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Clipping sensative mares ears for show

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  • Clipping sensative mares ears for show

    Hi, I have a lovely chestnut mare (beware) who can be sensative about weird things depending on the day. I need to clip her ears for a big show this weekend and need some advice.

    I purchased really, really quiet clippers and in the past, I have been able to get it on her ear and a quick snip and then she ultimately realizes what is happening and ceases to cooperate.

    Yesterday, she was pretty unreasonable about the whole thing. I tried bribing her with carrots (some success) and eventually tried a nose twitch and that just made her unruly and a danger to all of us.

    Aside from medicinal aid, can you share any tips on what you do to get those ears clipped for show?
    Last edited by SUET1999; Aug. 8, 2011, 11:51 AM.

  • #2
    First of all - you twisted her ear? And then you want her to let you CLIP her ears? Geez. I'd act up too! If a twitch doesn't work, some xylozine will. But please don't twist her ears. That's just ugly.
    Little Star Chihuahua Rescue
    The Barkalicious Bakery
    On Facebook!!!


    • #3
      Originally posted by moonriverfarm View Post
      First of all - you twisted her ear? And then you want her to let you CLIP her ears? Geez. I'd act up too!
      Ditto. I have a saint of a horse, and I know his previous owner must have twisted his left ear (for some unknown reason - he really is very calm and well-mannered about pretty much everything), beacuse it took me a year of gaining his trust around his ear for him to let me mess with it in any way. He's fine now, but I can't believe how long it took me to undo the damage the twisting caused.

      Go the sedative route if necessary - easier on you and your horse.
      Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion.... ~ Emerson


      • #4
        If I am getting this right it was a Nose twitch not twisting ear.

        My DWB mare can be fussy over simple things too. I have never used clippers on the ears, I snip with scissors.

        My experience, any pain inflicting device is going to trigger the flight instinct, so as twitches may work for some people I do not encourage the use of twitches though I am not going to sit here and write nasty comments about the use of them.

        Anyways, back on topic. I can do anything with my mare when she is eating her grain... I would get a bucket of her grain or treats, set it on the ground and snip off the protruding ear hairs.
        Leave the inside hairs since it is summer and that is the only protection horses have from insects, (if you can).

        If you must use clippers, get those ear cotton's that look that cotton balls for her ears while you clip. Clippers sound like big bugs to me let alone the horse ear.


        • #5
          DO NOT EAR TWITCH!! It took me about six years to get near Montana's ears with anything - even a paper towel or rag - after my first trainer tried to use an ear twitch to get him clipped. To this day, 11+ years later, he still does not like to have his ears handled for any reason but will tolerate me clipping or grooming them if I am patient and gentle.

          If you *need* to get them done quickly, then drugs are really the kindest, easiest option for everyone involved. This is not something you can solve quickly.

          ETA: I realize the OP didn't do this, but wanted to chime in with the others.

          Also, in my experience, cotton balls do not work for horses like mine who object to the handling of the ear more than the clipping specifically. The one and only time we tried that, he nearly threw himself on the ground in his frenzy to get the cotton balls out of his ears. Thank goodness we were in a round pen and not a stall when we tried that little number.


          • #6
            NOSE twitch guys. Not ear twitch.

            Anyway. My horse is the same way. I've given up. Haha. He can just live with his fuzzy ears. You could certainly drug her though if it's that important to you, but is it really that important? Other people feel free to reply to this as I'd like to know if it really is something that needs to be done.
            Last edited by forestergirl99; Aug. 8, 2011, 01:26 PM.


            • #7
              The OPs post was edited. She did mention twisting the right ear I believe but edited it out.
              Little Star Chihuahua Rescue
              The Barkalicious Bakery
              On Facebook!!!


              • #8
                My horses love to have their ears clipped because I take my time, and have always associated the procedure with treats (positive reinforcement for every improvement in cooperation-- carrots + more carrots). Some require more time to come around than others, so it's a good idea to start training to clip when you do NOT have a deadline. IMO, you were totally on the right track "bribing with carrots," she very appropriately rewarded you with "some success," and you took a big step backward by losing your patience and resorting to a twitch.

