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Sudden Head Tossing While Eating! Any thoughts??

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    Sudden Head Tossing While Eating! Any thoughts??

    So if you read my post Advice White Line Disease, you’ll see I’ve been trying to figure out a lameness issue for the past week or so. That post will give you all the background info.

    Well last night I go out to feed and my gelding and yearling colt come as they always do. I fork the hay over the fence and give them a pat as usual. My gelding takes a mouthful of hay and starts tossing his head and his ears lay flat sideways. I’m caught off guard thinking what the heck-did you swallow a bug. So I wait and see how the next mouthful goes. Same thing. So I keep watching him and it gets worse. As soon as he would take a mouthful of hay he would throw his head up. He started stomping his feet and swinging his head back towards his belly. I instantly think colic. I put my ear to his belly and here lots of gut movements. I take the hay away and watch him. When he’s not eating he’s a bit better. I wait and give him some time and he quits everything. By this time it’s well after dark and go to bed and he seemed fine. I wake up at daybreak to check on him (I can see his pasture from my bedroom and he’s out nibbling what little green grass is coming up and of course the dead brown grass. I go out a couple hours later to feed at the usual time. He makes his way over (at a walk at first) then decided to canter and trot the rest of the way. He hasn’t cantered it trotted that far in a little under a week. He actually looked less sore too today. So I fork over hay and he digs in like usual seem fine. I watched him for a few minutes and he shook his head a bit-he didn’t toss it like last night and there is no foot stomping and he seems more relaxed eating. I’m looking at him now and he’s eating normal. Any thoughts on what went on? I’ve never seen him act like he did last night. His pasture mate is a yearling stud colt and they’ve been together since November. Just the toe of them. There are mares about a 1/4 mile away could it been him acting like a stud? He was with mares and gelding all last winter and spring and never acted like that-but there were no stud colts with them. He’s also a notorious roller. You brush him and as soon as four done he goes and rolls. He gets tied up for longer than 10 minutes he goes and rolls. Could he have hurt his neck when he rolled? He seemed fine while grazing though. Just a thought.

    I’ve had laminitis in the back of my because he did have a strong digital pulse in one front leg and then it seemed to switch legs but now it seems to be normal. I can feel it but it’s not bounding like it was on Saturday. He was just trimmed on Sunday after not being trimmed for a long time-the farrier didn’t see anything strange. He was rode as well before he was trimmed after being on vacation all winter. Could all this and the head tossing while eating be related? His pasture is brown with very very little green grass coming up. It’s been too cold and dry here for anything to turn green. Even my lawn is still mostly brown. So that’s why I’m having trouble with thinking it’s laminitis and not something else. His hay isn’t that rich either and he doesn’t get grain. I did find some soft spot on his soles of both of his front feet. They are on the side of the frog and there were none between the end of the frog and toe. He does have funny looking pasterns with one looking more off than the other. It almost looks like ringbone but he’s always had them and it never seemed to bother him before. If you go to the post Possible Ringbone I have pictures of his really funny looking pastern.

    I’m at a loss to what the issue is with him. He was fine all winter until he cut his hock on barbed wire. I took him to the vet for that and she wasn’t that concerned about it as the cut didn’t damage anything. He just had some swelling which came down with some Bute and he was on Uniprim just to be sure to catch any possible infection.

    Any thoughts would be helpful.

    When were his teeth last done? Teeth problems and mouth pain can cause eating issues.

    How bad are the bugs--like gnats--where you are? Gnats in the ears can cause head tossing.

    Was he in pain and lame with the digital pulse you felt? Pain can cause stomach ulcers that make eating painful.

    Where was the colt in all this? Horses will toss their head to tell others "this is mine, go find your own!"

    It is unlikely that it has anything to do with the mares.


      I was helping with an OTTB mare who had come in from several years letdown at pasture, where she was on a grass diet pretty much year round. She did a bit of head tossing when she first started on hay in the barn, but as far as I could see, it was because the stems prickled her little nose. She got over it in a few days. I'm riding another horse right now that just came back from a trip into the back country where they have the giant deerflies and horseflies that we never see in the suburbs. She is now losing her mind over any little harmless fly that bumbles into us when riding. She will get over it. My own mare isn't headtossing but feels the need to itch her nose on her knee about 5 times in a ride in this sunny weather.

      I just toss these in to say that head shaking can be transient, idiosyncractic, and if it goes away I wouldn't over interpret or worry too much. I bet you are just paying more attention to your horse now that you are worried about him, and it is spring.


        Original Poster

        Originally posted by Simkie View Post
        When were his teeth last done? Teeth problems and mouth pain can cause eating issues.

        How bad are the bugs--like gnats--where you are? Gnats in the ears can cause head tossing.

        Was he in pain and lame with the digital pulse you felt? Pain can cause stomach ulcers that make eating painful.

        Where was the colt in all this? Horses will toss their head to tell others "this is mine, go find your own!"

        It is unlikely that it has anything to do with the mares.

        No bugs here yet-it’s been a cold spring.

        Lame in the foot that had a really strong digital pulse. Farrier didn’t see anything. I noticed soft spots on both soles of the front feet a day after farrier was here.

        The colt was at his own hay pile eating. Nothing was different.

        I’ve had my gelding for just over a year and haven’t had his teeth done. Not sure if the previous owner had them done. Would teeth issues show up in the matter of 8 hours? He’s not doing much head shaking today.

        He’s been on his current hay bale for a week now and has been on hay since October. The pasture was snow covered until about 4 weeks ago and now it’s pretty much brown with very little green grass coming up.

        I just went out to check on him and could hardly detect a digital pulse in both front feet so I’d say it’s back to normal. He was stomping his foot though and did a bit of tail swishing. He only does that when flies are around and there are none around. I would say last night he was in pain-today it seems like he’a not.

        How would i know if he has an ulcer? Is there anything I can give to him to help it?


          Are you SURE you don't have gnats?? What you're describing really sounds like he's being bothered by them. They can be very hard to see--they're also called noseeums.

          Try some fly spray on him, particularly on the legs, under his belly, and his face. See if anything changes.

          And yeah, his mouth should really be checked by the vet to see if he's due for a dental. That's a yearly thing, generally.


            Are you up North? My horses would be driven inside by gnats that I couldn't even see when we lived in MN. They would snort and shake their heads as well at times It seemed to be late afternoon early evening when they were bothered.


              Original Poster

              Originally posted by candyappy View Post
              Are you up North? My horses would be driven inside by gnats that I couldn't even see when we lived in MN. They would snort and shake their heads as well at times It seemed to be late afternoon early evening when they were bothered.

              I’m north alright. I’m about 200km northeast of Edmonton Alberta Canada. It’s been unusually cold here for this time of year (we had snow coming down the other day). So I don’t think it’s bugs. I think he had a sore stomach last night. He seems fine today. So strange.


                Definitely have his teeth checked. Dental issues can cause what you describe...and also present as lameness. With an increased digital pulse, I would expect it to be two separate issues, but you never know--there could be a bad tooth in there causing one or both problems.