clipping your intractable horse 101

This weekend I accomplished something that I’ve been dreaming of for a solid two years.

nodrugsArtistic style inspired by Emma.

Yep, that’s right friends.  Full body clip, NO DRUGS, NO TWITCH.  I know he looks like he’s drugged, but I swear he’s just tired/lazy/grazing.

For those of you that weren’t around last year, and since I didn’t blog in 2013, let’s briefly recap the last two years’ clipping adventures.

2013 — I hired my friend who clips beautifully and knows Murray really well (because our horses are turned out together).  Murray dances away from her, spooks at the extension cord, gets tangled in it, headbutts me, and generally behaves like his intractable, unpleasant self.  We give him 1.5 mL of Ace and it does next to nothing for the ticklish, flinchy dancing.  Clipper puts her humane twitch on him and Murray goes to his happy place and we get it done with minimal additional dancing

2014 — I hired my barn manager’s daughter, because I figured it would get my barn manager as well, which is the Murray Whisperer.  Murray steps out of his stall just having a No Good Very Bad Horrible Day.  He is spooky and horrendous and to even get the lip twitch on him requires several trips backwards down the barn aisle.  Once he’s twitched he’s fairly reasonable, but at some point he rears higher than I’ve ever seen a horse rear in person.  2 mL of Ace and more lip twitch later, we get a passable job done.

My goal this year was to clip Murray as much as I possibly could without drugging him.  To that end, I’ve been practicing.  But there’s only so much of rubbing vibrating clippers over your horse’s body you can do before you are basically done practicing, or you might as well just start clipping.  So on Saturday, I started clipping.


It wasn’t pretty in the beginning.  Despite all of our practice, Murray was like “This is garbage. There’s no way I’m doing this.  Nope.  No way.  Nothing is worth this torture.  I’m leaving.”  After about thirty minutes of this I was just about ready to resort to drugs.  I clipped all around his jugular vein, so I figured at least the injection site would be nice and clear.  But then I decided that Murray wouldn’t get away with being naughty and completely ignoring his training and what I was asking him to do.  Once I would turn on the clippers, Murray would dance away a little bit, jiggle around, and then turn around to me expecting a cookie.  Um, I don’t think so.  There was something wrong with our communication there, so I unhooked Murray from the blocker ring, and held on to his halter while I ran the clippers over his body.  I persisted beyond his jigging, kept the clippers on his body despite his wandering, and when he stopped wiggling I gave him a treat.  He stood still the next time I asked him to do so.  And the next time.  And then it seemed that we had crested the anxiety hump and Murray was, at least, resigned to his fate and willing to play my game.


One of my friends showed up and offered to help, and I thought it would be a great way to get some of the trickier spots done — belly, armpits, etc.  I slowly fed Murray carrots while she clipped the tricky bits, and we managed to get all of his belly done with only two real kicks.  I managed to do Murray’s butt pretty much on my own (the art came later), he just stood there, still and tied, while I clipped in his butt cheeks.  IN HIS BUTT CHEEKS.  That is not the horse I used to know.

I have to say, it’s pretty gratifying feeling to see the thick, fluffy hair falling away from your horse’s body!  I somehow managed to not even get that much caught in my clothes, which was awesome.

So there we have it.  A fully clipped horse who, the first time he encountered a pair of scissors, reared, snapped the cross ties, threw his body on the ground, and ended up lying underneath a stair well pretending to be dead.  Pride.  We has it.

IMG_20151108_120010~2Velociraptor by my RBF!