It is a good idea to teach your horse how to clip even if you don’t plan to clip him regularly. If you sell or lease the horse he will know how to handle that experience.
It is very important that you do all of the groundwork before attempting to clip your horse. It will go much smoother and result in a much more positive experience. Do not tie the horse up when first teaching him to be clipped. Once the horse is completely comfortable being clipped can you tie him up. If you tie him right away and try to make him stand still this will not work and you are asking for a wreck and a scared horse. Use cordless clippers if you can, if not make sure you have enough cord in case your horse backs up or moves around. Check occasionally that your clippers don’t get too hot or they could burn your horse. Take breaks often to keep them cool. Start small, practice in short sessions. It doesn’t take long if you reward the little tries. Do not try to clip the horse on the first day or even the first few sessions. It is not about the clipping, it’s about teaching the horse to be clipped.
Approach and Retreat
Stand off to the side of the horse, in the same position you are in when desensitizing, just in case the horse goes to strike. Find a starting point and be patient. Even if this means turning the clippers on 20 feet away and working your way up to him. First, introduce the horse to the clippers while they are turned off. Most horses won’t have a problem with them when they aren’t making noise, but some might. If yours is one of them, start the lesson with them off and then once he is comfortable do the same exercise with them on.
You want the horse to be curious about the clippers and reward him for doing so. Turn them on away from the horse; bring the clippers closer until he acknowledges them. When he looks at the clippers turn them off and take them away by moving your hand out to the side or behind your back. Work up to bringing the clippers all the way up to his nose but don’t touch him, you want the horse to touch the clippers first. Move them around a little bit and wait for him to look at the clippers. If the horse looks away move the clippers around until he looks at them then turn them off and move them away. This way the horse has control over the clippers; when he looks at them they go away, when he avoids them they stay there. Work through this process on both sides of the horse. Use the same approach and retreat for every part of the horse’s face that you are going to teach to clip. Once you can touch the clippers on his nose you should be able to start clipping him there. If he starts getting worried in a certain place take your time and don’t go past that place until he relaxes. If you instead continue to clip him while he is worried he only get worse until he pulls away, rears, ect.
Ideally you want the level of your horse’s head to remain the same when you approach him with the clippers. If he gets worried when you are clipping him and raises his head stop clipping and hold the clippers in the same place until he lowers his head a bit. When he does take them away. This teaches him that when he relaxes the pressure goes away. If the horse tosses his head in the air try to stay with him the best you can. Take the clippers away when his head lowers. If he drops his head too low in an attempt to get away go with him until he raises it a bit. You want his head lowered, but near his chest and not lower. Keep clipping the same place until he relaxes. The horse may try to hide his head by bending his neck as far away from you and the clippers as possible. If the horse does this just follow him with the clippers and when he brings his head toward you remove them. If he starts pulling away to avoid the clippers but is no longer afraid of them just keep the clippers on him with his head bent around until he brings it toward you. If your horse pulls his head down away from you don’t mistaken it for lowering it. If he is relaxed he will lower his head slowly but if he is lowering to avoid you he will do it quickly and try to get out of your reach. Don’t remove the clippers until he brings his head back toward you. Get rid of that anxiety first before moving on.
Do the same approach and retreat process to clip the bridle path and ears. To clip the bridle path, bring the clippers up his neck and wait by his ears until he drops his head, then retreat and put your hand back down his neck. Keep the clippers on his neck or as close as you can to him when he raises his neck or moves away, and remove the clippers when he comes back toward you or lowers his head. Keep doing this until you can clip the hair on his bridle path. To clip the ears, bring the clippers up to his ear, pretend you are going to clip it. If at any time he gets tense don’t go any further. First touch his ear with only your hand, then touch his ear with your hand while the clippers are on in your other hand, then touch him with your hand while the clippers are in it so he can feel them vibrate without feeling the metal part, then touch the ear with the clipper itself. Only taking the clippers away when he lowers his head. If you need to fold the horse’s ear or move any part of him in order to clip him start the process again. If you continue while the horse is worried that is only going to make him even more nervous, and that’s when bad things start to happen.
Practice the same thing everyday for however long it takes the horse to be comfortable with the clippers. One session may make him better about clipping, but it takes time and consistency for him to really relax when being clipped.