The first step is to familiarize yourself with the area you will be
working in. Look to see where the outlets are. Plug in your clippers and
see how far they will go. Find out just what space you will be able to work
in comfortably. Practice as if the horse were present. This is important
so you can tell where the cord will go. You will also have to be able to
move the clipper about some. It helps if you can turn the clipper over in
your hand with out having to look at it, or use your other hand to turn it.
Familiarize yourself with the on/off switch. Try to turn it on and off with
the hand you use to hold the clipper. Being able to do these things with
the clippers will make it easier for you if you need to move in a hurry.
Another thing to remember is that the clipper blade will heat up. Check it
often to be sure it isn't so hot that it hurts your horse.
This is an area of training where negative reinforcement plays a role.
You can pair it with positive reinforcement for faster results. The
question of what to do with your horse is one only you can answer. I
normally work with the horse on a lead rope. It is not necessary. It is
helpful if the horse does not have an acre of space. I show the horse
the clippers. I let the horse sniff the clippers. I do not train the horse
to target the clippers. Clippers can be dangerous for the horse to lip or
bite. Most horses will sniff the clippers. I then pat the horse with the
clippers in my hand. This will cause the cord to flop about since the
clippers are not plugged in. If your horse is already dancing this is what
you need to work on. Click and reward for any signs of calmness. As soon as
you click move the clippers and cord away from your horse(negative
Continue until your horse is calm with the clippers and cord
flopping all around. If your horse is still standing quietly you can plug
in the clippers and turn them on well away from the horse. Let your horse
hear them for 30 seconds to a minute. Talk nice soothing talk to your
horse. If your horse is calm, time for the next step. If your horse is
nervous turn the clippers on and off repeatedly until your horse ignores the
noise. (this is called flooding or desensitization) Click and reward your
horse for ignoring the noise of the clippers. (positive reinforcement)
Now walk towards your horse with the clippers running in your hand. Your
hand should be at your side. Do not approach your horse with the clippers
outstretched towards her/him. Repeat the patting of the horse as you did
before, but now the clippers are running. You are not clipping the horse.
If your horse is still quite nervous pat the horse with your hand between
the clipper and the horse. If your horse is a bit more tolerant, pat the
horse with the side of the clipper. Click and reward for tolerance and calm
demeanor. One of the rewards you can give is to turn off the clipper for a
brief time. I usually turn off the clipper for 5-15 seconds as a reward.
(more use of negative reinforcement) Now that your horse is calm about the
clipper running nearby it is time to actually do some clipping!!!
Start with the clippers rocked back, the tip of the blade pointing up and
away from the skin of the horse, make a swipe without cutting. Now lower
the blade a tiny bit, just enough so that some hair gets cut but not right
to the skin. This is so that if your horse moves you won't jab him/her with
the clipper. The horse may move because the sound will change as you start
cutting hair. The feeling of the clipper will also change. I clip about
two inches then turn off the clippers and reward the horse. If I have
properly prepared the horse the next step of placing the clippers so the
blade is paralell to the skin and clipping a 4 inch swath goes really easy.
From there I reward randomly. Sometimes I stop clipping and pat the horse
after 10 seconds, sometimes after 30 seconds. The first clipping I don't
clip for more than a minute without stopping. If the horse starts to move
away I follow the motion until the horse stops moving. At that point I turn
off the clipper. It is important for you to be very observant about how
nervous your horse is. There is no need to push the horse to the point of
fleeing away from you. If your horse moves away maintain the distance you
were working at until the horse stops moving, then back away from the horse.
Keep training at that distance until the horse no longer moves away. Quit
for the day. Do more another day. Be persistent and calm in your approach.
Clip with even, smooth strokes. If you have not used clippers practice
getting a smooth stroke on furniture before you use them on the horse. The
key to acclimating your horse to clippers quickly, is to turn them off
and/or move them away from the horse when the horse is being good. If you
remove them when the horse is acting fearful you will reinforce that
behavior. You can stop clipping and just keep the clippers near where you
were clipping until the horse calms a bit, at which point you turn off the
All this sounds like it might take a long time. If you really focus on
rewarding good behavior frequently in the early stages, progress should
happen fast. I normally can have a horse who has no experience with the
clipper standing for clipping in 15-30 minutes. Horses that have previous
bad experiences with the clipper may take an hour or more depending on how
fearful the horse is.