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Shellie Sommerson


Become an Eventing Nation Blogger

About Shellie Sommerson

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area II
Highest Level Competed Training
Trainer J. Michael Plumb

Latest Articles Written

Why Does My Horse Need Vitamin E? And How Can He Get It? Brought to You by Banixx

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Grass is the best natural source of Vitamin E. Photo courtesy of Banixx.

How much do you know about Vitamin E and your horse’s requirements for it? Vitamin E is the compilation of eight naturally occurring compounds that have antioxidant properties. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning it’s stored in the body’s fatty tissues and the liver. Your horse can store Vitamin E when it is provided in abundance and utilize it later when less is provided.

Dr. Green (also know as grass) is the best natural source of Vitamin E. Once hay/grass is cut, the amount of Vitamin E drops off and will continue to drop over time. So, the older the hay, the less Vitamin E.

What does Vitamin E do?

It’s an antioxidant. A simple explanation of antioxidants is that they bind with free radicals to diffuse them and make them less damaging to the cells. Free radicals are unstable molecules and are a byproduct of the body’s utilization of fuel such as protein, carbohydrates and fats.

For nerves, muscles, reproductive system, and internal systems, Vitamin E is vital to the repair and health of these systems. Horses under stress, such as pregnant mares, nursing mares, young horses, performance horses, and older horses are likely to need more. It’s an essential part of the diet for horses with allergies, those prone to tying up, those with metabolic syndrome, or those recovering from an illness.

How does my horse get Vitamin E?

Fresh pasture is the best supplier. The way we keep our horses now, with less or no pasture, means that horses may not be able get and store up enough Vitamin E.  A diet heavy in hay, not grass, results in a forage where the Vitamin E has dissipated in the drying process and is much less available.

Supplements to provide additional Vitamin E can be from synthetic or natural sources. But it’s important to know that the natural Vitamin E is stored in the horse’s system for about twice as long as synthetically sourced Vitamin E.

What happens if he does not get a sufficient amount of Vitamin E?

Vitamin E deficiency can result in cell damage. This damage can lead to sore muscles, injury, slow recovery from exercise/work (otherwise known as oxidative stress). Oxidative stress is more likely to occur in nerves, muscles and the immune system, as they consume energy faster than other systems in the horse.

How do I know if my horse is getting enough Vitamin E?

There are no recent studies on this; however, in 2007 the National Research Council (NCR) recommended about 500 IU (international units) daily for a 1,100-pound horse in light work, and more for horses in heavier work. For those horses that need more Vitamin E, the recommendation is about 5,000 IU per day.

There is scant data regarding overdosing a horse on Vitamin E; however, in other animals (including humans) excessive Vitamin E can be toxic since it is stored in the fat and it’s not a water-soluble vitamin so the old cliché. “Everything in moderation” is best taken to heart here.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners!

Disgusting, Dirty Tack? Easy Winter Tack Care, Brought to You by Banixx

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Disgusting tack! Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Tack stiff, grungy and basically…nasty?!

What You Need: Wash cloths (a little abrasive, not soft), hand towel, glycerin saddle soap bar, tack conditioner of your choice and water.

How you do it:

  1. Pull the straps out of the keepers each time, and once a month remove reins and the bit to really clean and check the integrity of your equipment.
  2. Scrub the tack with a wet washcloth and glycerin saddle soap – a washcloth gets the grunge off the leather better than a sponge. Repeat if needed.
  3. Wipe down with hand towel to remove excess water and saddle soap.
  4. Using your hands, apply the tack conditioner – use your hands so the conditioner gets on the tack and not soaked into a cloth or sponge.
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Clean tack! Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Extra tips:

  • If warm water is not available at your barn, then bring some from home in a thermos.
  • A scrubby pad (like kitchen scrubby) may be warranted for really grungy tack.
  • A cap full of ammonia in about three quarts of water (small bucket) can be a good rinse off (first step) for horribly dirty tack.
  • A hex screwdriver is handy for cleaning out the holes.
  • Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce will get brass sparkling but be sure to rinse it off well as it will burn a horse’s sensitive skin and irritate eyes.
  • The more often glycerin saddle soap is used the more supple your tack will be.
  • The thicker tack conditioners (paste rather than liquid), such as Oakwood, are great in wet conditions! If you get caught in the rain, no worries! Wipe the tack off with a hand towel and the tack will be smooth and supple, not be crusty or stiff when it dries.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners!

