Young horse is violently head shaking. Help?

Kallibear

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Any suggestions please?

My nearly 4yr ISH is being such a good boy under saddle. We hack gentle once or twice a week and get a half hour lesson once a week. He's doing great except for his head shaking. He flips his head up and down (not in an attempt to rein snatch tho) sometimes quite violently but doesn't snake it.

He has had his teeth recently checked and his saddle has just been professionally fitted.

His head shaking seems to be an annoyance at things on his head. He does it violent if his headcollar is left on in the field. He's esp bad if he's got hot and sweaty.He is better when I've got a contact and def worse when left to his own devises on a long rein. He does it rarely when concentrating hard but he finds it hard to concentrate when he's started head shaking!

He finds his bit annoying and is better with a fairly loose fitting noseband (Grackle or drop) because once he starts to play with it he becomes obsessed, starts to rattle it about with head shaking then really upsets himself. We tried him without a noseband in a lesson and he got himself so upset that he was dripping with sweat, violently head shaking and didn't calm down until I got off and put his Grackle back on (loosely). It's a very odd reaction that my instructor couldn't explain other than the noseband holds the bit stiller in his mouth and stops he rattling it about in the first place. I suspect he started head shaking first (not due to the bit) then hurt and upset himself as he was able to gape wide open and smack the bit off his palate/teeth etc
.
He now wears a Micklem bridle and is a little better than a normal bridle. It is never done up tighter than a normal cavesson would be.

He wears a NS Starter bit but has also tried a magic bit, curved single jointed and a Team Up. He takes a good contact normally and doesn't seem uncomfortable with his mouth specifically, just finds the whole thing annoying.

I tried him bitless (Dr Cook) and he was AWFUL as soon as any pressure was applied. He's not much better in a headcollar with reind which is why I don't think it's specifically his bit.

Current strategy is to entirely ignore it and push him forwards when he starts. However it's not really improving so I need to think of something else!


Any thoughts much appreciated!
 

TigerTail

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My first port of call would be getting him off grass for a month keeping a diary to see if the head shaking improved.

Have a really good read on this site - very very helpful to a lot of us with head shakers, and then start looking at trig menial nerve
What you need to remember is this is a pain response, not a behavioural one :)
http://www.calmhealthyhorses.com
 

Pearlsasinger

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My first thought was to experiment with different materials for the bit until you said that he was worse bitless. I agree that head-shaking is a response to pain, so can only suggest that you work through the other ideas on this thread, hope you get to the bottom of it!
 

LaurenBay

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Ruby did this for a while. I noticed it happened more through the spring and summer. I have a couple of nose nets, one for field and one for bridle. Helped a huge amount. So I have put it down to pollen allergy.
 

Highlands

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Check for pain defo then check ears, my highland gets horrid little flies down them. After that I will think about coat.

Why not chat to your vet , if not any of above then I would ask them to try anti histamines just to see if it improves. If improvement then nose net and management.
 

dreamcometrue

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Has he been broken in for long? My horse was newly broken in when I bought her and she did this sort of thing often for the first 6 months or so towards the end of each hack.


I put it down to annoyance at the bridle and bit since it was new to her. She gradually stopped and it has never reappeared. I think she simply got used to the tack.
 

ossy

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I sadly had to take loss of use on my eventer due to severe head shaking, it was heart breaking to go through and wouldn't want to deal with another any time soon. I would try trialing nose nets and full ride on face masks. My horse was only better with the face mask, the nose net net did nothing to help. She went to leahurst was nerve blocked in the face and that stopped it too, that's when we knew it was nerve related. We trialed everything over the next year but she got worse and was retired. Sorry to not be more positive but if u can start a diary and trialling possible solutions hopefully you'll find something to help
 

charlie76

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Mine is twitching and head shaking a lot at the moment both ridden and in the field, its little black midges that causes it! You can barely see them but he can. I tried the usual ear covers, nose nets etc but the only thing that stops it under saddle is a field fly mask, white with no ears. The horse wear amigo mio one is ideal. Some days he is fine so I just always take it out and get off and stick it on if he is bad with it.
 

I*HM

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My first thought would be that he is experiencing some for of hypersensitivity.
I know that's not much help as there are so many things he could be hyper sensitive to though (eg from allergies to even hypersensitive skin/to touch).

Is he stabled?
Is he ridden out doors?
Is there an difference in his behaviour depending on where he's ridden?
Does he do it when on the lunge/turned out in the field/in the stable?
Is he just shaking his head up and down or is he also trying to scratch/rub his face (or his legs, the ground etc)
Does he have his wolf teeth still?
 

TigerTail

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Ossy did u try taking her off ALL grass?

