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Need advice - cut my losses or stick it out!

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  • Need advice - cut my losses or stick it out!

    This may be long, so I appologize now....

    I have a 16 YO TB gelding who is the love of my life. I've had him since he was 5, competed him to the upper levels (my first at UL), won more than I ever thought possible. He is an absolute amazing horse - always wins the dressage, never stops xc, never has a rail stadium. This is the horse I got an 18 in dressage one week and then a 19.5 two weeks later.

    While he is perfect in that regard, he is a head shaker, has been for the past 5-6 years. I've tried just about everything, and this year it's worse than it has every been. I cannot afford to keep him on the cyproheptadine/carbamazepine combo - the cheapest I've priced that at is $140 every 24 days and the dosage recommended. Between the antihistamines, MSM, lysine, joint supplement, Adequan, chiropractic, etc he's on, I'm dead broke. He's usually better in the winter, but it doesn't go completely away. Melatonin is the only thing I have not tried yet. I do have a call in to a vet about a procedure to damage the PET of the trigeminal nerve - seems to work in some horses. But what are the costs, and is it even safe for the horse?

    I'm starting to think of offering him out on a free lease to someone. I don't think I could ever sell him - he's too special to me and I've promised him he'd have a home with me for the rest of his life. Am I just looking for the easy way out? I can't afford much at all to buy a new horse, so I'd have to get an OTTB straight off the track and start completely over. But would there even be anyone interested in taking on a horse with such strict maintenance requirements?

    Please, please, let me know what you guys would do in my shoes.

  • #2
    I have heard people have had good success with the surgery to damage the nerve. From what I hear its fairly cheap (way cheaper then that drug regimen), and the recovery is like 2 days. We had a mild head shaker that was spring time and into summer only. What worked for ours was one of those nose nets that attaches to the bridle. His had a hyper-sentivity to particles that touched his nose. He also had to have a bone scraped down that was in his throat as he had formed alot of calcium deposits (he was in for an eye injury when they found this bone, you would have been amazed at what shaving it down did for him!). Ours didn't have the nerve severed but the bone that was taken down I believe ran them $200. He was already down and out though for an eye surgery he needed done. I would talk to a local vet hospital and see what they would suggest.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      He does get ridden in a nose net, which usually stops all symptoms. Right now though nothing is giving him relief and he is unrideable.

      Comment


      • #4
        Perhaps talk to someone about that bone in the throat (totally blanking on the name), apparently head shakers tend to get the calcium deposits there because of the rapid head movement that they have. It was an easy procedure and I think he had 3 sutures to close where they had to open him up. I believe it can be done as a standing procedure (ours was laid down already for the eye) so shouldn't be terribly expensive. Only thing is it is a longer recovery then the nerve, but instead of just hiding the shaking it takes care of more of the problem. I believe they said that was 2 weeks off, our guy had a melting corneal ulcer at the same time so was off WAY longer then that, but all the swelling was gone within a week.

        Comment


        • #5
          If he's unrideable part of the year, you aren't going to be able to free lease him anyway, much less to someone who can afford that kind of maintenance.

          I also have a headshaker, and my vet was very pessimistic about the surgery--she said that it can cause all kinds of other problems. I guess that it can screw up their control over parts of the face.

          I do sympathize, though! So far my horse is rideable, just frustrating. I actually was thinking of giving him back (I free lease him, and I've had him for a couple of years) but I did an event with him last weekend and he was just ok in dressage but lovely on xc and a saint in stadium when I rode like crap, so I've decided to tough it out.

          Comment


          • #6
            If it were my horse, I would keep him and do the maintenance or the surgery, even if that meant that I couldn't afford to continue to compete or whatever. My main goal, with a horse that had been through so much with me, would be to keep him comfortable. I can't imagine that you'll find someone else willing to carry all of the maintenance that you've described.
            Treat Jockey for Spellbound and Smidgeon

            Comment


            • #7
              just curious about this topic in general- the headshaking: is it side to side? up and down? both?

              I had a student who had a horse who would duck behind the bit in a sort of spastic, unpredictable way, and we were debating that there might be a physical cause. Never side to side shaking, never really dramatically up and down, but just ducking back behind the bit very quickly.

