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Head shaking, hollowing back? w/video

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    Head shaking, hollowing back? w/video

    So my relatively new horsie (as of about 3 months) has been shaking his head and along with bringing his head up/dropping out his back, mostly at the trot and canter. For a while, he was doing well with relaxing at the trot more, bringing his head/neck down and forward. Then I had break and was gone for two weeks, and he didn't get ridden at all during that time (he was turned out everyday though). Pretty much since then, he's been shaking his head a lot, mostly when I put my leg on to ask for a transition. He is also bringing his head up at the trot mostly and really hollowing out his back.

    I've been investigating physical issues before I assume it's a training issue. I had his teeth done in November and he was just adjusted by the chiro last Thursday. She said he was pretty out of alignment, and when she was finished with him, his back looked a lot better (his spine looked flatter, less bumpy, after she was done). I told her about the head shaking and she said it was probably a result of the misalignment and would clear up, but it definitely hasn't. It really hasn't gotten better at all.

    He does it whether he's wearing a bridle or not and whether he's wearing a saddle or not. He doesn't seem to have a sore back (muscle-wise) and has no other physical issues I can find. It is extremely dusty in the arena we use, they don't water it or drag it at all. (I'm there because they're the only place around here with a lot of turnout.) I don't know if that's contributing to the head shaking (head shaking syndrome?), but three months ago when I rode him in a different arena he did it maybe once or twice, but nothing as bad as now.

    Changes I made after I bought him three months ago - all four shoes came off, he has never seemed bothered by it. He's getting 3 flakes a day of 90% alfalfa hay. I'm not thrilled with the high alfalfa content, but it's what they feed. He's getting a scoop morning and night of the grain they make at the farm. He's also getting one cup of corn oil morning and night for a weight supplement.

    Here are some videos to show you what I'm talking about. I lunged him to the right and left today with just a halter. I clipped the lunge line to the inside ring of the halter, just for reference.

    Lunging to the left:

    Lunging to the right:
    Thanks for any insight!

    P. S. I haven't been working with a trainer yet because what I've seen of the ones at the barn I haven't liked. I might get my EQ team coach to come out and do some lessons though, I could use some guidance, in person
    Last edited by DressageReine; Feb. 2, 2007, 01:38 AM. Reason: Adding lunging video to the right

    With one of ours it WAS the dust. You could try a couple of benadryll and see what happens? That would give you a quick indication I would think, and at least eliminate one issue.


      Original Poster

      Thanks for the quick response! This is gonna sound dumb, but give him two human benadryll? And do I have to do it multiple times?


        Lets see, we did three benadryll, but that was based on what the vet said. The horse in question is at least 1400 pounds.

        You could also try the "foot part" of a pair of pantyhose over his nose while riding. That will keep some of the dust out.

        Also, it is quite possible that the teeth need to be looked at again. Perhaps get a second opinion? They may have missed something the first time that is now aggravating the horse. Doesn't mean the dental person was bad, sometimes they just miss stuff the first time around...


          Lets see, we did three benadryll, but that was based on what the vet said. The horse in question is at least 1400 pounds.

          You could also try the "foot part" of a pair of pantyhose over his nose while riding. That will keep some of the dust out.

          Also, it is quite possible that the teeth need to be looked at again. Perhaps get a second opinion? They may have missed something the first time that is now aggravating the horse. Doesn't mean the dental person was bad, sometimes they just miss stuff the first time around...


            to me it looks like he dosent respect you.

            At first hes going around...ho hum im trotting, then when you go to ask him to work he gets fussy, then he settles down.

            Personally I would like to see him going both ways, and I would like to see you stop walking with him while your lunging him. I say this because it looks like he is just taking control, then he hits the end of the line and is jerked around. To me it seems like you need to stay centered and in a good driving position.

            Looking at his other videos his head dosent look any higher than when hes free lunging.

            Personally I think he dosent respect you, or at the least he is testing you. And hes doing it because he knows he can get away with it.

            Obviously continue investigating into physical issues (espicially the chrio) but I think you should get someone out to help work with you both.
            Common Sense and Turn Signals...try 'em out sometime


              And wanted to add that this horse did the head shaking at a walk, and trot, but not at the canter.



