Harvey is a gorgeous little cob who came to Changing Equine Behaviour as he had developed a fear of the clippers. Harvey had learnt to move around, barging his owner and pinning her against the wall to avoid being clipped. This photo is of him modelling his full clip after his training. Isn't he a handsome boy?!
Follow his progress below.
Initial Training of Basic Responses
Prior to commencing any corrective behavioural training I teach the horse the Basic Responses of Stop, Go, Step Back, Park, and Head Down. This is done in a snaffle bridle with a loose noseband to ensure there is no unnecessary pressure on the face and to allow clear cues to the mouth.
Stop and Go help to get the horse under 'stimulus control'
Step Back assists in overshadowing any fearful stimuli
Park allows the horse to stand still, pressure-free
Head Down is a useful overshadowing tool, and is also very calming
4th February 2020
From my initial assessment, Harvey is heavy and delayed for his Stop and Step Back responses. He is also very fidgety in his Park. This will make it difficult for him to stand still when we are clipping him. Today I install these basic responses and cover Stop, Go, Step Back, Park and Head Down.
5th February 2020
I revisit yesterday's session and he is much more responsive and lighter to Stop and Step Back. I then introduce a very slow walk, this assists in training him not to barge past the handler or be constantly pressured to walk slowly. I set the speed and if he maintains it, he remains pressure free and is therefore in self carriage.
17th February 2020
Today I recap my last two sessions and introduce Harvey to Yield with whip taps on his gaskin. This will assist when he swings his quarters towards his handler during clipping. With my assistant (his owner) I overshadow the presence of the clippers (they are turned off) and we work on him being touched with them. He is very reactive to his neck being touched. This is as a result of a bite he sustained in the field which caused a reaction when he had previously been clipped. He is also swinging his quarters towards his owner to get her to move away from him. This is corrected using the Yield cue I taught him earlier.
22nd February 2020
We revisit the previous training session. He is alot better, especially on his neck area. He does still turn his quarters towards his owner but we correct this behaviour and his reaction is diminishing.
27th February 2020
Harvey stands calmly in Park while I recap, he stands still and relaxed while I touch his neck all over. Today we are ready to move to the next stage and introduce the noise of the clippers. I like to use a small set of battery operated clippers as they are not as noisy. I overshadow them, turned off to start with at his shoulder. He is tense, shaking his head to try and get rid of them, walking backwards, and swinging his hindquarters towards me. This is a big training session for him as he is overcoming his fear, and so I ensure that he has plenty of brain breaks inbetween my repetitions so as not to overload his brain. Using the overshadowing technique I progress to running the clippers over his shoulder and neck on both sides with them turned on. I'm very happy with the progression during today's session.
4th March 2020
Today we use the big clippers and overshadow these. Because we have used gradual habituation Harvey is a lot less reactive to the big clippers now and only reacts with a slight twitch when they are intially turned on. We run the clippers over his entire body and he stands perfectly. He is ready to be clipped next session. Click here for today's video on my Facebook page.
13th March 2020
Today is clipping day! Harvey stands beautifully. We plan to divide his clip over a few days, so today we do his entire body and he is absolutely perfect. He remains in Park and is relaxed throughout the whole process. Tomorrow we aim to do his legs and head.
14th March 2020
Harvey has been very reactive in the past to having his legs clipped and has needed twitched to control him. I haven't pre-trained his legs using the overshadowing technique prior to this session today. As a result, he trials his old behaviour which is to be expected, swinging his quarters and barging forwards, however because I now have pre-trained cues in my toolbox I am able to get him back under stimulus control and he stands in Park. He has mallanders on his front legs which make him super reactive to the clippers so we clip his back legs today and I will conduct another session to overshadow this contact issue he has with his front legs, later in the week. His back legs are completely clipped after this session.
19th March 2020
Today is the last day of Harvey's clip and we finish him off by doing his front legs and head. I showed his owner how to overcome the contact issue he has with having his knees touched and so she has worked on this this week. I have also carried out a session with him to overcome this and so today we use the clippers. Harvey is a lot better today and a lot less reactive. He stands and lets his owner clip his legs including those itchy knees. The difference in him from 5 days previous is very noticeable. Harvey is now fully clipped. The experience has been a lot nicer and less stressful for both him and his owner.
It is important when retraining to spend the time habituating the horse to an aversive stimulus, like the clippers. This deepens the training and is not just a quick fix. If the training is maintained during every day handling Harvey will continue to be a lot easier to clip making it a pleasant experience for both him, and his owner.