                At this point, I agree that if you absolutely *need* to clip her ears for a certain event, go ahead and sedate her-- and then start over again from scratch with the carrots when you can do so in a patient and thoroughly confidence-building way.


                • #9
                  sedate her, and then clip. Later, when you don't have time work with her to accept it.

                  Also, make certain that the clippers are sharp, nothing worse then getting that unruly horse to accept letting you trim her, only to have dull blades pull the ear hair.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by forestergirl99 View Post
                    NOSE twitch guys. Not ear twitch.

                    Anyway. My horse is the same way. I've given up. Haha. He can just live with his fuzzy ears. You could certainly drug her though if it's that important to you, but is it really that important? Other people feel free to reply to this as I'd like to know if it really is something that needs to be done.
                    Let me jump on this bandwagon. Why clip ears? Are you at such an elite level that it will make a difference? Have you ever asked a judge whether they would mark down for hairy ears? Or even notice them?
                    * What you release is what you teach * Don't be distracted by unwanted behavior* Whoever waits the longest is the teacher. Van Hargis


                    • #11
                      I have a horse that is downright mean about ears - he doesn't care if I use a twitch or not...As for sedative, I'd have to give him enough to knock him down for it to be effective. I tried a lip chain and whispering calming, sweet nothings into his ear and, voila, he was better. Try a lip chain and have someone who she likes help you. Can you clip her bridle path? You can sneak the ears in that way...Good luck!

                      Oh, and I think it does make a difference. I clip ears when I show.


                      • #12
                        Since I clip literally hundreds of ears a year, it has been my experience that those horses who object to the nose twitch almost invariably accept and acquiese to the lip chain. And while the twitch can make some horses angry enough to blow through it and hurt someone (you will know when this is coming if you are alert), I have NEVER had one react badly to a lip chain. Not once. So, give that a try!


                        • #13
                          Your twitch is also only as effective as the person holding it. Which is why my short, skinny self usually hands it off to someone else . As laurie mentions, sometimes the lip chain is the way to go. Or the twitch with the lip chain. You can't sedate to trim and then show if it's a real show, the window for hair growth doesn't mesh with the window for drug testing.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by forestergirl99 View Post
                            NOSE twitch guys. Not ear twitch.

                            Anyway. My horse is the same way. I've given up. Haha. He can just live with his fuzzy ears. You could certainly drug her though if it's that important to you, but is it really that important? Other people feel free to reply to this as I'd like to know if it really is something that needs to be done.
                            I don't feel it is important, so I don't trim ears that much. If I felt compelled to do anything, it would just be the tufts. With the flies around (my horses are out a lot), I see no need to get the ear down to nothing...

                            And I would suggest a tranquilizer instead of a twitch with enough time allowed before your show day. You and your horse will be much happier...


                            • #15
                              Does your mare let you handle her ears willingly without clippers present? If not, it's going to be considerably more challenging to get the job done.

                              Assuming she does let you handle her ears I would make sure you've stuffed them with cotton, ear plugs, or anything that will make it more quiet and prevent those little hairs from going in her ears. I hold the ear firmly and flip it inside out to clip. No, I'm not twitching them! I've had a great deal of experience w/ OTTB's who have been ear twitched and know how miserable it is for them and anyone who has to deal with their head afterwards! I was taught this technique by an old very gentle cowboy who I sent a mare to who was very bad with her head. He said in his experience if you just cup the ears lightly the clippers tickle the hairs and cause them to react negatively. A kid could clip that mare now and she actually enjoys it.

                              If she's still not cooperative I agree with Lauriep and showidaho, a lip chain can do wonders on a horse that really resents the nose twitch.

