To twitch or not?
Q My 17hh Warmblood is scary to handle when being clipped. People have said I should use a twitch, but is this cruel? Sarah Matthewson, Cardiff Catherine says... A twitch comes in two formats: a cord loop on the end of a wooden handle, or a ‘humane’ metal pinch. Each is tightened around either the horse’s top lip (a nose twitch) or an ear. A recent study comparing ear and nose twitches found the ear twitch to be far more stressful for the horse. It’s thought that the nose twitch works on acupressure points and floods the horse with endorphins that temporarily dope him. Temporarily is the operative word here. After only a few minutes of use, horses will ‘blow the twitch’, reacting vigorously to defend themselves from the emerging pain that occurs after any endorphins wear off. So, in a nutshell, a twitch has the potential to be unkind and, in any case, is unlikely to cover you for the duration of a whole clip.
It may be more profitable for you to revisit your horse’s reasons for behaving as he does. Scary behaviour usually equates to a scared horse. Fear of clippers can be gradually desensitised and the clipping experience re-associated with pleasurable stimuli such as food. Such retraining will require expert support, so don’t be afraid to seek this from an equine behaviourist or good force-free trainer.