Just interested as seen so many solved by this.
 

shergar

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Wolf teeth can also be a problem ,has he been looked at by a dentist.
 

flirtygerty

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Two things come to mind, his teeth, my TB used to throw his head about, turned out he had waves in his teeth, he fought the EDT, so problem was never resolved, till now when he gets sedated, never does it now he's comfy in his mouth.
Secondly, poll pain, he's obviously not happy at something.
Good luck
 

ossy

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Ossy did u try taking her off ALL grass?

Just interested as seen so many solved by this.

Yes was taken off grass for 3 months, trialled the salt feeding, equi winner patches and everything the vets could get a hold of over varied periods. Mine only every did under exercise be it ridden, lunged or loose schooled with no tack or head collor on. Had full scans, X-rays ect during her week in horsepital but found nothing abnormal. On keeping a diary There was no common factor to when she was worst. It was obvious from watching mine that the shaking was completely involuntary.
 

Elsbells

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I've re~read you original post OP and I wonder if you've fitted the micklem bridle correctly as you say you do fit it loosely.

I find I have to tighten it up on my mare so that it doesn't move and that it's well clear of all the boney parts of her face, if I don't she complains. She used to throw her head up and down in trot and canter in her comfort bridle but that's all stopped since the micklem arrived. She too was happier in a grackle and that's what made me go for the Micklem.

There's a lot of good ideas on here for you to think about and try. Good luck.
 

Wheels

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My first port of call would be the vet, you have already tried different bits, bridles, the horse even head shakes in a head collar, that isn't normal behaviour so while there are some good ideas on this thread about what to do, the vet might know a little more once they've seen the horse and maybe done some tests
 

annunziata

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Hi My horse is a head shaker and it is very very frustrating, I feel your pain. I only bought my horse in Oct and he did not do it then so it appears it is only seasonal. how long has your horse been doing it for????? I had my horse in a micklem bridle as well but that seemed to aggravate the situation. Gromit was going around the field with his nose higher than his ears https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NcS9pqW_qE some of this is excitement but you can see the twitches, it got so bad he almost flicked me and himself into a ditch a couple of weeks ago. I took him to the vets of course and spent a fortune trying to find out what it was. There are a couple of options as to why he could headshake one being neurological and one being seasonal or a UV headshaker. I did a huge amount of research on the web. Salt on its own will not do anything. I put him on a loading dose of 99.2% magnesium (from ebay pure earth I think) salt if they will eat it will help the magnesium absorb into the body. Magnesium is a calmer but it also helps the horses deal with symtoms of being a headshaker. I also use eye drops from the vet which were quite literally what humans use for hayfever two drops each side twice a day and I use a nose net on a flat noseband bridle. I also have him on shake free. No idea if it works make me feel better though :)

For a headshaker it is constant pressure that helps and that is what the nose net will do so the fire or electric shock that is what make them twitch should be reduced by the net. The mickelm could be two restrictive for your horse and my vet to allow him to open his mouth and almost vent his frustration that way if that makes sense? Gromit has almost completely stopped and we have resumed normal lifestyle. He has also returned to normal in the field. You can use a full flymask and if you see an improvement it could be related to the sunlight which is another option. If so a riding veil will help. I have however narrowed it down to why he is doing it as I have taken him in the woods and he gets worse so my vet is thinking tree pollen..so stay away from trees!

I would defo speak to your vet and go though all the options I can actually say I have had a positive result. All weekend in the heat and the sun my horse was fine cantering around as long as I stay away from trees. If you need anymore help let me know. good luck
 

PollyP99

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Nothing much to add to the good suggestions except I really feel for you, having ridden two different head shakers I know at times they can lose all sense of self and be absorbed with it and at a quick pace that can be quite scary. One of those I rose was markedly better in a nose net or field face mask 24x7 so ridden and not, the other developed this head shaking for only one spring and it coincided with the owner trying a very strong fly repellent , he contined to do it through the season despite stopping the fly repellent and was at times dangerous to ride. He stopped in the winter and never resumed despite being ridden in the same places so feel this one was product related.

My mare is mild shaker and nose nets and pollenex helped her last season, so far this year I've just gone down the nose net route as she is not showing any real sings yet. I did think pollenex had some effect last year though maybe worth a try?
 

peanuts1984

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we have a head shaker and get by from using a nose net, and magnesium supplement . it helps it by about 80% better
 

JayBeVee

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Sorry, no personal experience of a headshaker but agree with Shysmum - check no foreign body in ear. Recall a story from many years ago when a promising young horse was put down because of this. At post mortem turned out to have FB in ear. Too late then. Also, at 4 he should have some big teeth erupting, so time alone may cure this. Hope all turns out well.
 
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