February Is Equine Dental Awareness Month! Brought to You by Banixx

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February is Equine Dental Awareness Month. When were your horse’s teeth last checked? Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Horses should have their first check-up at 1.5 to 2.5 years of age, then annually from then until they are in their 20s. Then our older horses may need their teeth checked more frequently so that they can get the most value from their food, and in all age ranges more frequent check-ups are warranted in any of the following situations:

  • Chomping the bit, difficulty taking and/or dropping the bit
  • Twisting his head in the bridle
  • Hangs on one rein
  • Difficulty turning one direction
  • Ulcers on the inside of the cheeks
  • Dropping grain/feed, hay ‘balls’ found on the ground
  • Choking
  • Colic
  • Front teeth do not line up – uneven incisors (affects the jaw alignment too!) This could also mean malocclusions (jaw and teeth not lining up)
  • Lumps seen from outside on cheeks
  • Behavior changes
  • Weight loss
  • Smelly mouth

It is important to monitor a young horse’s teeth and particularly check for wolf teeth and caps (the baby teeth that fall out/get pushed out by adult teeth). Caps can get jammed between other teeth rather than fall out on their own.

In general, most horses need at least an annual check-up/floating. However, horses in regular work may need a check-up every six to nine months to avoid ulcerated cheeks and/or tooth issues. Sharp points, uneven edges, etc. may be more problematic for a horse that wears a bridle, for instance. More frequent check-ups may also be warranted for horses with dental issues. Although cavities are uncommon in horses, they do occur. More common dental ailments are painful points, uneven arcades (tops and bottom rows of teeth), but a Periapical infection, or infection at the root of the tooth, can also occur. Also, a cracked tooth may go undetected without a dental exam.

It is so easy to skip having your horse’s teeth checked but it is such an important part of their health! We ask so much of our horses and their mouth is vital – do the right thing! Get your horse’s teeth checked!

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

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Do You Know What Complete Feeds & Ration Balancers Offer? Brought to You by Banixx

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Feed sticking together? (Molasses helps feed stick together.)

Is beet pulp listed as the first ingredient, or one of the first few? (Beet pulp can be purchased as a separate feed item.)

Are you questioning your horse’s diet?

Getting overwhelmed when you go to the feed store and think about making a change?

You hear about ration balancers and complete feeds, but what do those terms/labels mean?

Perhaps we can help sort it out?!

Is your horse an easy keeper or has a metabolic issue and you want to ensure he gets proper nutrients without all the extra calories?

  • Ration Balancer – Provides nutrient (vitamins, minerals and amino acids). A rather small quantity of ration balancer is a typical fed in a meal; it has more ‘power’ in the pound than a ‘regular’ feed. This is not meant to provide the roughage a horse needs in his diet. The cost of the bag may be ‘higher,’ but the contents ‘go farther.’

Is hay in short supply and you want to increase the roughage/fiber in your horse’s diet?

  • Complete Feed – Provides nutrients AND forage in one. Along with the vitamins, minerals and amino acids, contains high fiber products such as beet pulp, and hulls (soybean, oat, almond, rice). A larger quantity of a complete feed is a typical portion, as it is meant to provide/replace some of the forage that a horse’s diet needs (i.e. less hay/rough required to be feed in addition to the complete feed). Cost per bag may be a bit less.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx by clicking here.

Got Crud? Get Banixx! Brought to you by Banixx Horse Care

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Comparison photo courtesy of Banixx.

Got the crud? Or rather, your horse has crud on his legs, body or head? Rain rot, rain scald, scratches, scurf, crud, mud fever, Cannon Keratosis – these issues that may start small but quickly can become very big! We groom groom groom, but some horses are just more prone to ‘getting stuff,’ or your week got out of control and so now your horse has a wretched, unsightly skin condition.

