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  1. #1
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Question Heeeeeeeelp - headshaking. *UPDATE post 153* Even in retirement...all beat up

    I have had my 6yo OTTB for two years now. Since I got him, the very first time I rode outside, he began a violent up-and-down head tossing motion, throwing his nose to his chest and then up toward the sky. It doesn't matter if we are on a trail, in a dirt/sand/rubber ring, or riding on grass. Always. In the sun, and after dark (today I rode him after sunset to prove that).

    I have NO experience with horses with allergies. He does NOT do this indoors, and never has. I tried to do some Googling and some COTH searching, but for me, it is hard to draw the line between the possible quackery (I'm not going to stop vaccinating my horse) and the legitimate scientific knowledge that exists regarding equine allergies. Can I get him allergy tested, or do vets just broadly treat with stuff like Prednisone and Dex? If anyone has any personal experience or resourceful links/books, PLEASE, share!

    Seeing as we are eventers, this whole "not okay riding outside" thing is not gonna work for us. I need my horse to be comfortable outside, riding him outdoors makes me feel like I am torturing the poor guy.

    I'm a wee bit tired, so I probably left out a lot of useful info pertaining to this specific horse, so feel free to ask Q's! Thank you!

    Update: Well, the vet has given the most committal diagnosis you can possibly make for HSS. It has been so wet (no outdoor ring, just grass riding field) that I have to wait until it hardens up a little to try the nose net outside (he has continued to do very well inside), but regardless, we will probably be taking him to Cornell for blood and skin allergy tests. Wondering if it might be worthwhile to scope for ulcers as well, if we're already there. Anyone have a ballpark figure? I briefly discussed treatment options for HSS..nosenets/fly mask w/ nose net, dex, cipro (sp?) today with my vet, but she said this is a very frustrating thing to treat and sometimes, as Sue evidenced, there is nothing you can do.

    I am trying to stay positive that our eventing career isn't down the toilet and we can make him happy and comfortable and figure out what his triggers are, but I am also trying to mentally prepare myself for the fact that it may not happen. I will put every penny I can afford into helping him. Aside from that, no new horse is in the cards for me as a college senior.

    I know I am getting ahead of myself, but the vet saying "treatments are effective about 50% of the time, and sometimes there is just nothing you can do", did not leave me feeling very positive.. but I shall try. The fight's not over yet. Trying to keep this cup half full. It could always be worse. Thank you all for your input, and please continue to share info and anecdotal evidence!
    Last edited by ake987; Jun. 21, 2012 at 10:52 AM.

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar. 4, 2008
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    Central Indiana
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    Default

    Have you considered head shaking syndrome? Photosensitive head shaking can cause a horse to flip his head in reaction to sunlight, wind, etc. I've seen a couple of pretty severe cases that only presented outdoors.
    "If ever I did not have a horse or dog in my keeping, I should feel I had lost touch with the earth." ~Beryl Markham



  3. #3
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    NY
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AEM74 View Post
    Have you considered head shaking syndrome? Photosensitive head shaking can cause a horse to flip his head in reaction to sunlight, wind, etc. I've seen a couple of pretty severe cases that only presented outdoors.
    That was the first thing suspected - but as I said, I rode him at night in an attempt to eliminate that. I mean, outside, with no sun, not just under light or in an indoor, and the head tossing continued just the same.

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  4. #4
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    Mar. 4, 2008
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    Central Indiana
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    I'm not saying it is head shaking, might just be allergies, but head shaking can be triggered by wind and other environmental factors, not just the sun. Maybe try him in a nose net and see if that makes any difference? Good luck figuring it out!
    Last edited by AEM74; Aug. 18, 2011 at 06:31 AM.
    "If ever I did not have a horse or dog in my keeping, I should feel I had lost touch with the earth." ~Beryl Markham



  5. #5
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    Nov. 1, 2010
    Location
    VA
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    Allergy shots work! Have him tested for allergies and try the allergy shots. They take a while but you can put him on other things for the head flipping. Years ago when I needed an inhaler which was Intall the vet put my horse on the same drug. We used to squirt it up her nose. Each dose worked for about a month.



  6. #6
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by AEM74 View Post
    I'm not saying it is head shaking, might just be allergies, but head shaking can be triggered by wind and other environmental factors, not just the sun. Maybe try him in a nose net and see if that makes any difference? Good luck figuring it out!
    Our next step is a nose-net. I am off to a wedding for the weekend, but I am going to ride him in one a friend has offered to let me borrow as soon as I get back!

    Quote Originally Posted by LookmaNohands View Post
    Allergy shots work! Have him tested for allergies and try the allergy shots. They take a while but you can put him on other things for the head flipping. Years ago when I needed an inhaler which was Intall the vet put my horse on the same drug. We used to squirt it up her nose. Each dose worked for about a month.
    Ha, wow! See, I wasn't sure how advanced allergy testing is for horses - but I'm glad to see it has been done and worked for others so I know it is a possibility. I think that will be the next step after the nose net. Honestly, I do not really want to the nose net to be the end answer, because he is still uncomfortable at liberty, while leading, and in his pasture.

