Does your horse object to being clipped? Then this story will probably be familiar to you. This is how we coped with a horse that had almost got to the stage of being unable to be clipped at all!
When I first got my horse, Jazz, I thought she would cope with anything – she travelled well, was good for the farrier, had great stable manners and wasn’t spooky. Whilst she might have been a challenge to ride, I was congratulating myself on how good her manners were until the winter came and it was time for clipping.
It became obvious very quickly that clippers could not be brought anywhere near her. Ditching the normal clippers we tried a cordless pair which were particularly quiet, and just about managed to give her a rather unique clip, but she was not happy about it at all and it became dangerous to try to do anymore. Luckily her coat grows slowly, so it was another 12 months before we had to try again, and this time she was not having it at all. Even the sight of the clippers got her quite distressed, let alone getting so far as turning them on, so we resorted to sedation. Sleepy, she tolerated it for a bit, but we still didn’t manage to get much more than the neck clipped.
She even showed signs of getting worse – becoming unsettled just because she could hear another horse being clipped in a nearby stable.
So something had to be tried. Each winter she seemed to be getting a thicker coat, and desperately needed clipping as she sweated so much – it wasn’t an option to leave her unless we were going to stop riding. Then, one day, I was reading one of the great books by Mark Rashid, and something he suggested hit a chord with me. He described using a similar method to what we came to call the ‘Drill Treatment’.
It took both my husband, Steve, and myself. For the first session Steve stood well back from the front of the stable and turned on the drill, holding it down by his side. Jazz jumped, and looked uncomfortable, not liking the noise one bit. We kept the drill running for about 10 minutes, with me in the stable stroking her and giving her treats. Then we stopped for the day. After a couple of times she just accepted that humans do strange things, and gradually she calmed down and went back to munching her hay whilst the drill was running.
This process continued. Three or four times a week we’d do the Drill Treatment, gradually moving closer to the stable door and keeping the drill running until she relaxed. At first the progress seemed slow, and we could only move the drill closer by inches but we continued to persevere. The first achievement was the day when we were finally able to take the drill into the stable with her. Bit by bit she got more used to the noise and we were able to move nearer to her. Then, with drill in one hand, Steve stroked her with his other hand until she became settled. And then came the day he was able to actually lay the drill against her side, and mimic the action of the clippers with it. It took about six weeks to get to this stage.
So then, the day of judgement – clipping day. We decided we’d sedate her again, just so she would be relaxed, and then went for it. She was the best she had ever been – neck, stomach and a tiny bit off her back legs. This was a fantastic achievement! We were so proud of her.
The following year we started the drill treatment again, but she was so relaxed with the drill, and so we didn’t have to spend so much time with it. We decided to sedate her again as we didn’t want her distressed but this time she was so relaxed she all but fell asleep during the clipping! We took the opportunity and went for a full clip.
I’m not sure if we’ll get to the stage where we don’t need to use sedation at all, but I truly believe that if we hadn’t persevered with the Drill Treatment, she wouldn’t have been clipped at all these past couple of yeara! If you want to try this method it does take a lot of patience – trying to rush to touch her with it too early would have been a mistake. And it’s useful to have a second person, one to reassure, and one ready to move away with the drill if it’s too close for (her) comfort.
But the proof for us was that it certainly did work, and now she can be ridden all winter without any worries about her being too hot and uncomfortable. She looks very pretty too! She no longer sports a ‘Jazz Special’ clip – otherwise known as the ‘however much you can get off’ clip!