                Original Poster

                Originally posted by Jinx View Post
                Personally I think he dosent respect you, or at the least he is testing you. And hes doing it because he knows he can get away with it.
                Yeah, this is entirely possible. When I got him, I didn't ride him much and just kind of "bonded" w/him. Unfortunately, as I have recently realized, I have been letting him get away w/murder cause I don't want to "be mean". I'm teaching him bad habits, and that's gonna stop now

                Sometimes I lunge just standing in the middle, sometimes I walk a little. But he does drag me sometimes, which is disrespectful. I've tried putting a chain around his nose, but he freaks out. Rearing, bucking - he hates it. I take it off, and he's much more well-behaved. I hope he's not training me in this regard. The other video should be up in about ten minutes...


                  Original Poster

                  k, here's the video lunging to the right:


                    If he's dragging you on the lunge line, I suggest lunging him in a bridle with a loose ring bit. Run the line through the bit, over his head, and clip it to the other side of the bit. This helps me a lot with strong horses on a lunge line. Also, if he's still rude with that, I would use a set of side reins. It's harder for them to pull on your arm when then are being asked to work properly!

                    Good luck. I hope it's not physical and just him taking advantage of his mother!


                      He looks "ouch-y" to me. It's especially apparent to me when he's at the trot going to the left. That "little hop step" that you comment on and after that he just looks "off." Have you had your vet watch him go?
                      Re-riding "Mama" to two impish red-haired boys--a small 4 yo human and a very big chestnut TB hunter


                        In general, what are you aiming to achieve when you take your horse out to longe? How old is he, and at what stage of training is he at? What is your level of expertise? He won't be able to perform any better than you are capable of asking him to.

                        His head toss, to me, looks as if his halter is not comfortable, or that he isn't so willing to respond, maybe because his mind is drifting towards the gate and he's not so balanced and comfortable. It doesn't look like you are asking him to do much but go around in circles; his temperament doesn't seem to be hot, so he isn't thrilled about the idea of being chased. He's tracking out behind (his hind feet are swinging outside the path his front feet take) and you are standing planted planted in in one place, which is very hard on a horse, and does not produce a sympathetic connection between you and your horse.

                        Benedryl? Possibly, for an allergic reaction, under veterinary supervision, when no other alternative is convenient. Remember that it causes drowsiness when given at an effective dose--I think most would agree that it's use in horses should be confined to emergencies when no equine remedies are available.

                        There are many good references on longeing...maybe you should get with your coach and learn how to do it better, and with a specific purpose in mind if this is going to be the approach you take with him.
                        Inner Bay Equestrian


                          He looks like he could use an additional Chiro adjustment and a lot of ground work to change his attitude. He is being quite disrespectful! I'm new here and don't know how much its been addressed, but the natural horsemanship methods used by those that really understand horses would turn you horse into a sweet respectful gentleman. Ours was very much like yours before he learned ground manners.


                            Without any background on your horse (age, level of work, health issues) I would agree that he needs to be worked, not just run around on the end of the lounge line. I was also looking at the december video that you had posted and he was moving much better back then so I am leaning toward a possible lameness up front, especially in his left front. JMHO
                            "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." Mark Twain


                              I use chiros and my vets are all into the holistic approach, including one who is an excellent acupuncturist so don't take this wrong BUT...

                              When you think something may be physically wrong? Why do what is basically a crap shoot, paying for opinions from alternative practicioners when you really need to see a vet?

                              I sure wouldn't give human Benadryl and fool with figuring out how much if I didn't know if that was the problem or not. Likewise the assurances of anybody that anything will just "go away" without even knowing the real cause are worthless. Have the vet come and see what's going on with what sounds like 2 problems-a possible allergy or airway obstruction issue and that "bumpy"(?) spine.

                              I am not reading anything at all into watching him go around on the lunge. Can't tell a thing. They all tend to's just say not their best this time of year doing little circles in a dark indoor. My own mare looks like crap, actually.
                              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                Yeah now that I watch the second video I really think this is a respect issue -- again obviously run the issue by your vet and chrio to rule out pain issues.

