Monday, December 26, 2011


No, I do not currently nor have ever had a beard. And I hope I never will ;)  But Colton did. A trait for Gypsy Vanners (as well as Gypsy Cobs and Drum Horses) is their hair. Lots of it. They have feathers on their legs and very full manes and tails. Their hair coat tends to be thicker as well IME. They also grow a beard and, in Katy's case, can have a long line of fur going down the center of the belly.

The breed standard is not to trim any of this hair. Personally I can't stand it, so I trim a small bridle path, shave the beard off and bang the tail. Just to make it a little more manageable.

Today I had a very successful day of playing with Colton. I cleaned his stall and added a bag of pellets, then used the bag to desensitize him. He was pretty snorty at first, but curious and he really didn't mind much, save for around his ears.

Then came the clippers. I start young horses in a loose ring snaffle so that they can chew on the bit and move it around in their mouth more. Also since I'm working with a young horse I also add a leather curb strap to prevent the bit from sliding through the mouth. Because of the curb strap, the beard tends to get in the way so it's easiest to just shave the whole thing off. Plus I think he looks more like a horse now rather than a hairy yak.

Teaching a horse to clip is a pretty important skill. Chances are that a horse will need to be clipped at least once in his lifetime, if not regularly. From body clipping for winters to clipping legs to treat scratches or manage white socks to clipping the bridle path or clipping ears and muzzle for shows. Chances are its gonna happen and I for one am not a fan of twitching horses to be clipped, at all. It's not too hard to teach a horse to accept clippers, though of course there are always some exceptions who think clippers are the most terrifying things ever invented, but twitching or sedating horses to clip shouldn't be the norm.

I did halter him, but I try to restrain the horse as little as possible except to make sure he doesn't leave and his focus remains on the task at hand because I don't want to force him to let me clip him, rather I want him to decide that clipping's ok. At first Colton didn't care about the clippers, he was fine with me rubbing them on his face while they were off, didn't care when I turned them on or when I rubbed the clippers on his face. So far, so good. Then I went to cut some hair and he decided that tickles! He has a very ticklish muzzle in general, if I tickle his nose with my fingers he'll shake his head around. It took a little while but eventually he accepted it, and along with the help of a couple treats he decided it was totally not a big deal. The next step will be to trim his bridle path and excess ear fluff which I will leave for another time.

Nice clean shave.

Look! No beard!

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