

Consider starting with much smaller clippers such as dog clippers which are perfect for use on hard to reach areas. You could even try an electric toothbrush as this mimics the sound and vibration, just don’t put it back in the bathroom afterwards!

Start by introducing the horse to the clippers all over his body whilst they are silent. This allows him to see how you move around him and how you hold the clippers in your hand and turn them.

Start the clippers outside the stable, to begin with, and then progress to starting them inside the box when he is used to the noise. The aim is to be able to put the clippers on him whilst they are running so he can feel the vibration. For many horses, it will take a long time to get to that point.

Try and find out your horse’s trigger points. Is it the noise? Is it when you move the clippers to a different part of the body or change sides?

Is your horse scared or just naughty?

Some horses are drama queens about everything, others are genuinely scared and for some, it is a mixture of the two; they don’t really like it but are not terrified and will just make a fuss.

Calm, confident handling is the key to successful clipping as the horse is looking to you to lead the situation and if you are worried then he will read you and worry too.

It might be an option to do the preparatory work yourself and then ask someone who clips regularly and is very experienced to clip for you. They are less likely to be hesitant because they use the clippers all the time and will also be much quicker than you if you only clip occasionally.

Where should I clip?

A clean, empty stable is ideal; there should be no water buckets which are a hazard or anything else on the ground that could get in the way.

A hay net is fine if you think that may distract the horse and help keep the horse more settled during the process.

Think carefully and honestly about how much work your horse is actually going to do. A sweat or bib clip might be all you need and is far easier for the horse to tolerate than a longer, more complicated clip.


There are different options available such as Sedalin which is available without a prescription, to full sedation by a vet. Sedated, frightened horses remain capable of waking up quickly and seemingly overriding the sedation and so caution is still extremely necessary.

Different types of clip

  • Sweat or bib clip – hair is removed from the front of the horse down towards the girth area
  • Strip clip – not unlike a sweat clip and removes hair from underneath the midline of the horse
  • Trace clip – this takes hair from the lower sides of the horse, the legs remain untouched and the coat is left over the horse’s back and head
  • Blanket clip – great for cold backed horses as the girth area is clipped but not the part where the saddle actually sits. A blanket of the coat is left over the horse’s back, the neck hair is removed and all the hair underneath the body and often half the head is clipped. The legs remain untouched
  • Chaser clip – the clip follows a line from just behind the horse’s ears diagonally to a point just in front of the stifle
  • Hunter clip – all the coat is removed with the exception of the legs and also the saddle area where a section of the coat is left in the shape of a saddle
  • Full clip – all the hair is removed from the horse

It is usual to start with a lesser clip even if the horse is well behaved and remove more coat as the season progresses. The type of clip will to some extent depend on how much coat the horse grows and the amount of work he is expected to do.

Top Tips

  • Make sure your horse is respectful and obedient to handle on the ground before you even pick up the clippers. Many clipping and loading issues begin because the horse is not responding properly to and respecting the handler. If you cannot position the horse on the ground before you start the clippers then matters will get nothing but worse when they are on
  • When you are preparing the horse for clipping and getting him used to the noise and vibration, remember to work on both sides. Some horses are far worse on one side than the other
  • Be honest about how much of a clip your horse needs. Many people overestimate how much work their horse is really doing. If your horse is tricky to clip then do the minimum
  • Clipping can be dangerous even with a well-behaved horse. Mixing horses and electricity requires ultimate safety and good practice. Stay safe
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