                                In the second video he isnt paying you one bit of attention, and when you get his attention and ask him to go forward he throws a temper tantrum. Then to show you hes mad he starts careening around and throwing his head still not paying a ton of attention to you. (notice how hes always looking to the outside) It also looks like you are shaking the line to get him to stop? I would try to work more on voice commands and body language to control him on the lounge. -- here I really think that to be effective on the lunge line you need some pointers -- see if your coach can show you some of the tricks of getting a horse to work and respect you on the line.

                                Now Im not knocking natural horsemanship and "bonding" with your horse. I think its a good thing so long as you remember that you are working with a really have to understand herd mentality and estiblish YOUR place in your herd. (fyi you should be higher up than your horse)

                                Herds work based upon discipline, which means that horses inherently either want to be disciplined or want to do the disciplining. With your horse you need to learn to be the "top dog" in the herd. Do not let him get away with things because you dont want to be mean! You will find a better, less stressful horse if you give him discipline and consistancy.

                                Horses LOVE discipline and consistancy -- Im not talking about beating your horse, Im saying that set the boundries and be consistant with enforcing them. This starts with groundwork -- dont let him walk all over you while leading when he gets in your space -- discipline.

                                Personally I think you should get your coach, or someone else who gets respect from horses teach you how to go about doing this. It takes feeling to know when to punish and when to reward, it also takes confidence and practice.

                                Also I second the suggestion of lunging with the bridle as described above...

                                Good Luck!
                                Common Sense and Turn Signals...try 'em out sometime


                                  Could be a combo...

                                  I think it could be a combo of a horse who doesn't respect you and possible soreness.

                                  The possible soreness I see in the back area, as the horse is not willing to go forwards.

                                  However, this could also be caused by the way you lunge. You tend to creep up toward the horse's shoulder. Where you want your body positioned is further back, your belly button pointing towards his flank.

                                  This is a more effective lungeing position because it allows you to use your whip/body to drive the horse out in front of you. Remember, the hind end is your want to push from behind. The shoulder doesn't thrust the horse forward, the hindquarters do. Your whip should trail behind the hindquarters as a constant aid to encourage forward motion.

                                  Also, if you are going to lunge in a halter, I would still run the lunge through the sidering, over the poll, and clip it to the ring on the other side. A little pressure on the poll will help you to get the downard transition with a firm tug if he's tuning you out.

                                  Keep in mind the tug and the whip are there to back up your voice aids. Your horse looks bored...more consistent work on voice aids and more "interactive" lunging with more frequent transitions and better ability to drive him forward will sharpen his attention to you; and, consequently, eliminate your head shaking problem.

                                  I would still be concerned about his back, and have the vet do a workup.
                                  Proud Member of the "Tidy Rabbit Tinfoil Hat Wearers" clique and the "I'm in my 30's and Hope to be a Good Rider Someday" clique


                                    Disrespectful? Temper tantrum? Sorry folks, I just see a bored horse that isn't being asked to do much of anything, and might be a little sore. Where is the December video? Missed that one.

                                    Honestly, the horse doesn't seem to be in much of a program if the longeing on the video is an example of the "work" he's in.

                                    And I can't help it, but so much of the "natural" horsemanship we see is overhyped, to say the least. It's just training, and old fashioned horsemanship.


                                      where did you get this horse? what's his history and how old is he? any chance you can trace him back to the maryland/va area?

                                      i'm asking because several years ago i was horse shopping with a friend and over the 2 years that it took us to find her a horse, we looked at a grey twice - being sold by two different individuals, that was a headshaker - and he looked a LOT like your fellow. both sellers where very frustrated, he was a lovely horse, but the headshaking was making them bananas.

                                      now that i know more about phobic headshaking i am convinced that is what this grey gelding had. about a year after we saw him last an extensive artical came out in either Equus or Practical Horseman about it, and i called her as she was calling me - we were both on the same wavelength reading the article, both calling the other about 'that grey gelding'...
                                      * trying hard to be the person that my horses think i am


                                        Hey, DR, How OLD is this horse?

                                        His color makes him look like a youngster but you never know. Also, did you get a PPE?
                                        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.