Clippers One, Phoenix Nil

A month ago I blogged about how I was desensitising Phoenix to the trimmers in preparation for clipping her. Which you can read here.

Well, here’s a little update.

A couple of Mondays ago, I got out the real thing. Phoenix jumped as I turned them on, but let me put them on her shoulder. “Stuff it” I thought, let’s give it a go.

Let’s just say it didn’t go to plan. I managed to do half a bib clip, only getting halfway up her neck before she got increasingly upset. I admitted defeat. For the moment, anyway, and I went off to come up with Plan B.

I decided to try Sedalin to take the edge off Phoenix, so that Saturday morning I brought her in and gave her the Sedalin. Have you seen the carrot trick to disguise a wormer? Well you need a carrot with a very large diameter … and a horse who is not as clever as Phoenix! I think I got enough down her, as I factored in spittage.

What I didn’t foresee, however, was the yard getting busier and Phoenix furiously fighting the sedative effects. After forty minutes, with a fully awake horse, I decided I might as well use it as a further desensitising exercise.

Once I’d got the clippers against her shoulder again, I realised that Phoenix didn’t actually mind the clippers at all behind her shoulders. With nothing to lose, I started clipping her shoulder and body.

She actually stood very well for me to clip her barrel and hindquarters, and by casually sweeping up her neck with the clippers I managed to remove the bulk of the coat on her neck.

But there was no way I could tidy up her neck without risking hogging her, or take off her beard. I had three choices; style it out as a new clip, get the vet to properly sedate her, or try twitching her.

Once the twitch was on, it was like magic. Well, once I’d turned the clippers on and my friend managed to hold both lead rope and twitch as Phoenix jumped at the noise, that is. She stood calmly while I finished clipping her neck and then, because she was being so good, I took half her face off quickly as well.

It’s not my best clip, but I certainly took more hair off than I expected, and overall I think it was a positive experience for her. Hopefully she’s feeling the benefit when being ridden now. In a month’s time I’ll reclip her, hopefully neaten up my lines and get right inside her armpits, and she’ll accept the process more. I’m not a huge fan of using the twitch for long periods, but if it distracts her enough for ten minutes that I can safely finish her clip, then I’ll use it. Hopefully next time I clip her, she’ll tolerate the clippers going slightly further up her neck.

One thought on “Clippers One, Phoenix Nil

  1. Heather Nov 20, 2018 / 11:27 pm

    I had a very nervous jumpy horse that I successfully desensitized to clippers using clicker training. I ‘captured’ the behavior of calm acceptance, gradually putting more and more pressure onto him and clicking and rewarding for immobility and later, signs of relaxation. It was very fun and easy!

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