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Anyone seen a horse head bob that was otherwise sound?

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  • Anyone seen a horse head bob that was otherwise sound?

    I have a 5 y/o TB gelding (unraced) that came to me with a peculiar issue. He bobs his head at the trot, to the right only. It was fairly severe when I first got him. Now, 9 months later, it's much less obvious, and he tends to work out of it.

    I did have him PPE'd and nothing was noted then. After I noticed the head bob starting about 2 months into ownership, I had another vet examine and flex him. He is 100% sound, and is happy and comfortable in work.

    I should mention the horse sat in a pasture from age 2-5, with no work other than being very lightly trail ridden around by a young teenager. He didn't even steer when I got him- no basics at all.

    One of my trainers thought initially it was some sort of habit or avoidance technique he'd picked up (the girl was riding him all those years in a tom thumb). The other trainer didn't have much to say other than he looks dead lame from the neck up, and sound as can be from the neck down. He is very happy and even eager to do his job though. Shows no signs at all of discomfort or pain.

    He does have a nasty-looking scar on his right lower middle flank. I don't know anything about it, but the initial wound clearly was not cared for the way it should have been. One friend has suggested that wound may have affected his muscle development. I'm not even sure if that's possible, but wanted to arm COTH with all the details. Any thoughts?
    The best is yet to come

  • #2
    Yes I have. At a Connected Riding clinic the owner of the barn had/has a wonderful warmblood school horse (not a clinic horse) that bobbed. He had been "off" for a year and the vets had done every test and block and ex ray imaginable. The horse was sound in every way, but had a head bob. It was worse at some gaits, worse one way that the other, he was definitely not quite right, but the vets pronounced him sound. So out of curiosity the owner had the instructor watch him go on the longe. The clinician did some Connected Ground work, TTeam body work, deep massage and other release techniques and got the horse going about 75% better with an hours work. The problem seemed to be in the ribs and scapula area. The owner followed up with a chiropractor and the horse is now 100% and back under saddle.

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    • #3
      I did have him PPE'd and nothing was noted then. After I noticed the head bob starting about 2 months into ownership, I had another vet examine and flex him. He is 100% sound, and is happy and comfortable in work.


      Personally I would haul the horse to a reputable vet clinic for another opinion and a full workup. It may be that all flexions are negative because it is up higher.

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      • #4
        Google the term "rein lame".

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        • #5
          Would love to see a video.

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          • #6
            I'm thinking rein lame too...If the girl that rode him previously for a long time in a Tom Thumb was stronger on the rein on one side when posting...then you end up with a habit. Crooked.

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            • #7
              Have you actually had a chiro/accupuncturist look at him though? You might be suprised. I've had amazing results on 2 of my own horses from both as well have seen many good results on other's horses.
              Producing horses with gentle minds & brilliant movement!
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              • #8
                So if the vet can't diagnosed the lameness then the horse is 100% sound?

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                • #9
                  Is this a "head nod" (as you sometimes will see in gaited horses) or is it a "flinch" (indicating a reaction to pain)?

                  If the horse is "nodding" in time with the gait it's likely not an issue. If the horse is "flinching" it will be against the gait and some issue likely exists.

                  The difference, here, can be difficult to see this in "real time." Video the horse and look at it and see what you see.

                  G.
                  Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by simc24 View Post
                    I have a 5 y/o TB gelding (unraced) that came to me with a peculiar issue. He bobs his head at the trot, to the right only. It was fairly severe when I first got him. Now, 9 months later, it's much less obvious, and he tends to work out of it.
                    My TB did the same thing. X-rays etc revealed no problems, so the vet pronounced him slightly footsore and suggested we add pads. Solved the problem immediately and never had trouble again.
                    --o0o--

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                    • #11
                      There is way more to a soundness exam than flexions and radiographs. Some horses are only diagnosed after the owner goes to expense of an MRI. Sometimes just a simple change in trimming and'or shoeing can make a huge difference.

                      A headbobbing horse is an unsound horse! There is something wrong somewhere!
                      and it's usually something not uncommon.
                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

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                      • #12
                        The head bob doesn't only come from leg or foot pain - it could be teeth, jaw, neck, withers, back, hips.....keep looking!