              Comment


              • #8
                Annie,

                Your student's horse is exhibiting mild classic symptoms of headshakers. I am not a vet and not diagnosing, but I have dealt with several headshakers now.

                Christan
                www.trainoreventing.com

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by breakthru View Post
                  just curious about this topic in general- the headshaking: is it side to side? up and down? both?

                  I had a student who had a horse who would duck behind the bit in a sort of spastic, unpredictable way, and we were debating that there might be a physical cause. Never side to side shaking, never really dramatically up and down, but just ducking back behind the bit very quickly.
                  This is exactly what our headshaker did. It's completely involantary and completely random. In the winter he would do it once or twice in a ride, in the spring summer he would do it once every 10-15 seconds. Right before the bone was shaved down it had progressed into a head flip as well, but that was maybe once a ride at his worst.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've had a headshaker before & it really is a frustrating thing. I would recommend what others have & keep him as comfortable as possible. If I wanted to continue riding him I would just ride him during the most comfortable times of the year; giving him 'down' time during the summer months. It's so sad to watch them go through it though.

                    Question for those of you with or who knew of horses that developed headshaking:

                    What was generally your/the horse's turnout schedule?

                    Out of the 8 years I owned my headshaker he spent the first 4 on 24/7 t/o most of the time. The last 4 he was out during the day in the winter & in at night; the schedule was reversed during the summer months. He started developing mild signs of head shaking @ 10 years old; every year it got worse. I'm wondering if the sunlight for predisposed horses (if there is such a thing) triggers the headshaking, & horses that are out in the sunlight more (esp. during those long/intense summer days) have a higher risk of be affected by this awful condition. ??????

                    Any thoughts on this?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      No great advice, just big hugs. My horse of a lifetime was recently diagnosed with headshaking, and so far nothing has helped. I haven't been able to ride at all since this started. I've tried Mg/Melatonin, Cyproheptatide, Carbamzapine, Phenobaribital and Gabapentin.

                      FYI, Cyproheptadine (compounded) can be found at Rood and Riddle for about $30/month (http://www.rrvp.com/roodandriddlevet...suspension.htm) and Carbamzapine is sold at Costco relatively inexpensively ($13 for 100 100mg tablets; I can't remember offhand the dose we tried). Unfortunately, neither did anything for my horse.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm also on www.exracers.com and about a year or so ago, one of the posters who lived in Colorado at the time had a horse with a head shaking problem. Don't remember what all
                        diagnostics they did but seem to remember she found a special mask for him that seemed to help a lot.

                        She doesn't post much anymore as she's currently a working student in Virginia but many of
                        the posters at the time are still on and might be able to find the thread or recall the outcome of the mask. My fading memory seems to think it helped a lot.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          So sorry you are going through this.

                          I'm with Speedy, I would try to keep him and do the surgery.

                          I imagine you have lots of knowledge of headshaking by this point, but did you see the recent thread about the YR horse? Were there any ideas there that you haven't tried yet?
                          SportHorseRiders.com
                          Taco Blog
                          *T3DE 2010 Pact*

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Head shakers

                            I'm glad I found this post! My thoroughbred started to show symptoms of head shaking this winter. He would be standing on the crossties and go through fits. When it started to get warmer I was waiting for it to get worse, but it actually got better. Has any one had experience with a horse that was worse in the winter like that? I've always heard it was worse in the heat and sunlight.
                            Windy Meadows Farm
                            http://www.windymeadowsfarmcny.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by eventinglvr View Post
                              This may be long, so I appologize now....

                              I have a 16 YO TB gelding who is the love of my life. I've had him since he was 5, competed him to the upper levels (my first at UL), won more than I ever thought possible. He is an absolute amazing horse - always wins the dressage, never stops xc, never has a rail stadium. This is the horse I got an 18 in dressage one week and then a 19.5 two weeks later.