Give this a go (might wear gloves to keep any infection from spreading):

It’s best to NOT pick off scabs as that exposes tissues to bacteria. As the tissues heal the scabs will slough off.

Dampen the area with water, apply a small amount of Banixx Medicated Shampoo, gently massage the shampoo in to the skin surface, let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse and towel dry.

For extra ‘power’, spray with Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray.

Another option is to dampen the area with water, apply a small amount of Banixx Medicated Shampoo, gently massage the shampoo in to the skin surface, go for a ride, muck some stalls, etc., — when you come back rinse the area with water and towel dry.

The secret to keeping Simon’s sensitive skin calm and clear while in Florida? Banixx baths! 🧼🧽💫

Posted by Ariel Grald Eventing on Thursday, January 9, 2020

For itchy spots: For horses that itch at the same areas (allergies or whatever). Wash the area (or whole horse) with Banixx Medicated Shampoo and once dry apply Banixx Wound Care Cream or Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray. Repeat every few days if the itching persists. Also, follow up applications of  Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray between washings are effective at providing relief and soothing the skin.

Girth galls: We all do our best to avoid them, we feel terrible when it happens, but it does happen. Clean gently with Banixx Horse & Pet Care Spray, allow it to dry and apply Banixx Wound Care Cream. Repeat the application of Banixx Wound Care Cream daily.

Banixx Medicated Shampoo and Banixx Wound Care Cream have chlorohexidine that helps with killing bacteria/fungus, but are ultra-enriched with moisturizing, rejuvenating marine collagen. The Banixx product line has no clinical odor, no sting, no alcohol, no steroids, and is non-toxic. So safe and easy to use, with no worries!

Click below to learn more:

What’s In a Snort? Brought to You by Banixx Horse Care

Boadie blowing at the wet shavings in his stall.

Did your horse just snort, or was it something else? The noises that our horses make may sound similar but have different meanings. What often gets labels as a snort may not actually be a snort.

Snore – A short, course sounding, inhale: This is a mild alert, often heard when investigating something new, taking in scent/smells. Your horse may snore when he walks out of the barn into the crisp morning air.

Blow – Intense and non-pulsing exhale: An alarmed/attentive reaction (yes, this is the one just before the horse becomes a kite!). It may be associated with aggression or fear. Your horse may blow when a plastic bag goes flying across the ring ‘thwapping’ on every jump standard it passes, or when the water heater in his winter bucket gives off a little steam as it warms your horse’s overnight supply.

Snort – Nostril vibrations that create a pulsed sound that is slightly longer than a blow: This is a reassuring one, telling you all is well. It may be referred to as a “purr” and usually has a positive/content association, such as at feeding time. His ears may be forward during a snort, an indicator that the horse is content/happy. Your horse may snort when he pokes his nose into his dinner while standing in a warm, dry stall on a cold night.

Some horses seem to snore, blow and snort more than others – why? Are certain horses more of the “watchdogs” of the herd (farm)? Some more hyper aware of differences? And some more verbal (like some people)?

What are your thoughts and experiences? The Banixx team would like to hear from you!

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Keeping Horses Healthy in Their Senior Years, Presented by Banixx

25 year old Thoroughbred – T for Texas. Photo by Laura Gingrich

It takes a long time to make a good horse. So how do you keep him/her in the best of shape?

As a horse ages, he needs more care, not less. The factors below affect the longevity of your horse:

  • Environment/Management – Horses require fresh air or good ventilation, good footing (difficult footing can harm soft tissue) plus good access to quality fodder/grass and clean water.
  • Dental Care – Regular dental care helps maintain a healthy mouth so the horse can chew properly. If he cannot chew properly, then he cannot break down the food, and his digestive system is unable to absorb vital nutrients.
  • Diet/Weight Management – Older horses, just like people, do well when they are not overweight. Be aware of and test for metabolic issues such as Cushing’s Disease and hormonal imbalances.
  • Exercise – In younger years give your horse occasional breaks from work, but keep him in regular exercise when he is older. Use it or lose it applies to our senior friends!!
  • Hoof Care – This is vital for overall support as your horse ages. Barefoot would seem to make sense but may not be the best option for all.
  • Preventive Medical Care – Vaccinations, deworming, and maintenance for joint issues and arthritis. Dietary improvements and growth of veterinarian knowledge help us keep our equine partners healthy and happy longer.

