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Sherlock's Clipping Diary



Sherlock’s clipping Diary. 2 weeks of play!





8 November 2008.....


I know Sherlock is not comfortable with clipping, so I thought I should work on this. I wanted to try the idea that if Sherlock was free to leave at any time, then he would not have to "defend" himself against the clippers. The difficulty with this, of course, is that I have to make clipping an attractive enough proposition that he does not want to leave, but wants to work on the problem with me. The problem being that I wish to clip him, and he does not like the sound or feel of clippers!

First of all this week, (Tuesday) I took the small quiet trimmers, with him loose in the grooming parlour so he could mentally and physically check out if he needed to without any violent reaction! I did not try to touch him at all. They stayed on while he was too tense/ turning away and were turned off if he relaxed/ came towards me even with his eye. Sherlock was really interested in the prospect that he seemed to have some measure of control over the trimmers. I started near the door, but by the finish Sherlock had been properly groomed with the brush I had in my opposite hand, even though the trimmers had not touched him at all.


This went well, so the second day (Wednesday) I repeated this and was also able to touch him with the little trimmers as part of the grooming process, from the shoulder downwards. Just a brush, brush, brush, occasional touch, brush, brush, then continue grooming. He did really well at this, the touch was done almost before he knew, like “did that touch me?” But by then I was just grooming again. So by the time he thought he would need to take action, the danger was gone. Fancy that- the danger passed without Sherlock taking action! Then a bit later another brief touch with the trimmers, like a short stroke with the lie of the hair, then brushing with the brush before he could really question it, with me pointedly ignoring whatever reaction he did have. By the end we had no reaction to the brief touch. But a brief touch was all we had, as he would have given a reaction to any more.


Then the big clippers. I take the safety thing VERY seriously, so next day (Thursday) I put him into the school, and took the big (battery pack on waist type) clippers in with me. He was again loose so he could be as far away from me as he liked. I then trusted that his nosey nature would work, as it had with flags and plastic. Again the clippers were stayed on while he was too tense/ turning away and were turned off if he relaxed/ came towards me even with his eye.


After 20 minutes he was following me around, after 1/2 hour he was nudging me and even sniffing the big buzzy clippers. Again, at no time did I try to touch him, he was just following me around and becoming happy with the loud buzzy noise. By the end my spare hand could briefly touch his neck, but that was it, he kind of locked up at this point, but he was still comfortable as when he was initially not happy with this he was totally free to leave, a 30m X 30m school and not even a head collar on his head. It was my job to make the steps small enough that the danger as far as Sherlock was concerned was over before he had to react.


But if he left the clippers stayed on, and if he stayed away they were even waved around as leaving was not the desired response, I then held them still when he stopped and looked, and turned them off if he came back. What a bonus a nosey nature is, it brought the energy into the session, like Sherlock really wanted to work on the problem.


So yesterday (Friday) I took the big clippers into the stable, with him loose again, started with the turning on and off near the door, but worked until I was grooming him with the opposite hand. After 20 minutes I was even able to stroke and rub him briefly with the buzzy clippers on his bottom, tummy and back. This is the first time the clippers have been on his body with me for any length of time, and it is only brush brush brush, rub rub, brush brush brush. And I was brushing for a good few minutes in between the rub rub.


I could touch them very briefly, with a lot of brushing, to his shoulder. But that was where the line lay! Best thing though was I managed to read it OK and the worst reaction was a widening of his eyes, and a brace to him. I am glad that I have spent this time as I can now spot the "warning" to any "big" reaction, the brace thing he does. I hate pain! So on the shoulder I did have a reaction, but as I only touched and then continued brushing the reaction was just a little brace, then I was already brushing again, so the "crisis" for Sherlock was already over before he had to move. So, Sherlock learned again and again that to avert the crisis he had to stand still (and THAT'S SHERLOCK LOGIC!).


So today....... (Saturday) I first spent a bit of time taking "ownership" of his head! Spent some time teaching him that the correct response to my hand on his poll is to relax and lower his head (without the clippers even in the stable!). This is the closest I think I have come to overstepping the mark, we had the front leg brace and wide eye, but I thought no, this is reasonable, deal with it. I suppose I decided to be greedy, as I really did not want HIM to teach ME to remove my hand! So I "waited it out" with my hand on his head, and we had a stalemate for a while. Quite a while! Then he just lowered his head just a fraction, more a softening that an actual physical movement…… and.......I was gone. Hmmmmmm......he thought about THAT!


