Teaching Gette to Have Her Face Trimmed

By Patty Wilber

Suffragette CD (“Gette”, pronounced “Jet”) likes to be involved in EVERY thing and seems to fear very little. Except the clippers on her face.

Last spring, I clipped her legs and she had no issues with that, but when I went to clip her face, she flung herself about in a most uncharacteristic panic.  I did not force it, as she did not really need to be trimmed.

My older horses tend to come and hang their heads over the fence so they can be clipped when they hear the sound of clippers.  Really they just want a horse cookie! I have had plenty of horses that needed time to get used to having their ears trimmed, but very few have objected to under the face, and certainly not with this vehemence!  Until Gette.

I finally decided I wanted to fix this.

I thought about forcing it.  I could twitch her.  I don’t want to get distracted into talking about twitching, but it can release endorphins and cause a horse to calm down, so has uses, especially in emergencies. Read more about that here.  I, however, am clumsy with twitches, probably because I rarely use them, and besides that does not really address the basic issue of her fear.

I could dose her with Dormosedan, an oral sedative.  That would calm her down, but it costs 27 to 58 dollars a tube, depending on which vet I get it from, and while I am happy to use it on young horses getting shoes for the first time to protect the farrier and make it easier on the horse, I did not want to spend that money on this and also figured that was again avoiding the issue.

So, after I got over my direct line thinking: “I have to get this done right this minute, dammit!”, I decided to try to actually train her to accept the clippers. Novel concept.

My revised mindset and the fact that there is no deadline by which she needs to accept the clippers, took the pressure off both of us. We could take as many days as needed–and it did take awhile.

First, I tied her up on a drag pull so that she was not tied hard and fast in case she had a major melt down (she did not, fortunately).  Then I trimmed Cometa, Penny and LT while Gette watched.  Gette was interested in sniffing the clippers but not much else.

Gette sniffing the clippers.

(I attempted to take pictures of the helpers, but apparently I did not push the button or something.)

The next day I tied her in the same spot.  I was able to touch her with the clippers, if they were turned off, without any problems.  But once I turned them on, they became very scary, if they were near her face.  She could not stand still and kept tossing her head and jerking away by darting forwards and backwards.  I tried to keep the vibrating clippers on her body, but took pressure off by moving away from her face.  We worked on it until she stood still for about two seconds when the clippers were near her face.  Then I gave her a horse cookie.  I also gave all the spectators (Cometa and Penny and LT) cookies.

We repeated that for a couple days, and each day she stood still sooner.  I kept trying to sneak in a little trimming, but that caused her to fling her head.  She got cookies everyday once she stood quietly.

I found the process a little frustrating because, honestly! Maybe I SHOULD twitch the little idiot!  No one else had this much trouble!!!  But, I had to remind myself, we do not need to be in a hurry.  Stay the course.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

Finally, she let me trim hair where her head joins her neck. Then, I was able to trim some hair under her jaw. Cookie!

This Wednesday she fussed and wiggled and suddenly just stopped moving and let me actually trim!  I made a couple of good swipes and she was perfectly content.  I stopped. Cookie!

(She is very food motivated.)

On Thursday, she eyed the clippers suspiciously at first, then let me have at it on both sides. She barely moved! Yahoo! That only took a week or so!


After. She has a face! I always leave the whiskers since they get to stay for Ranch Horse classes.

I did try to do the ears…Not so much.  That will be our next project!

Cancer treatment update: I feel in the range of normal, energy wise!  My hemoglobin is normal!  But my white blood cell count is edging lower.  If it gets too low, we will have to pause treatment.  There is not a ton I can do about that except eat well and be sure to get moderate exercise each day.  Does riding a colt count?  I might have to walk more. The neuropathy seems to be holding and not getting worse. The tumor is almost 100% resolved! I am having some mucous membrane issues that fall under the category of Too Much Information, but I would be happy to share with anyone undergoing chemo or about to start. PM or text or call or email. I will finish with this weekly chemo stint at the end of February! Half way done right now!

Happy Thursday night! We are going camping tomorrow in Arizona with the horses.  Looks like we might end up getting rained out…


About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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