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Do you think this is headshaking syndrome?

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  • Do you think this is headshaking syndrome?

    This video was taken last week, in an indoor area with lights on but not really brightly lit, no flies or other bugs I could see irritating him.

    He has always shaken his head a lot under saddle when at a free walk on a long rein. He doesn't do it when he's gathered up, but occasionally will almost do it or try to, but as soon as I let him out he starts the head shaking like he's got flies in his ears or something. I used to blame it on the summer flies, but I can't blame it on that anymore this time of year. His forelock is really long, so maybe it's tickling him somewhere, but he does this ALL THE TIME while on a long rein. He just had his teeth done 3-4 weeks ago, there were some hooks at the time--nothing major and I'm sure it's healed by now, and he did this before and after the floating--no difference.

    I've always thought it was related to bright sunlight, but since he's in an indoor with not really bright lights here, maybe it's not headshaking syndrome? What do you all think?


  • #2
    First 2 things I'd do is have your vet check way down in his ears, and have a chiro make sure his head is on straight (literally )
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      Not all head shakers are triggered by light. Other triggers are stress, pollen count, touch, smell, wind, etc. The typical head shakers 'tic' is a fast down and up movement with the nose. Again, not all horses react the same. It would be simple if you could try a treatment and see if it improved the situation, but it may end up being a long process because not all horses respond the same way to treatments. You could first try a nose net. You can find them in smartpak or on ebay. It attaches to the noseband and covers the upper lip. You could try a antihistamine from your vet, such as Tri-hist, or Cyproheptadine. Some people have had improvements in symptoms by supplementing with magnesium (quiessence?) and lysine. If this is headshakers syndrome, it is a mild case and you should be sucessfull with trying some of these treatments.

      Some other symptoms you should look for are rubbing the nose on objects or his leg, rubbing his eyes on his leg, trying to burry the nose into shavings, hay or water, etc.


      • #4
        not headshaking IMO

        I'm not a vet nor do I play one here on the internet, but I did own a headshaker. I watched your video and I didn't see your horse do anything with his head at all, unless you are talking about your free walk and your walk at the end of your test. And to me, it looked like he was either shaking his forelock out of his eyes or perhaps just tossing his head a bit as part of his stretching when you released contact. Having had a headshaker, your horse doesn't show any of the classic signs - like others mentioned, that sharp up and down motion of the nose that tends to get worse with things like stress, increased gait speed, etc. And the trying to rub their face and nose constantly. Headshaking, IMO, is violent and frantic, and that does not describe your horse at all. Something might be bothering his ears/face/head, but he's not a headshaker from what I saw.

        When you put him on a loose rein, do you also take your leg off? If you drop contact completely (legs, hands, seat, etc), he may just be screwing around with you because he can because he's lost all support from you. Keep your hands low and wide and bump him up with your leg when he pulls that crap, see what happens.


        • #5
          imo (not a vet) not a head shaker. he looks to be relieving pressure from the bit and or sore muscles. it s a lot of work for babies to carry riders and their muscles get sore. he clearly is unhappy with the contact as he yanks the reins from your hands.....

          not sure what your situation is... but if you have the ability to send him to a good trainer for a few months to build a topline etc this would only help him carry a rider better and be more able to go as you want.

          It is difficult for a youngster to learn from someone who is also learning.

          Lovely horse.


          • #6
            i also wanted to mention; your saddle seems to not be fitting him or you. that can cause soreness to the back which can also cause neck soreness etc.