Some additional things you can do to help your aging equine partner:

  • Space out vaccinations (rather than give all at the same time) along with spacing other stressful events such as shoeing, traveling, deworming, etc.
  • Deworming needs may change; perhaps pull a fecal to verify needs.
  • Soak hay, soak grain (a senior formula), soak hay cubes.
  • Be vigilant to adjust feeding needs.
  • Adjust for seasonal issues – such as clipping, blanketing, protection from the bugs/heat etc.
  • Herd management – the older horse may not be able to handle the herd dominance during feeding and with shelter arrangements.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners! Learn more about Banixx  by clicking here:

Your Horse Spooks — Should You Worry? Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Horses are flight instinct animals – OK, we all know that. But spooking does not always make sense — the horse may pass that same space daily, the object has always been there, but your horse spooks.

Types of spooks include new experiences, a quick flash, movement, or loud noise, eye/eyesight problems, and pain. Riding a spooking horse can be disruptive, exasperating and, at times, scary. It’s always a good idea to work with your veterinarian to rule out health issues (pain, eyesight). Sometimes, with a spook, your horse just needs a moment to ‘absorb’ the experience and can continue.

When you last dealt with a spook, how did you react? This is a good time for some self reflection. What were the circumstances? Did you look around to see what the horse spooked at … and abandon your horse as the wheels are falling off? Did you get after the horse … in an attempt to punish him?

Here are some tips for the next spook:

Calmly keep the feet moving, particularly the hind feet, but they need to move in a rhythmic beat, not a frantic scramble. Consider a leg yield. The feet are connected to the brain. When the feet move in rhythm, the brain quiets and is receptive to input. As best you can, do NOT pull on the reins. Other exercises are: turn on the forehand, side passing, shoulder-in, etc. anything that you can do to redirect his attention to YOU, and get the feet moving.

You may not be effective close to the scary object, so move away from it – but, with an exercise! Quietly work on the exercise and soften when your horse responds correctly. Try not to pull on the reins unnecessarily. You may not be able to work around the scary place today, or tomorrow, but, stick with the plan in a quiet fashion to build trust and confidence. Recognize that improvements come slowly, and, there is NO quick fix!

The speed of your success depends upon history, personalities, effectiveness of your exercises and patience. Be open to change if past exercises did not work. After it is all said and done, do you now have a better partnership with your horse? We hope so!

Happy Riding! Brought to you by Banixx.

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at

Top Winter Hoof & Leg Care Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Shellie Sommerson, courtesy of Banixx Horse and Pet Care.

Winter presents a unique set of challenges for equine wellness. This week we’re focusing on best practices for hoof and leg care in the chilly months.

  • For best hoof care, pick your horse’s hooves daily to increase needed airflow to the hooves allowing Mother Nature to do her work. Pick the feet before bringing your horse into the barn so that you can save on clean-up.
  • If your horse’s hoof has a foul smell, it is likely thrush. Pick well and spray Banixx Spray into the crevices and between the heels. If the thrush is chronic, use Banixx with a medicine boot to keep the hoof awash in Banixx Spray. Following the soak of 20 minutes, tape the hoof with VetWrap to prevent re-contamination.
  • To keep hooves healthy, have a consistent schedule with your farrier! The farrier trims back the dead sole and frog, to promote the growth of healthy tissue.
  • Hooves grow more slowly in the winter months, so you might think “Ah! I can save some money … and see the farrier less!” Not necessarily a good idea. Cracks and abnormalities grow out more slowly in the winter, so it is better to stay ‘ahead’ of these hoof problems with regular maintenance.
  • Frozen ground is hard and can easily bruise the sole. Pads maybe applied to protect the horse’s sole. Snowball pads (in snowy areas) may be an effective option for hoof health and rider safety.
  • If you find yourself riding on frozen ground, it’s probably best to come back to a walk. Frozen ground makes a ringing noise as the horse moves over it at a trot, canter or gallop.
  • The hair on your horse’s legs creates a protective barrier in winter; however, it also hides issues like crud/scratches/cuts. To clip or not to clip …? The cold air can be therapeutic on the legs, especially if the horse is in significant work or needs cooling therapies.
  • Keep legs as clean and dry as possible. Mud can be a problem! Plan ahead to provide an area for your horse to be able to get out of the mud.
  • To address leg issues, gently brush the dirt off and wet the legs with a sponge. Pour a quarter size dollop of Banixx Shampoo into the palm of your hand and gentle rub into the grungy/cruddy areas on the horse’s legs. Go for a ride, groom or clean tack. Then, after 20 minutes, rinse and towel dry. Repeat these steps daily or twice daily three or four days and the crud should be gone without burning or irritating the horse’s skin. For extra ‘power’ spray with Banixx Spray after completing the other steps.