                              While he is perfect in that regard, he is a head shaker, has been for the past 5-6 years. I've tried just about everything, and this year it's worse than it has every been. I cannot afford to keep him on the cyproheptadine/carbamazepine combo - the cheapest I've priced that at is $140 every 24 days and the dosage recommended. Between the antihistamines, MSM, lysine, joint supplement, Adequan, chiropractic, etc he's on, I'm dead broke. He's usually better in the winter, but it doesn't go completely away. Melatonin is the only thing I have not tried yet. I do have a call in to a vet about a procedure to damage the PET of the trigeminal nerve - seems to work in some horses. But what are the costs, and is it even safe for the horse?

                              I'm starting to think of offering him out on a free lease to someone. I don't think I could ever sell him - he's too special to me and I've promised him he'd have a home with me for the rest of his life. Am I just looking for the easy way out? I can't afford much at all to buy a new horse, so I'd have to get an OTTB straight off the track and start completely over. But would there even be anyone interested in taking on a horse with such strict maintenance requirements?

                              Please, please, let me know what you guys would do in my shoes.
                              To the OP. If all else fails--
                              1. Cut out the joint supplement (because non of them are proven anyway and you are already using MSM and adequan)
                              2. Lysine (because his daily feed should have enough amino acid in it)
                              3. and chiropractic (because you can't ride him now anyway)

                              That should save you enough money to at least keep him comfortable for the hard shaking season, right?

                              Anyway, that is what I would do if I was in your shoes.
                              Can the extra C#@P and put my horse on beet pulp with something like Equi VM or Glanzen (which I have already done in order to save money)
                              and cut down the supps. I think we tend to over supplement anyhow.
                              And I dislike chiropractors...strongly dislike them.
                              http://kaboomeventing.com/
                              http://kaboomeventing.blogspot.com/
                              Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                We used to use Quietex powder on our headshaker, which seemed to work. Our guy would headshake for several months and then be fine for many months. His headshaking seemed to be primarily during dressage. I would not jump a horse on Quietex. I don't know if it affects their coordination

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Talk to your veterinarian about a trial course of treatment with fluphenazine. You may not be able to show on this, but in some horses it is very helpful in controlling symptoms. It is very inexpensive, but must be used carefully to avoid side effects.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    No advice, I hope you find something that works.
                                    As to leasing him out...no. Honestly, who would want him? If he is not rideable for you, he is not for someone else. If he can't be your riding horse, can you retire him with minimal maintenance so that you can get another horse?
                                    Nina's Story
                                    Epona Comm on FB

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by BarbB View Post
                                      No advice, I hope you find something that works.
                                      As to leasing him out...no. Honestly, who would want him? If he is not rideable for you, he is not for someone else. If he can't be your riding horse, can you retire him with minimal maintenance so that you can get another horse?
                                      I don't agree with this at all. Just because he can't do the job as an eventer doesn't mean that he can't do another job. I had a headshaker years ago that I tried to event. He was fine to take on a trail ride, but add in the stress of competition and training, being away from home, and increased gait speed (headshaking gets worse at higher speeds, so they might be ok at walk, but galloping xc, the headshaking is 100x worse), and he was practically unrideable. He threw his head so violently that he lost his balance and fell with me on 2 separate occasions. First time, cracked rib for me. Second time, tib/fib fracture when he landed on top of my leg. That was enough for me, I didn't want to die. We tried the guardian mask and nose nets - no effect. Cyproheptadine worked for a summer, but the second summer he was on it, he developed resistance to it and even when we kept upping the dosage, it wouldn't work. I heard good things about the capstar treatment, but I had given up by that point and never tried it. I was too scared to have him fall with me again. I ended up donating him to a rescue and fully disclosed his condition, in hopes they could find him a home as a trail horse or pasture ornament. He was adopted out and used quite successfully for a number of years as a school horse, believe it or not. He was a favorite in the lesson program, and they recently retired him from the school program and he is owned privately now, still going strong. Seasonal headshakers like my guy also can make great foxhunters, since they tend not to do it in the winter months.

                                      I think in your heart you may already know that enough is enough - it's a hard decision to make, but he's trying to tell you he just can't do this anymore. I think you can find him a useful home where the headshaking won't matter. And maybe without the stress of competing and training, the headshaking will be lessened. I feel for you, after owning one, I wouldn't wish a headshaking horse on my own worst enemy.

                                      Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

                                      Comment

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