Headshaking Help

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  • DunVegasMoney Original Poster DunVegasMoney
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 0

    We just got a really sweet new horse in the barn, and I’m cconsidering buying him, but he’s a headshaker. I’ve never had a horse who headshakes (is that even a term?) so I’m not sure what I’d be getting into. Anyone ever dealt with that and can offer some advice?

    equusparvus equusparvus
    Topics Started: 14Replies Posted: 12

    What exactly do you mean by headshaking? Is it a stable vice or does he shake his head under saddle?

    pheets pheets
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 477

    There is a condition, headshaking syndrome, that I think is related to photosensitivity. A Guardian mask, or any one that offers UV protection can help. I have only heard of such things and not experienced it for myself, think I am kinda happy about that, but I have also heard that this is not always an unmanageable condition nor is it all that rare. Worth a chat with a vet about it as it would be a shame to pass up a good horse if it can be managed reasonably. Good Luck to you!

    Sure there's right and wrong but mostly there's just a whole lotta different.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    As the owner of a headshaker, I would never recommend someone knowingly purchase one, unless you are willing to deal with what can be (but isn’t always) a very debilitating condition.

    The condition can be difficult, if not impossible, to manage and what works for one horse may do nothing for another. There are so many different possible triggers and treatment that its can be overwhelming trying to figure out how best to help the horse. Some can benefit from a change of location (if it’s allergy-related, for instance), some can be helped with meds (although if you show, the meds are usually not show-legal) and sometimes, no matter what you do, nothing works. Unfortunately, with nerve-based pain, medication really doesn’t do any good, you mostly just have to try to prevent it from starting.

    My gelding is a homebred and he started last spring at eight years old, completely out of the blue. I’m still trying to figure him out and what works best for him, and it’s heartbreaking to watch him when he’s having tics. When he started, I immediately had to accept that he may never show again. In my case, my horses live at home so I have the option of retiring him at such a young age. If you board, you have to consider that it would be very, very hard to sell this horse in the future and that if you do, he may end up with someone who doesn’t understand the condition and how to deal with it and be able to accept that he may not have a happy ending.

    Do some internet searching – there’s a Yahoo web board with tons of good information and people willing to share their experience. Tons of info is out there, you just have to sort through the snake-oil salesmen and those with real information to give. But to be blunt, if someone asked me if I would buy a headshaker, my answer would be “no”.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 4

    Here’s a good article: Also, be sure to check with your vet and equine dentist.

    hope your pony feels better soon! ๐Ÿ™ ๐Ÿ™‚

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    My horse randomly started headshaking at 18 years old last spring. I was so worried that it was going to be a permanent problem from then on after researching the condition on the web. I bought the “muzzle relief net” (from Smartpak) to attach to his bridle to ride with and I didn’t really notice a difference. I was hoping it was allergy related since it came out of no where in the spring but didn’t want to just give up riding during allergy season. I was about to try some supplements for the problem when I decided to get my equine chiropractor out and he found my horse was terribly out of alignment at the poll. Two adjustments later and the headshaking went away completely! Thank goodness!! He has been fine since. I know it’s a long shot for your situation since it sounds like that horse has been a headshaker for a long time, but just thought I’d share my experience. From my research online, the muzzle relief net and some supplements have had great success with horses with this condition.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    I agree with ‘drawstraws’ above. My OTTB became a headshaker at 5 years old. It’s a condition I don’t wish upon anyone. My horse does it starting in May and it ends whenever it wants to end….he is fine through the winter but that limits what showing I can do. Not much helps my horse. I love my horse dearly, but I do not recommend buying a headshaker..ever.

    IrishMelody IrishMelody
    Topics Started: 7Replies Posted: 27

    If the horse has genuine headshaking, with the tics/fits and is caused by some disease, that is definitely more of a struggle, and I have no advice on how to handle that.

    If the headshaking this horse does is a learned behavior (thus, not caused by a disease) such as my gelding does, then it will take a lot of work to convince him to stop. He will never unlearn the behavior, but perhaps he will learn when not to do it. He does a giant horse nod whenever I want to do something like worm, put on his bridle, make him stop eating grass and go back in the barn, etc. It is annoying and he has learned that if he does it enough, people will leave him alone.

    Some of his shaking is pain related, as he sometimes hits his pole on the hay manger. So he gets a bump and doesn’t like the pressure of the headstall when we work. This might be another thing to look at and rule out.

    Again, his headshaking is a learned behavior that developed because he knew he could get away with it, people would leave him alone, they would stop riding. He does not have actual headshaking caused by a disease. I love him dearly and he is the biggest horse project I have undertaken. Yes, he has freaked me out before, but I like working with him. What you would get into is a lot of work, you will lose your patience, and probably fall off sometimes. But despite his vice, I would buy my horse again. I fall in love with him all over again when we work.

    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    Hi. hope this helps. I would have the teeth checked, or is your curb chain too tight and then I would ask if this is a distraction and the horse is able to get out of work by doing it. I have had several horses that have been brought to me to correct this behavior. If you pay attention to the head shake and attempt to correct it, that is what your focus is on…it will get stronger. You need to focus on the task at hand what you are asking of your horse, giving the release when he does what your asking. Using the conditioned response release method works very well. Move the feet, expect softness in the bridle and timing the release to the right answer takes the focus off the distraction of head tossing and it goes away

    rlueders rlueders
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 24

    When I got my mare, she has symptoms similar to head shaking syndrom. I did all the normal stuff: check teeth, bit, tack comfort, etc., but nothing seemed to help. Finally, I decided to braid her forelock and put an ear bonnet on her (which we call her batman ears), and she stopped her head-shaking. Luckily, my mare was just annoyed with her forelock tickling her ears.

    I agree, the true headshaking disease mentioned by drawstraws is very difficult to cope with, but occasionally, similar symptoms can occur for different reasons.

    rlueders rlueders
    Topics Started: 5Replies Posted: 24

    And ignore my double-post. Sorry!

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by rlueders rlueders.
    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 8

    It kind of depends. It might just be that something’s bothering him, like his teeth. If he only does it while he’s being ridden then it might be the bit that’s bothering him, or something else like the saddle or the pad. Head shaking is a pretty general symptom, so look for other things that could indicate that he’s in pain. (This is what my horse does. If she shakes her head at all, she’s saying “Ouch!”, and I know that something’s wrong.)

    Or, there might be nothing wrong with him. It might just be a bad habit that needs to be broken. I know a horse that shakes her head all the time. She doesn’t do it because something hurts or to be a brat, it’s just the way she is and something she does. Head shaking isn’t all that bad. If you show, you would want to look into it and try to fix any issues. If you don’t show, it’s up to you. If it isn’t too bad, then it’s really not all that annoying, (at least not to me, but that’s just my opinion).

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