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  7. #7
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    Jun. 28, 2011
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    43

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    Mitohorse has found anecdotal evidence of reversing headshaking whether from photonic or allergies.

    pm me or contact Dr. Lin, and tell them sym sent you.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 5, 2008
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    In the midst of cornfields
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    Whether or not allergy shots work depend on what your horse is allergic to. My horse has *terrible* bug allergies. I had him tested and then found out that allergy shots are "controversial" as to whether or not they work on bug allergies. IOW, they don't.



  9. #9
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    Aug. 14, 2000
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    Rochester,NY,USA
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    I have a horse with the same problem. I did blood testing for allergies and it came back positive for grasses, trees, and weeds. Horse originally came from southern NJ where he was a successful eventer to training level but once moved to western NY (Rochester area) the first spring the head shaking began. It wasn't violent but that's when one vet suggested Dex to see if there was a difference. It did help and that's when we did the blood test for allergies. I had him on allergy shots for 2 yrs and really no help. The first summer we did have moderate success with 4 mg of dex. Next summer I wasn't as lucky. I tried everything from pantyhose over his nose to honey made locally and a zillion other things inbetween. Another vet suggested diluting phenylephrine with saline or distilled water and squirting up his nose. Neosynephrine nasal spray's active ingredient is phenylephrine. That did help and I could generally get about a 45 minute ride in but if it was breezy day, I had to ride indoors. I treated him for both allergies and phototic head shake with no significant luck. After about 6 yrs I just retired said horse. It wasn't his fault he was allergic to NY. BTW, I don't know where in NY you're located but the Rochester area is known for a higher than normal incidence of sinus problems and allergies in humans.

    Another friend in this area had same problem with her OTTB. She could take him to a show further downstate and he'd be fine but she couldn't compete him around here. She finally donated him to a college in New England where he wouldn't be ridden during the summer months.
    Last edited by msj; Aug. 21, 2011 at 11:46 AM. Reason: Added last paragraph
    Sue
    Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you!



  10. #10
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    Jun. 7, 2005
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    Charleston, SC
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    I have a pony that developed these symptoms at the age of 8. We have tried all kinds of things - it is not made worse by sunlight either. We determined (with the help of my vet and many tests of courses) that he was suffering from ulcers and he has been treated with UlcerGuard successfully. He is now much better - still tosses his head in the crossties a little and at a walk, but when he is asked to trot, canter and jump a course, he is comfortable and able to perform happily. We do have him on an anti-ulcer supplement now as well as MSM, Lysine, probiotics and a SmartPak product called Shake No More Gold. He seems to be getting better and better. But, we really didnt see significant improvement until he was treated for ulcers.
    Quicksilver Farms, LLC
    "Welsh Hunter Ponies"
    Welsh Sec. B Stallions and
    Fancy Show Pony Prospects
    www.quicksilverponies.com



  11. #11
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    Feb. 12, 2010
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    Oregon
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    i've had success with spirulina for allergies but i don't have much experience with head shaking.

    the Horse Journal recommended spirulina for several allergic conditions. might be worth doing some research.

    you can get it at herbalcom.com

    i feed 20gms 2x/ day.
    www.TackMeUp.com
    'What's in your trunk?'
    Free tools for Trainers and Riders



  12. #12
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Thanks again for all the info, everyone. Please continue to share personal experiences and informative links (no quackery, please!) Please see update in OP for more recent info.

    I am looking into adding Lysine and Spirulina, anyone with more info or links? Maybe a round of GG for sh*ts and gigs, since his symptoms do seem somewhat work-related, even though he doesn't do it inside. Stranger things have happened..

    Just keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that our eventing dreams are not over. I've been known to put up quite a fight in the face of adversity, and I don't have half the heart my big guy does, so who knows.

    Edit: I see Spirulina comes in wafers and powder. Have those who have used this found either to be more palatable?
    Last edited by ake987; Aug. 22, 2011 at 08:39 PM.

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  13. #13
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    Default

    add Zephyr's Garden on facebook. in her notes section she has REALLY good info for allergies



  14. #14
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    Sep. 8, 2010
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    Chiro and acupuncture have worked wonders for some horses with headshakers.



  15. #15
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    Dec. 15, 2005
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    One of our horses used to headshake in the wintertime, only when doing dressage. He hated dressage, so I always wondered it it was triggered by him being upset about doing flat work. When he jumped or went out on the trails, there was never any headshaking. The headshaking would last a few months, then disappear until the next January. I never did figure it out.



  16. #16
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by reay6790 View Post
    add Zephyr's Garden on facebook. in her notes section she has REALLY good info for allergies
    Thank you! Will do.