So we repeated this a few times, and by the end he is still lifting and bracing when I put my hand there, but it is for less time before he is lowering and relaxing. So much lowering in fact that his nose has been on the floor! He likes that, he has worked out that while his head is there I will leave his dammed poll alone!


Then the clippers. I got the big buzzy clippers out and we did grooming, and he was much more relaxed. I was able to run the clippers over his bottom, back, belly, forearms, gaskin, back fetlocks, shoulder, and by the end even touch them to his nearside neck! All interspersed with a lot of brushing.


Hmmmm, That was so good, I thought "what else can I do?????" But I knew we had had enough with working with the big clippers.......


So I got the little trimmers out again and actually CLIPPED his back heels! I just sat near the floor and did it, and he hung his head and relaxed and let me get on with it (after a few minutes anyway). Again with some VERY vigorous brushing in between the clip strokes. And the cutting was done with a rub rub, so some of the strokes were down with the hair, and it was almost an "accident" when the strokes were up and some hair fell off!


The front heels were not so routine, but I think part of it is that he keeps looking and getting the trimmers near his face and scaring himself! I had the nearside heel done to an acceptable level by scrubbing it with a brush and then turning the clippers on and clipping a bit, one little rub, then turning them off, and we got so this had no reaction. But initially I am talking one precious hair at a time, and turn the clippers off before he reacted, and I was already brushing. Again Sherlock formed the opinion that to make the clippers turn off he needed to stand stock still, and he was rewarded every time! The other heel I tried to be greedy by not turning the clippers on and off like I had with the near front one and he lifted it up a couple of times, so I went back to turning them on and off, but I finished before the hair is all off as I was tired, and I think he had done enough. It is hard to consistently think with Sherlock logic!


Then I was so tired that I have not ridden this morning.




Well, that is where I am up to. I find it all so enthralling, others think my progress is so slow, but I find we are making giant steps. Maybe my giant steps just don't look like other people think they should?



Sunday- 9.11.2008


First the small clippers, initially I was a bit presumptuous and thought we would start where we left off, Sherlock advised me that was not so acceptable, so we took a step or two back, back to the grooming, then I finished the two front heels, and he was great and relaxed as long as I was aware of him. I even managed to tidy up the chicken feathers he has around his knee backs. Then I played some more with the trimmers, they are allowed almost all over his body now. He is comfortable with his shoulder and wither, no problems. This is even when massaging with a lot of rubbing and very little brushing in between. Also with his neck area (to my surprise), and his chest and right between his front legs. Tolerable but still questioned....but at least now accessible to a brief touch is his gullet area, and even today......HIS CHEEKBONES! Just a brief touch interspersed with a lot of brushing, but it was ON HIS FACE! Not tolerable (yet) is his jowl area downwards to his chin and whiskers, but hell, who cares, yesterday his whole face would have been out of bounds!


Then the big clippers. These too are now happy on most of his body, and totally accepted on shoulder and withers. Tolerable-but-questioned-but-at-least-accessible to a brief touch with a lot of brushing is now his neck. In fact here I was most pleased. He has worked out that it is totally permissible to take a step to the side if he can't cope, and with the big clippers on his neck he did that a couple of times. I am happy about that as he then did not feel the need to lock up, and I felt at no risk whatsoever. For me stepping to the side is something I will notice even when absorbed in clipping, but the slight lock up I may miss.


So then I turned him out. I will have to clip this week now, as in massaging with the clippers he has a lot of little patches of hair shorter than nature intended! I have the vet booked for Friday so whatever I get off will be fine as I will be able to tidy it up on Friday with Sherlock sedated.




Sunday Afternoon…….


This time he twice had the big clippers briefly on his gullet, but each time he squealed as if to say "I did NOT give permission for THAT". It was as though he was SO disappointed in me for not reading him so well! BUT he afterwards let the big clippers on his FACE! Just the big cheekbone, but on his face all the same. 






So this morning he was even better! I could massage his white patch with the buzzy clippers, and touch them to his face. And even his gullet was tolerable to a brief touch with the buzzy ones. Then we did some work with the bic razor, I sat on the grooming box and he lowered his head for me to rub him all over with the bic razor, first of all with the cover on, then with the cover off. I went to work with a fair bit of beard gone, and some whiskers too!



