Use Your Head
If you are clipping, wear a hat. I keep an older skull cap in my kit for clipping so that I don’t end up with hair stuck to my good hat. Clipping out a horse will involve leaning in under the horses belly and having your head in close proximity to the horses legs. Clipping a horses legs poses its own dangers as it will have your head close to the knee, hock and hooves. Horses will rarely kick you on purpose but a kick or a sudden leg movement due to fright, pain or a dislike of the clippers can and does happen. To be honest you are often at risk of just being in the way when a horse innocently moves. Having a hat on reduces the risk of injury and won’t cost you anything. If you are using an old fashioned twitch (the type with a heavy wooden handle) ensure you and your helper are wearing a hat – if the handle gets loose it can swing and hit you.
Steel Toe Boots
These may seem like an extreme measure but I have spent at least two years of my life being unable to wear opened toed shoes in public as I have lost my big toenail three times and the nail off my second toe once as well. Horses are heavy and it is easy to get stepped on when you are standing in close to them to clip. Good quality steel toe boots (if you have a friend who works in a factory ask them as they often wear them) can save your toes and feet so if you are clipping often they are a worthy investment.
Cover Your Arms
When clipping, always cover your arms (and legs, although I’d hope that would be a given!). I managed to clip myself before when I missed the horse and got my thumb instead. Four stitches later I was glad I always wear long sleeves that cover my wrists as that sort of injury to the wrist or arm could have been very serious. When clipping an area that the horse is nervous about, it can be worth wearing a glove on your spare hand to protect it should the horse suddenly move and also make sure to keep the machine pointing always away from your face.
Use A Barrier
This can be a bale of hay, bale of shavings, a plastic jumping block or a step. Anything used as a barrier should be easily moveable and of a smooth shatterproof surface so that it does not pose any potential injury to you or the horse. When working on the chest, place this in front of the horse. When working on the elbows and girth, place it behind the front leg. When working on the belly or stifle, place it in front of the back leg. When working on the hind quarters, place it behind the back leg. This means that if the horse kicks out at any point he will hit the barrier and not you. This buys you a valuable few seconds of time to get out of the way. Often the barrier itself is enough to either deter a horse from doing so or to put him into submission if he does.
Watch Your Clipper Cord
With corded clippers, keep an eye on the cord itself. If a cord becomes loose, frayed or torn it should be replaced. Make sure that the area you clip in is dry as water and electricity are not a good mix! When clipping, keep your cord behind you I.e. run the cord from the socket and behind your back so that the only thing that is in front of you is the clippers itself. This avoids the danger of you tripping over the cord or of the horse standing on it.
Keep The Clipping Space Tidy
Anything that doesn’t need to be in the clipping area, should be kept outside the clipping area. This includes plastic clipper cases (which will shatter if a horse steps on them), spare blades, oil containers etc.
Never Underestimate Ponies
Due to their size it can be easy to discount ponies as being easier to clip. The ponies height though means they are closer to the ground which in turn means you will need to lean or crouch down more to reach their bellies and chest. This makes it just as important to protect your head and arms with a pony as it is with a horse. Ponies can often move and pivot at a greater speed than horses too. If crouching down to clip ponies legs, keep your knees off the floor so that you can move fast if need be.
Help Your Helper
If someone is helping you clip, have them stand to the same side that you are working on. This means that if you need to move the horse away from you, you are not at risk of moving the horse towards the helper. It also means if you both need to move quickly, you can move in the same way. Always ensure your helper is wearing suitable foot wear. For difficult, young or unknown horses or for using a twitch, get your helper to wear a hat.
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