How to safely trim a fidgety or nervous horse
If a horse is particularly fidgety or ticklish in any area, it will mean careful handling to enable safe clipping and trimming. With any situation, make it as easy as possible, and if you can, do a little bit each day this will build up confidence. Patience together with not rushing, is often the best way forwards.
Make sure your blades are sharp, if they are on the blunt side, this will cause pulling to the hair, and will immediately cause a horse to become anxious and fidgety. Choose a quiet time during the day, when other horses are settled and quiet too. It will make it more difficult if you pick feed or turning out time.
It is a good idea to have an extra pair of hands around. To start with you make want someone to hold the horse and distract it with some food. You may find putting a radio on or ear plugs in, can help, particularly if there is an association with the clipper noise.
De-sensitisation is the best cause of action but does require forward planning and a regular commitment, to ensure the connection is made between gaining confidence when turning on a trimmer or clipper and using it. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by incorporating it into a grooming plan each day.
You may have to start with just holding the clipper or trimmer near the horse and then laying it on the coat, but without turning on. Getting used to it being turned on and off without clipping any hair, and lastly introducing the clipper running and then starting to clip the hair in an easily accessed area – under the belly – slightly out of their eye sight can be good, although not too near the back legs!
I would always start with using a trimmer or light duty clipper which are smaller and quieter to use and then move on to a larger clipper as and when needed. It can take a long time to gain the horse’s confidence, particularly if they have had a really bad experience, and been clipped previously with blunt or hot blades, or even worse if they have had an electric shock.
If the horse has an unknown background and is particularly difficult or proving dangerous, it is best to discuss sedation options with your Vet.