To twitch or not?

Your Horse (UK) - - Ask The Experts -

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.

Start again

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.

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