In the afternoon I played with the big buzzy clippers again, I went without preamble straight to his white patch and massaged him there with no reaction at all, then went higher to just behind his ear, again no problem apart from a slight stiffening. So there we did a lot of brushing, and increasing the rubbing a bit at a time once he had worked out that the way to make it stop is to stand still. Same with the gullet, just slight tension but no major reaction. Also with his cheekbone. As for the rest of his body, he likes the grooming/clipping, just stands and puts his head on the floor and relaxes. The only place banned with the clippers now is his jowl and I have not even tried his face front or nose. I think his jowl is ticklish, I had the same thing with the chicken feather fur around the backs of his knees, when the long hair is cut it seems to really tickle!


I think it helps that when doing the grooming/ clipping I have been vigorously brushing the area next for the clippers in a brush brush clippers, brush brush clippers routine, so the clippers do not take him by surprise, and if I do not have permission for the clippers on the spot I am brushing he lets me know before the clippers are even near. Clipping practice is becoming a pleasant experience for us both.


Then the razor, and he has most of his beard off now, and most of his whiskers, and to do this I ended up sitting on the grooming box cradling his head in my arms as he rested on my knee. aaahhhh! He does know how to sweet talk the ladies! It was all his choice, he was loose without even a head collar on. 





Today Sherlock was a BIG JESSIE and I threatened to tell all his mates!


This morning I did the massage with big clippers. Again straight to the white patch without preamble, then to the top of his neck, then all over his body. In fact thinking back he was a bit ticklish on his actual sheath, but I have since been reliably informed that most people would be a bit nervous with me and big clippers on their sheath too! But no big problems, and I even talked him around some over the sheath thing.


Then the small clippers, I would like the jowl to become accessible, and it has started to be, although where there are any long hairs left it can surprise him, and he jumped a couple of times, but no horrid reaction, he is just disappointed that I did that to him, and as he does not even wear a head collar he can just turn his head away until he is ready for more. So, I was nearly finished and I was chatting to him (like daft girlies do) and I accidentally took a square of hair off near his ear. He did not react to the feel of the hair cutting, so I thought nothing of it.


Then...........the small square of hair fell to the floor.........


What a snort, bulging eyes, banana neck, snort again. You would think I had shot him and it was a full pumping artery of blood cascading to the floor for the reaction I got to the small square of hair. Well, clipping had to stop while I laughed my socks off, he had to snort at the small brown square of hair, which of course scurried across the floor with the force of the snort, he had to paw at it, tip his head to get one eye close to it, then nose at it, grind the small square of hair to the floor, lip it and taste it, snort some more. What a big Jessie!


Ha, I thought, now that is not something I thought I would have to train for, small squares of hair falling to the floor! So I rubbed with the clippers a bit (after he had put his brain back in of course) then took a second small square of hair off. Oh Boy, I must have shot him again, scary small square of hair was more quickly spotted this time, and he was able to watch it fall the entire floatey journey to the floor. So, that made the job for the day, rubbing behind the ears and making small squares of hair, whilst keeping the brushing and clipping, brushing and clipping so it was all part of the so far accepted routine.


By the time I went to work Sherlock had two 8" triangles of shaved area behind each ear. But was no longer making a meal of small squares of hair!


The reaction was so extreme, over something that would not normally trouble him, that I formed the opinion that he had just had the sudden and horrid realisation that I was actually CLIPPING HIM! Like suddenly making a mental connection.


Tonight I did not do the big clippers, I was too keen to re-commence small "square of hair" training. Only this time is was so "yesterday" to Sherlock, no problem at all. So Sherlock has just gone to bed with bald patches behind his ears and also his crest line done, close to his mane. Also a triangle over his tail, oh and some small squares of fluff on the grooming parlour floor. I reckon this bit of trimming will be OK as the trimmers cut closer than the big clippers, so by Thursday it will have grown a bit, and hopefully the hair will match perfectly! In fact I like that theory so much tomorrow I may draw on some leg lines. And maybe the sheath WOULD be better with the trimmers.


By Thursday it will be more like join the dots than a full clip!


Today Sherlock's new stable rug has arrived, it looks very smart.  



Wednesday's Sherlock update....


Lessons for the day:-


1. Never trust a girl with clippers in her hand. Look at David, he did have a full head of hair and a hairstyle (and still could have!) until I started cutting his hair with the clippers.