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                        • #13
                          Yes, I also have experienced this. The problem originated in the wither/shoulder/neck area. The particular horse would head bob at the trot and didn't want to canter under saddle. There was also a noticable difference lounging to the right. She would swing her head from left to right. Several sessions with chiro/massage, and some laser on the neck area helped immensely. If the neck/shoulder connection is blocked by some kind of muscle spasms or misalignment the horse cannot swing through from behind, over the back, and then to the bridle as they should. Therefore, as a compensating movement the horse blocks the motion from coming through the wither/shoulder/neck by bouncing upwards in the front instead.

                          I would liken it to if your hip joint is hurting you, when you step down rather than step on your foot and follow through with your whole leg as you would in a normal step, you step down, then hike your hip UP and swing through in a way that immobilizes your hip area to avoid the pain - which then causes a little hop motion. I hope this makes sense.

                          It doesn't hurt to have a good chiro/massage professional look at the horse. If the horse is holding or restricted in one place, the chances are pretty good due to the compensation there are other areas of the body that are in spasm as a result.

                          I hope you are able to find the cause. Please report back if/when you figure it out.

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                          • #14
                            What happens when you post on the 'wrong' diagonal. I've seen a couple of horses that bob in one direction, but stop when you change your diagonal.

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                            • #15
                              I to, would be interested in seeing a video.
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                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                My instructor did mention rein lameness- I had forgotten she used the term. I will probably have the chiro look at him when she comes back in December.

                                He offers no resistance to moving up or down into any gate, in either direction. He is not as supple to the right side, but what young horse doesn't have a preferred side? Certainly could be more going on there though.

                                I'll see if I can get a video as well and post back. Thanks for all the ideas!
                                The best is yet to come

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                                • #17
                                  I would not interpret willingness under saddle as indicating pain free. If I rode my pasture sound horse he would work for me. Some horses express there discomfort some are very stoic and are non complainers.

                                  It could be rein lameness. How is he on the free lounge on the lounge line in a halter? Does his head go up when one leg hits the ground? Have his teeth been done in the past year. If he is bobbing his head on the lounge I would certainly get another opinion preferably from a vet whom specializes in lameness and sports medicine.

                                  Would be great to see a video.

                                  Good luck!

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Fharoah View Post
                                    I would not interpret willingness under saddle as indicating pain free. If I rode my pasture sound horse he would work for me. Some horses express there discomfort some are very stoic and are non complainers.

                                    It could be rein lameness. How is he on the free lounge on the lounge line in a halter? Does his head go up when one leg hits the ground? Have his teeth been done in the past year. If he is bobbing his head on the lounge I would certainly get another opinion preferably from a vet whom specializes in lameness and sports medicine.

                                    Would be great to see a video.

                                    Good luck!
                                    His teeth were done about 5 months ago. He does not bob at all on the lunge and I've never noticed it when free lunging or in the pasture.

                                    I have another horse just like your pasture sound horse, Fharoah. I do get that there could certainly be something else going on with him. He works out of it really easily, just by suppling him to the right. Once he is bending his body to the right, the head bobbing totally goes away for the rest of the ride.

                                    As I stated in the OP, in the beginning he bobbed his head really seriously. A few times I got off to lunge, and poof, nothing. It is now not very noticeable, and he works out of it within 5-10 minutes.

                                    I am curious about whether there may be some sort of tension or muscle spasm though. I am going to put him on the list for the chiro. And I'll still try to get a video of it
                                    The best is yet to come

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                                    • #19
                                      unless it is a weight baring lameness is also possible. I think I would have the vet watch him both on the long and under saddle in determining weather he is sound or not. Sometimes our lameness specialist will evaluate them under saddle with subtle issues.

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                                      • #20
                                        Funny, I was talking to a fellow endurance rider this morning, and he was telling me about one of his horses that had a 'head bob' at the trot, and the vets couldn't find anything the matter with it. They said he was bridle lame, but my friend didn't accept that diagnosis and took the horse to the teaching hospital where after nerve blocks and scans it was discovered that he had a tear in one of the deep tendons (and I can't remember what it was called, darn it) and is now on stall rest for 6 months.
                                        'Bridle lame' IMO is often used when people can't be bothered to find out what REALLY is the matter.

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