            • #7
              [QUOTE=WBLover;4509167]This video was taken last week, in an indoor area with lights on but not really brightly lit, no flies or other bugs I could see irritating him.

              not the horses fault hes showing you a bit of advasion in the way you riding him
              you legs are very active and when you kick him your actually kicking him in the kidney area as your way behind the girth
              you need to alter your stirrups to correct lenght as when you kick him you then go to pick up the contact and jab him in the mouth

              so the horse is shaking his head in advasion to the way your riding him
              you need to work on yourself - the horse is willing and lovely and i would rather a shake of the head then a buck as most horses would you gave him a huge boot - and he doesnt need it

              also you need to take your schooling whip and use it on the inside
              you dont use it on the outside when you have a wall there when you change direction you change whip hands it should never be on the same side ie outside of you

              so in conclusion the horse is doing what your telling it to do and are teaching
              to do and thats nap = naps can be small like head shakeing or they can be large like bucking and rearing

              and like i said any horse is going to complain when kicked and jab in the gob at the same time
              read my helpful links pages
              this will help you help the horse


              once you have alter your stirrups to the correct length then sit into the horse
              and squeeze rather than kick, squeeze the horse with both legs on the girth
              to go forwards - hes forward going horse and doesnt need the amount of kicks
              ask him politely then keep your hands still and quiet
              read page 1 and link 2 - hands hands
              when using your schooling whip lay it across your thigh to his flanks

              ride with reins with thumbs on top
              pointing towards his ears ---- slide the schooling whip into your hand

              when you open your thumb the whip is off the horse when you close your thumbs the whip is on the horse
              squeeze horse at same time - rather than kick kick
              also wioll mention -your legs off the horse and very active so if he did buck which he wont as i can see hes honest joe type - you wouldnt have any security as you havent got an independant seat -
              you need to work on your position and lkearn to ride the horse between leg and hand

              you must understand and read link2 as your very heavy in your hands
              jabbing horses in the gob is a no no no no


              • Original Poster

                First of all, yes I was talking about the shaking the head in the free walk.

                And yes, I was nagging him a lot with my legs--bad habit, he was being very balky going towards the judge's table and that ring is not my home base so he was very tense, you can really feel it much better than see it outwardly. He looks on video to be forward, but he always FEELS balky to me. I'm working on getting a better forward response from a quieter aid at home, but it just wasn't working that day and I reverted to my old bad habits of booting him! I'm also very reserved about using the whip to back up my leg, because he's exploded on me in the past when I've used it and he was all balled up inside like he was that day.

                I'm just glad it's not "headshaking" and just training issues, to me that's much easier to address!

                And yes, I do need a better saddle but I'm saving up for it. This one puts me in a chair seat and is tight around his shoulders. For now I just have to make due. How would you suggest I adjust my stirrups goeslikestink, longer or shorter?


                • #9
                  Originally posted by WBLover View Post
                  First of all, yes I was talking about the shaking the head in the free walk.

                  And yes, I was nagging him a lot with my legs--bad habit, he was being very balky going towards the judge's table and that ring is not my home base so he was very tense, you can really feel it much better than see it outwardly. I'm working on getting a better forward response from a quieter aid at home, but it just wasn't working that day and I reverted to my old bad habits of booting him! I'm also very reserved about using the whip to back up my leg, because he's exploded on me in the past when I've used it and he was all balled up inside like he was that day.

                  I'm just glad it's not "headshaking" and just training issues, to me that's much easier to address!

                  your to active with your hand and legs, i surgest 1st you alter your stirrups to the correct lenght ok so you sitting evenly as your tread on your stirrups is up near your heal and it shouldnt be it should be on balls of foot
                  how to alter the strirrups is on my helpful links pages
                  this will also help with your postion which effects your hands as your supporting your bodyweight in to his head -
                  sit in and thrust the boobs -----