2. Never make presumptions about what Sherlock would or would not like!



So this morning, up at 5.15am just so I can play with the pony. I really wanted to get on with the trimmers, but I thought, NO, on Thursday I am clipping him, so even though I WILL play with the trimmers and actually cut some lines in, I will first do my duty and massage with the big clippers. So, I got out the big clippers and started to massage and then.........NEVER trust a girl with clippers in her hand! I could not resist. I rationalised it by thinking that maybe I would uncover another deeply held and obscure "scary" thing, but really I just could not wait to have a clip!


I only had half an hour, but by the time I went to work Sherlock had a naked bum, and some more off his neck. And this is where the presumption thing came in.......Sherlock actually PREFERS the big clippers on his neck. I think maybe they cut better and are so less ticklish! I just presumed he would like the quieter trimmers, but Nowt So Strange as Sherlock, and no, he prefers the big clippers!


All day at work I have been having training in a classroom, and could not wait to get back. So, back home and straight to clipper training. Again no problem whatsoever, and I have just put him to bed (in his smart new rug) with all of his nearside done bar the tidying up, and half of his offside done too! I was just tired, and he was a bit impatient so I thought enough was enough, and we just finished, not that he did anything wrong, we had just had enough. Sherlock has in fact extended his patience and attention span, but enough was enough for me too.


So, tomorrow I am supposed to be starting clipping, and in fact I have not left myself much to do.


Both times we did have to have a hold up in proceedings while Sherlock examined the luxurious horse hair carpet on the floor, pawing, snorting, rubbing with his nose, even tasting (ugh). Also I can't let him examine what I am doing while I am clipping as the daft horse then scares himself with how close his face is to the clippers. But I do not like to push him away as he has seen that as "restraint" or I suppose it is a curtailment to his freedom, so when he turns round to sniff I stop actually clipping, and hold the clippers still. He then sniffs, scares himself, snorts, and straightens his head so I can continue!


I am also very pleased as, once clipping, I am absorbed in that and we have had hardly any brushing. It has been more big sweeps of clippers followed by more clippers. This was more and more as the session went on, and on previous form I will have to remember to revert to...... groom groom, clip; groom groom clip.... tomorrow as to go straight back to proper clipping would, I fear be too much. Sherlock has told me of my error in trying to pick up where I left off a couple of times. I suppose it is an indication that I am being more task orientated rather than always seeing what Sherlock is telling me.


This has been an exercise in clipping education rather than a smart clip. I have left his whole head on, and there will be lines and allsorts as I did it over 3 days! Plus my battery pack big clippers cut very close and always leave what my mum describes as a Monet Impressionist style finish on their coats, and that is even with Charlie who positively LOVES being clipped and stands like a happy statue. Clipping is really not my "thing" and I have never been good at straight lines. Oh, and so far all clipping has been done in the dark, that too is a good excuse! Because I cannot place any blame on Sherlock, so far he has stood like a statue so long as I have paid attention to what he can truly handle next.




It is done, all clipped out!


Do you remember I said that he did not like his sheath doing? Well, I have a confession. When I clip I do not over tighten the blades, and I can generally do a full clip in one go without them heating up as my horses are clean (I polish them) and the blades can therefore be left not so tight, and even in one go the blades do not generally heat up. And with all the massaging I left the blades slack and they did not heat up.


When I clipped Sherlock he is obviously a bit greasy as he has been living out, and to get a smooth cut I had to tighten them up a bit, and now I know why he was fidgeting with his sheath, because he did it again, and THIS TIME I checked the blades on the back of my hand as his reaction to sheath shaving was so out of character, and OUCH, they were HOT! What a lad, he did no harm, just really flinched and lifted his leg up. He did once do the same with his right elbow, so over the time I think I probably hurt him three times in total!


At least each time, although I did not know WHY he could not handle it, each time I took him at his word, moved and rubbed a bit that he was happy with (that would have been a long haired insulated bit!) and then had a break (when the clippers would have cooled down again!). Then each time he was fine. And I THOUGHT I had talked him around over sheath shaving, it was just that I was no longer burning him! So, no real harm done as each time I listened to him without needing to know the reason for the upset, I just knew that each time Sherlock was trying his best, but for some reason that there was not tolerable right now, so we changed it and made it better.


Well, it is done. I have left a bit of fluff on his right sheath, for understandable reasons, but I guess he will be OK with that for next time. Actually I think he would have forgiven me already, but the clip is good enough for me, and it is done, and I have had enough clipping for now, so it is staying fluffy!


Tomorrow is a big day, travelling on the lorry to be shod, then the vet coming to do teeth.





Ruth. xx


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