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The violent head shaker

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  • The violent head shaker

    I have a boarder that has a 15H Appy mare, about 7 years old. Sometimes while being ridden this mare will shake her head like a horse that got a fly down their ear. Recently, the mare has escalated to violent shaking her head the same way when being bridled. It is now getting dangerous because she can really whack someone in the head with hers. I have had the boarders call two different vets out, and both vets can find nothing. I am inclined to believe there is a medical cause for this, especially how bad it it when the horse is being bridled!! I have taken a video to send to other vets, but has anyone here experience a similar situation? I am puzzled by it and would like to help the little horse out.
    I am POSITIVE the horse is bridled correctly every time, this is certainly medical and NOT behavior.

  • #2
    Have her eyes checked very thoroughly, and her ears checked for a fungal infection.


    • #3
      Ears are a good idea to check, and look very carefully around them for something the straps might be irritating - a wart, a sliver in her skin, etc. Can you get the same reaction by pressing with your fingers? Can you clip her ear hair to really look down inside thoroughly?


      • #4
        brian tumors also have the same reaction


        • #5
          Does she do it when being ridden? Could it be a teeth thing?

          Otherwise maybe some ear hair that is ingrown or itchy? or Mites.....I would say clip the ears and see if you can see anything....


          • #6
            um is her bridle to small check the brow band it might be to tight


            • #7
              Does she do it "once bridled" and then "while riding" or also while in the process of putting on her bridle or when she sees someone comming up to her with the bridle?


              • #8
                Do some research on "Photic Headshaking". That may be her problem.
                Kanoe Godby
                See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.


                • #9
                  We purchased a colt years ago who began exhibiting the head shaking when he was upset about something. It did become chronic with him and after much investigation and several vets' opinions, it was decided that it was a vice attached to anxiety issues. I worked with him diligently in getting him to relax and he eventually outgrew the chronic display of it. Occasionally he would still have a bout of it if he became agitated though. He did manage to make contact with my head once and I promise you a horse can knock you silly if you collide with their head - I had quite a gooseegg from it. He went on to be a very good show horse for me. I would get the owner to journal when the horse displays the shaking, as well as when it ceases, and that might give you some insight as to the triggers that cause it - whether it's neurological, physical or emotional.
                  Susan N.

                  Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


                  • #10
                    I'd have the vet out to sedate her and check her ears--possibly get a scope down in the ear canal to really see if there's anything going on in there. I recall reading about a horse that had pine shavings deap in the ear canal that caused an infection and horribly behavioral issues.


                    • #11
                      Photic Headshaking

                      Once you exhaust all other possibilities, I would do as much research in this area as you can. I had a horse that suffered from it and it was months before his condition was diagnosed. During that time, it got worse. The vets in my area knew very little about Photic Headshaking so I ended up doing all of the reasearch on my own.

                      Good Luck and keep us posted.
                      Happy Trails


                      • #12
                        To the OP-My Appy used to do the same thing when I showed him in hand as a four year old. My assumption at the time was a bug in the ear as his ears were completely clipped and oiled. It would subside outside the ring, didn't happen all the time, and he always wore the same show halter so I knew that wasn't the issue. The behavior would ONLY happen in the show ring in a very stressful environment.

                        This whole this disappeared until he had his trailer accident at the boarding barn I was at and then it started again when we began to reintroduce the trailer.

                        At this point, I am convinced it was stress related. He is on SmartCalm now and 24/7 turnout and I haven't seen it in at least 18 months.
                        Gone gaited....


                        • #13
                          It sounds like you may be dealing with headshaking syndrome - there are many triggers, and the bridle might be affecting a pressure point somehow, or be related to photic HS like the poster mentions above. There is a Headshaking Syndrome Center in Florida run by a knowledgeable horsewoman who is conducting research on HSS in coordination with New Bolton and other veterinary centers.

                          Headshaking Syndrome Center

                          Pam Neff
                          9809 NW 59th Terrace
                          Gainesville, Fl 32653
                          (cell) 352-262-9112


                          A client of mine recently donated a dressage horse with HSS into her program.
                          Amanda Chambers - Dressage Instruction & Training, Brandywine, MD


                          • #14
                            I mentioned the eyes because there has been a new study possibly tracing a problem with the eyes to headshaking. I will try and see if I can find it again.


                            • #15
                              Does the horse shake his/her head when lunged or free lunged? What about while turned out? I would agree with other posters, you need to rule out ear, dental, vision problems.

                              I have a headshaker who has issues due to pollen. It took a while to figure that out. If the horses ears and teeth are fine, then try the horse with a fly mask to see if that helps. Try a nose net (panty hose) and see how that works.

                              There have been many threads on COTH about headshakers and a yahoo group as well. Good luck - it can be frustrating and heartbreaking!!!


                              • #16
                                Someone another thread posted to not clip his ears. Apparently clipped hair had fallen into his ears and became a waxy balled up mess and was the cause of the head shaking. Search the posts for panythose... found it !

                                Actually if you do a chronical Search on "Head shaking" you will find lots & lots of threads.
                                Last edited by Chall; Feb. 5, 2009, 11:32 PM. Reason: Didn't find the "hair in ear" post, but many others


                                • #17
                                  I owned one of these horses for 27 years. Omegatin helped mine, Riding in a fly mask helped. There are certain meds that help some horses. Riding in a less brite arena can help. The internet has lots of good info.Nose nets help some horses


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks for all the great replies. As mentioned, two different vets have examined this mare. Teeth, eyes, and ears have been checked. When she has the head shaking episodes, her right eyes rolls back and forth, and I think there is some correlation with stress involved. Sometimes it seems outright neurological. Its pretty frustrationg, since the owner is 10yo girl when gets upset when her horse has such awefull episodes. I feel bad for the horse. I may take the horse to a 3rd vet. Please tell me about the correlation to the eyes, that seems a lgical bet at this point?
                                    Also, thanks to the link to Pam Neffs website, it is GREAT!


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Marsha View Post
                                      Thanks for all the great replies. As mentioned, two different vets have examined this mare. Teeth, eyes, and ears have been checked. When she has the head shaking episodes, her right eyes rolls back and forth, and I think there is some correlation with stress involved. Sometimes it seems outright neurological. Its pretty frustrationg, since the owner is 10yo girl when gets upset when her horse has such awefull episodes. I feel bad for the horse. I may take the horse to a 3rd vet. Please tell me about the correlation to the eyes, that seems a lgical bet at this point?
                                      Also, thanks to the link to Pam Neffs website, it is GREAT!
                                      I hate to say this but most vets are not that knowledgable about headshaking syndrome. Now, if there is something goes on with eyes/nuerological then maybe a vet can help.

                                      With my headshaker, I had to do much research and trial and error on my own. The vets didn't really help me figure it out.


                                      • #20
                                        As others have mentioned, research headshaking syndrome yourself. Most vets don't know much about it. I had a headshaker and worked with a homeopath (www.headshaking.com) with amazing success.

                                        This is NOT the season for headshaking, though, which makes me wonder what else bothers this mare. Have they xrayed her jaw?