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at

Why Does My Horse Yawn? Brought to You by Banixx

Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

When your horse yawns, what does he really mean? Horses yawn for a variety of reasons. Studies reveal these as possible reasons:

  • State of drowsiness – perhaps relaxed/relaxation in your horse; but not the same as in humans (drops in blood oxygen levels)
  • Environmental stress or anticipation – herd dominance, social queues, anticipation
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort such as ulcers
  • Tempo-mandibular tension and/or pain – stretching, pain reaction
  • Liver distress – usually associated with other signs of liver disease (jaundice tissue, loss of condition, diarrhea, discolored urine, and abdominal pain)
  • Apparently, males yawn more often than females. So, that is something that mares don’t get the ‘bad rap’ on!
  • Is your horse yawning because he is calming or, is he yawning to relieve stress? (Calming queues, like  licking and chewing, stretching down, etc.). If stress induced, what can you do to relieve his stressors? If gastrointestinal, liver or pain is suspected, contact your veterinarian.
  • Or, like mine… FEED ME!!!!

Next time your horse yawns, look around — what is going on in the environment when he yawns? Does your horse seem calm or stressed?

Share your observations with us – Gender? What is going on? Does it seem to be stress or calming or perhaps communication of some sort?

Banixx is a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at

Winter Horse Health Tips from Banixx

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

Some ideas to consider as winter approaches … stay warm and safe!!

  • Check your horse daily, In addition to currying, run your hands over your horse’s skin to find any problem areas hidden by winter hair such as body condition, ‘leftover’ ticks, cuts, scabs, rain rot and scratches. Especially check the horse’s armpits, groin and stomach.
  • A weight tape is an easy way to keep track of the horse’s body condition (record the numbers every couple of weeks).
  • Horses’ ears tell a great story! Gently cup her ears to feel if they are cold or warm. If the ears are cold, then the horse is probably cold. This is a great bonding/quiet opportunity with your horse.
  • Hoof Care: Wet conditions can increase thrush issues. Pick the horses feet and apply Banixx Horse & Pet Care spray. In extreme thrush cases soak the afflicted hoof in Banixx. See our page on thrush treatment.
  • Horse need fresh, clean water. Keep an eye on your horse’s water consumption particularly when barometric levels change; this negatively affects some horses more than others.
  • Check wiring to heaters in outdoor tanks, and encase electrical cords with plastic pipe or old water hoses and secure them out of reach of inquisitive equine mouths.
  • Have a back-up plan if water is frozen and unavailable; an ice chest can be helpful to transport water.
  • A great way to add additional moisture to the horse’s diet is a “mush” of sloppy beet pulp (great fibre) or add water to his favorite feed to increase hydration.
  • Remove the cobwebs hanging around to reduce dust and fire hazards and to improve air quality.
  • Ensure good ventilation in the barn. Poor ventilation can lead to a build-up of ammonia. If the barn smells bad to you, it probably is! This can be ‘hard’ on a horse’s delicate respiratory systems.
  • Keep an old hairdryer in the barn to warm your horse’s bit. It can serve as double-duty if your horse’s back is moist from riding and you have to re-apply a blanket.
  • De-worm before it gets bitter cold so that your horse does not suffer the double stress of intense cold and dewormer in his gut. Keep in mind that deworming can be harder on the older horse.
  • Think about having your horse’s teeth checked to ensure they can eat hay well.