                              Good luck! I hope she cooperates and you have pretty ears for your show
                              Nani Lio Farm, LLC


                              • #16
                                For similar problem with a huge warmblood with a battering ram head, my vet suggested a device that works like a lip cord but also puts pressure on the accu points behind the ears. It is called a "controller" or something similar...and I found it on a western website. You put it on, tighten it up and leave the horse in the stall for about ten minutes. It works wonders when you want to do ears, or shoe a difficult horse and they do not resent it afterwards.
                                "Over the Hill?? What Hill, Where?? I don't remember any hill!!!" Favorite Tee Shirt


                                • #17
                                  Another vote for the lip chain. My horse is now pretty good about his ears but for a while there I needed something to keep his mind off the clippers, and the twitch sent him into quite a state of anxiety, but with the lip chain, I never really had to apply anything other than very gentle pressure and he stood like a soldier.
                                  Tucker the Wunderkind


                                  • #18
                                    Late to the party, as usual, but I wanted to share my experiences.

                                    When I was young and in a hurry all the time, I'd employ lip chains, muzzle twitches, neck twitches, sedation, etc. as a means to get to trimming ears. But I'll butcher an expression an old cowboy friend once told me: The quickest way to get something done with horses is to take your time. So here's what I do...

                                    Get a 5 gallon bucket, put the horse in the stall with a cotton rope on his halter, and walk him so his butt's near the corner of the stall, but not so close to a wall that he can't move away from you if he feels threatened. Put your upside down bucket next to the horse's shoulder. Stand on it. I use AA battery operated Wahl handheld trimmers, and I turn them on while they're in my hand at my hip.

                                    Move your bucket to follow the horse. Take your time. Breathe deeply.

                                    Run your fist, containing clippers, up, down the neck, over the crest, toward the poll, back down, under his chin and back again. READ your horse. Back off if you feel he's panicking or going to get barge-y to knock you off your bucket.

                                    Gradually start manipulating your horse's ears with your open hand (I also keep the lead rope in this hand through my pinky, as I gently touch ears). Horse will move away first by subtly shifting his weight. Let him. Exhale. Bring him back.

                                    Gradually add your clipper hand to the manipulation, using the back of your hand, not the clipper edge to touch the ear. Let him move away, then calmly bring him back. Breathe. Seriously.

                                    All but THE most rogue horses have been able to get their ears trimmed in this fashion. The first time it may take 2 hours, because the key to success is to never let them feel trapped. You simply rock them back to you, or move your bucket as needed. It's going to sound crazy, but wrap your brain around the thought process: "I'm not leaving until this is done, and I'm going to be here all day if that's what it takes".

                                    Let them have their hissy fits, and be dramatic, huff, scoot and blow. It doesn't matter. You're not going to hurt them, but you're not giving up either. Soothing words, patience, visualization. It works.

                                    In some cases, you need to leave the clippers running in the feed bin along with a bunch of carrots, but eventually, all halter broke horses can be taught to ear trim. Just takes time.


                                    • #19
                                      I just want to say I appreciate the advice being given in this thread. I have a new(ish) young horse that I suspect was not handled enough from 1-4, then got a rude awakening about some "normal" things associated with being a show horse, like clippers, when sent to a sale barn. I have a feeling someone ear twitched her right ear at some point because while she doesn't like either ear to be handled, she can get downright CRAZED about that right one.

                                      I agree with those saying that from a long term perspective the non-confrontational approach is better. I am going to try some of the suggestions of people here to get her to eventually accept ear clipping (she doesn't allow bridle path either). So far, we've dealt with ears by tranqing far enough out from the show for the drug rules but I do end up having to show with slightly fuzzy ears. It is ok at our current level, but I would love to be able to just clip her ears "like a normal horse" some day, lol.

                                      With handling my horse I also find there is a big difference in behavior depending on who is holding/ working on her. This statement may sound like a duh moment, but she does markedly better with people she knows and respects. Things spiral down hill quickly with people she knows and doesn't respect ;-) or doesn't know really at all (such as the vet).


                                      • #20
                                        My horses will both allow ear clipping, but I gave it up long ago, especially in the summer. Occasionally will tidy up the edge in winter, but otherwise.......nada.
                                        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........