    Quote Originally Posted by davistina67 View Post
    Chiro and acupuncture have worked wonders for some horses with headshakers.
    He is seen regularly by a wonderful chiro and has been A-Okay-ed by her for the past six months straight. Have never dealt with accu, but I will do some reading on it.

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  17. #17
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    Sep. 9, 2009
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    Canada
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    I've been dealing with my headshaker for the last 5 years. It was only recently that I had any success treating it. She got to the point where I thought it would be more humane to put her down. She just looked so miserable all the time. But we tried using dex, as a last resort, and while it did take 5 months to kick in, when it did kick in, she was almost entirely tick free. It was absolutely amazing. I'm still amazed!

    You should talk to the woman doing the study with dex. You can find out more at www.headshakingsyndrome.com . Because of my amazing success with it, I've been recommending it to all of the owners I meet with headshakers.

    Nothing else I tried ever worked. I put in years of experimenting. Its definitely a very frustrating condition and I wish you the best of luck with your guy!



  18. #18
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    Mar. 25, 2004
    Location
    South Florida
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    220

    Default HSS

    I also have a HS. Diagnosed shodrtly after I got him here in South Florida from VA. He was eight then and is about to turn 13. I have a lot of knowledge I would be happy to share with you, things that I learned from the Yahoo support group, whish was very helpful, and things I have tried from other research. No quackery. Does your horse blow/snort as soon as you start trotting or just the head tossing, just curious? Hopefully it is just seasonal (spring/summer) as most are. If you want to chat, email me and I will give you my cell number. I do think I can be of some help and give you the hope that you need that you will be able to manage it.
    Robin (fillyme@aol.com)



  19. #19
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    NY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Clever Pony View Post
    I've been dealing with my headshaker for the last 5 years. It was only recently that I had any success treating it. She got to the point where I thought it would be more humane to put her down. She just looked so miserable all the time. But we tried using dex, as a last resort, and while it did take 5 months to kick in, when it did kick in, she was almost entirely tick free. It was absolutely amazing. I'm still amazed!

    You should talk to the woman doing the study with dex. You can find out more at www.headshakingsyndrome.com . Because of my amazing success with it, I've been recommending it to all of the owners I meet with headshakers.

    Nothing else I tried ever worked. I put in years of experimenting. Its definitely a very frustrating condition and I wish you the best of luck with your guy!
    I believe I read about that study on that website - I will try giving someone over there an e-mail tonight or tomorrow. Thank you very much - dex is the first drug treatment my vet would want to try. (Also very sad my favorite vet in the practice is leaving soon )

    Quote Originally Posted by FillyMe View Post
    I also have a HS. Diagnosed shodrtly after I got him here in South Florida from VA. He was eight then and is about to turn 13. I have a lot of knowledge I would be happy to share with you, things that I learned from the Yahoo support group, whish was very helpful, and things I have tried from other research. No quackery. Does your horse blow/snort as soon as you start trotting or just the head tossing, just curious? Hopefully it is just seasonal (spring/summer) as most are. If you want to chat, email me and I will give you my cell number. I do think I can be of some help and give you the hope that you need that you will be able to manage it.
    Robin (fillyme@aol.com)
    I would love to chat with you, I will be e-mailing you shortly. No, he does not start to blow or snort that I've noticed when we start trotting, but that is when the head shaking becomes an interference and pronounced (less frequent at the walk, & at liberty it does not occur often, but then, I don't often stand around and watch my horse at liberty. He does do it while leading, again, only outside.), and it is almost dangerous at the canter, if he were to trip while tossing his head up or down...

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



  20. #20
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    Sep. 22, 2010
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    Well, I have a little update for everyone! First of all, thank you so much for all of your time and information. We rode will an ill-fitting nose-net today, but it still seemed to provide him ~60% relief! It was the nicest ride we have ever had outside.

    He will be started on Lysine, Spirulina, SmartBugOff, SmartGut (just in case) and he will be going out to pasture (he goes out at night during summer) with a fly mask with ears and a long nose to protect those sensitive nostrils. I may be wasting my money on the supplements, but it is worth a shot to me if there is even a remote possibility they will help. While ridden outside, he will goe in the nose net (already ordered the proper size), since he does not show eye irritation or photic sensitivity, I feel a full mask would be unnecessary. If we do not see improvement with the above regimen, we will consider adding an antihistamine since his symptoms seem to be allergen related.

    I am just so happy he was responsive and on my aids outside, willing to work and appearing to be much more comfortable. I was starting to lose hope we would ever be able to put in a nice dressage test or safely complete stadium or XC, but this has reignited the fire under my butt to keep trucking! Thank you again everyone!

    Amy

    "I decided I am going to live, or at least try to live, the way I want,
    with dignity, with courage, with humor, with composure."



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