Brought to you by Banixx – the #1 trusted solution for equine and pet owners!

Tidbits from Banixx: Clipping Tips #2 – Ways to Avoid a Calamity in Clipping

‘Tis the season for clipping! Shellie Sommerson shares tips for a successful clip job — if you missed part 1, “So, You Want to Clip Your Horse? Tips from a Pro,” check it out here.

Photo by Shellie Sommerson.

Before you clip, take into consideration the temperament of the horse, his and your clipping experience and plan accordingly, so that the operation is positive, confident and stress-free for both of you.

  • Introduce yourself by standing on a mounting block without the clippers, then … add the clippers. Don’t stand on a bucket!
  • If the clippers have a ‘bracelet,’ use it! Otherwise you could end up dropping the clippers, they then break as your horse steps on them, gets startled, breaks away and the entire day is now a major flop! 
  • Checking the clipper blades every five or 10 minutes is important so that you don’t burn your horse or frighten him with the heat of the blades.
  • When clipping the face or underside of the face, if the halter has a detachable throat-latch clip, don’t allow it to dangle — your horse could lose an eye if he tosses his head.
  • If your horse is not comfortable in the crossties, have a helper hold the horse with no attempt at forceful restraint. If the horse pulls back, go with the horse as quietly as possible, then, calmly and patiently, encourage a few forward steps. Be patient, take as much time as is needed for a good outcome. Clipping in the stall can be a solution as your horse may be more relaxed in his stall, and the stall corner may provide some security for your horse. Don’t try to trap/force your horse to stay in a space as this can evoke the flight instinct. Consider  having a buddy horse on hand for confidence.
  • Check power cords for damage before you start and recognize that they can be scary to the horse as they slither like a snake across the ground! Lay the cords out, far enough so that they will not get stepped on to avoid an electrical shock.
  • If you accidentally nick or cut a fold of skin with the clipper blades immediately apply Banixx Horse & Pet Care spray followed by Banixx Wound Care Cream.
  • Some exercise prior to the clipping session may be useful since your horse will be more likely stand quietly.

Tidbits from Banixx is sponsored by Banixx, a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at

Tidbits from Banixx: So, You Want to Clip Your Horse? Tips from a Pro!

Photo courtesy of Banixx.

As you prepare to clip your horse, be sure to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for the task. Here are some tips that may help to make it a smooth process.

1. Organize equipment, supplies etc Are the blades clean, sharp and oiled? Do you have backup blades? Blade wash? Clipper oil? Something safe to stand on?

2. In advance, wash the horse thoroughly with a residue-free shampoo—such as Banixx Medicated Shampoo. A dirty horse will not clip well and it may cause pain.

3. Once dry, select a quiet area with low activity and arrange for sedation, beforehand, if needed.

4. Don’t get into a fight with your horse, and allow for plenty of time.

5. Turn on the clippers (away from the horse) and familiarize your horse with the noise. Depending on his experience, run the clippers gently but firmly on less sensitive areas of his body (it may be his shoulder) so that he knows what to expect.

6. Monitor your horse for mood changes and areas of sensitivity. Check blades every 10-15 minutes for heat and take a break to cool them off; this also allows your horse a chance to relax.

7. At these breaks, apply blade-wash as a coolant and cleaner for the blades-don’t be stingy! And re-apply blade/clipper oil to keep the clippers working well.

8. When complete, wash the horse to get rid of clipper oil and hair. Washing with Banixx Medicated Shampoo will not dry out the horse’s skin nor irritate. If any areas are irritated apply Banixx Wound Care Cream.

***If this is your first time, consider having a buddy for extra help and safety.

Tidbits from Banixx is sponsored by Banixx, a fast-acting, affordable aid in the recovery of every kind of bacterial and fungal infection. Learn more at