                  2nd take him of all grain and fed him hay ab lib the hay as this will calm him down if hes to much horse for you at the moment he wont die and horses can live on hay alone and hes looks a good dooer
                  so take him of his feed stuffs ------ this will take two weeks before you see any difference but only days to go into his system
                  then when you have mastered him slowly re introduce the grian till you have a happy medium you can work with ie trial and error, if hes got to much energy reduce it if he needs more increase it little meals to begin with
                  also learn your feedstuffs and what the contents are in each feed so your not overlaoding with hot and high energy feed
                  in other words read the back of the packet-
                  to much grass and loads of food and not enough work a horse will nap

                  also -you need to be more assertive and stop thinking of what he did- thats past tense - all the time you thinking about it you giving vibes to do xyz so horse has the advantage -
                  for instance at the table - whereby you gvae him a mjaor jab in the gob

                  you should be able to feel the horse underneath you so you knew he was going to do it - so ride him forwards - if you had the whip on the correct side
                  then you ride him pass the object - you do not and never allow the horse to dictate to you ie you turn him in the opposite direction to the way your going its a no no next time prepare and drive the horse forwards pass the object leg on tweak of ankle -leg on and sit in and push him pass the object - so hes forwards
                  and you back that up with opening your thumb with the whip- which then tickles his flanks - at the same time

                  if you tnese the horse is tense so relax and take it as a nothing then the horse will in other words ignore the table and people


                  • Original Poster

                    He really is not a hot horse at all, just gets tense, balky, and bolty in new places. Balks towards the scary things, and bolts going away from them. He's really on the lazy side, and the explosions have just come when he doesn't WANT to go forward or towards the scary things in new places.

                    He's not really on grain per se, he's on as much hay and grass pasture as he wants, Ultimate Finish for weight and coat condition, and a ration balancer for his vitamins and minerals.

                    I will definitely take your suggestions to heart. And by the way, I'm not "just learning" mbm, I really know all this stuff in my head and have been riding dressage on and off for the last 15 years, but I just have a hard time getting my body to cooperate! So maybe I LOOK like I'm just learning--that means I need to work harder I guess! I trained an unbroke WB to 1st level when I was younger (in my late 20's), and then got an out of shape broodmare to 1st level, but then had a long break. I've taken some lessons with 2 different trainers with this guy, and they both think we're a good pair and we both just need more time in the saddle together.


                    • Original Poster

                      BLECH I just watched my video over again, and I do see nagging legs, leg too far back and up to his flanks, hands all over the place...I swear we don't do this bad at home!!

                      I wish my husband could have taped our second test. I think it would have looked much better, and we got 4% higher of a score and I actually got a 7 for rider score on that one. He was a lot more relaxed about the judge's table by then, and I don't think I needed to nag and fiddle with him so much.

                      Anyways, I didn't mean for this to be a rider critique, but I do appreciate everyone's input, and I feel better that he probably doesn't have headshaker's syndrome! I've never seen it before, so I just wanted to be sure.


                      • #12
                        ooh its good to watch ones self when things have been pointed out ok
                        so didnt mean for it to be a critical thing - but its not headshaking which is good its a trianing issue which is also good becuase it can be corrected

                        as for watching the video yourself - then you have learnt something good
                        as they say- for you can see your mistakes and know its you that neeeds to improve if your going to improve the horse, which is good becuase you admit that brill then the mitakes will stop and the errors stop which mean your going to be more assertive and think posititve
                        read my helfpul links pages laods of info on there for you to do -

                        also matey if the horse rushes and you want him to focus try using ground poles down centre line ie place 7 poles at troting pole distance give him something to focus on - so go around the areana then down the poles changing the direction at each end work him in working trot till he settles and you have him listening to you


                        • #13
                          btw: i saw your comment on TOB - no one here called you a "beginner". no one said anything about "extreme bit pressure"

                          instead - some said he looks to be unhappy with the contact and or his muscles are sore.

                          as for learning - we ALL are learning. it never stops. however that said - a young horse will learn faster and be more able to carry a rider better if it has some time with an experienced young horse person. teaching a young horse to carry a rider is not easy. they need confidence, balance etc etc. not everyone can do this... in fact very few can.

                          there is no shame in this! it helps your horse be the best he can be for you.

                          honestly - i dont read anyone is trying to be "mean" or rain on your parade.

                          just give you some honest feedback to help you and your horse.


                          • #14
                            to me he looks like he's avoiding contact and not through- no headshaking. The shaking at the walk at the very end of the video looks to be induced by a fluffy forelock.
                            "ronnie was the gifted one, victor was the brilliant intellect, and i [GM], well, i am the plodder."


                            • #15
                              Friends of mine had a TW that started shaking his head (not in a good way) and they tried all kinds of things - turns out he hated his forelock to touch his ears, eyes, etc. They cut it really short and the bad head shaking stopped.

                              TW's are supposed to shake their heads up and down when they walk fast, gait) but his was going from side to side, violent throwing it up, etc


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by mbm View Post
                                It is difficult for a youngster to learn from someone who is also learning.
                                Sorry, mbm, but I took this as being called a beginner, maybe in not so many words. And it was on this same post in UDBB under the Veterinary section that someone said he was objecting to "bit pressure", ok, so they didn't say extreme, but I would think a horse would only object if there was extreme bit pressure. If they rode my horse they'd feel what I feel, and if anything he is too light and doesn't have an honest connection (goes behind the bit) so there never IS any bit pressure with him.

                                Yes, I know we have to work on stuff, he's green, get's balky at scary things (not always readily apparent because he's a big guy and does things in slow motion--but you can FEEL it), we need to work on a better connection to the bit, get him more in front of my leg, and I'm an overweight AA with a saddle that doesn't fit right. But I'm working on it, and we have a lot of good moments of the right stuff. I take lessons from the judge that was judging this schooling show, and she thinks we are a very good fit for each other and LOVES him. She was actually schooling me before the test started to help me get him past the table. I can't afford to have someone train him for me, it is what it is, and he's not the first young horse I've brought along myself (ok, so I've only started TWO before him ). Our progress may be slower because I'm not a pro and I'm a lot older now, but I muddled through it before and feel that I can do it again.

                                I'm also going to do a quick braid on his forelock the next time we ride to see if that helps! I only kept it long to protect his eyes from the flies in summer, but they are gone now and I can braid it up or trim it shorter.
                                Last edited by WBLover; Nov. 25, 2009, 11:07 AM.


                                • #17

                                  Can I say one thing? I thought my horse was a head shaker. Went to all the blogs dealing with it, tooth float, bought the little nose net, etc. However I found that my bit was a smidge too high in his mouth. Not every horse has to have the two wrinkles at the corners of his mouth. I lowered the bit I think one hole on each side. And, his head shaking just about disappeared...

                                  Someone told me that there is a nerve (Trimigenal or something?) somewhere in there and maybe the bit is just hitting him in the wrong spot. Constant pressure relieves the nerve pain/whatever and when you relieve the pressure the nerve pain flares a wee bit. Just try lowering the bit.

                                  It's funny I went to a bitting clinic and the clinician asked us how we knew the bit was correctly fitted. We all said two wrinkles. He asked us how we all knew that. Well, that is what we were all told. He asked us "told my whom?" Well...it just went on and on and nobody could state a reason for the two wrinkles at the corners of the mouth. And it doesn't mean all horses should have those two wrinkles. In fact, my horse goes with NO wrinkles.

                                  Check into TMJ as well. Your chiro can tell you if he has that. But that probably wouldn't cause head shaking, weird gyrations of the jaw, yes but not head shaking.

                                  Good luck! And we're all beginners except the people riding in the Olympics and they'd probably tell you they're still learning too.
                                  Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                                  One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
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                                  • #18
                                    My mare fusses like that when her forelock or sweat gets in her eyes when working hard under saddle. I can relate...I'm exactly the same! I braid her forelock and wipe her face and ears down pretty regularly so that she can concentrate.

                                    Might try some bridle adjustments to see if that helps. He does look like it's discomfort. And like he's trying to stretch, but is impeded. Maybe that part is the saddle fit issue you refer to.

                                    Nice horse!


                                    • #19
                                      Here's a good article on head shaking in horses. I think it's visible to non-members. If not, my apologies. FWIW, it's inexpensive to join and is the best horse mgt./health resource I've found on the Web.