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Mare flips head and strikes at nose

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  • Mare flips head and strikes at nose

    Mare intermittently flips head and strikes at nose under saddle. Doesn't do it when led, in stall or out in paddock. Doesn't do it at all in her "comfort zones."

    Just had teeth done because thought that might be the issue, two weeks later still doing it. Saddle fits, bridle fits (does it in both bridles), vet check fine. I always use soft hands and it can happen on a loose rein as well if she is "up." She exhibits the same behavior no matter what the contact - I have experimented a lot.

    Happens about 5 times in a 40 min ride. Seems to happen more often when she is anxious or doesn't want to go where we're going - i.e. doesn't do it at all in the indoor or on the way out to the trails but once you start working and she gets a bit wound up she starts doing it. If you get after her to go forward she stops for the time being but will do it again. She is a "pissy sneezer" - when she isn't happy about where you're going or what you're doing she is apt to have sneezing fits. Perhaps a connection?

    It is possible that she is in heat - the other mare in the barn is. Behavior started about 3 weeks ago.
    Also - started using "Miracle Collar" about three weeks ago because she's a cribber and thought it might be getting in the way of her eating. Possible that this causes it? I try to leave it off but sometimes the BM puts it on. Stays off during work!

    Any ideas? Thanks!!!
    Last edited by IterAndEra; Apr. 8, 2013, 09:52 PM. Reason: Left out information

  • #2
    Google "headshaker syndrome"


    • #3
      Unfortunately, this is a classic presentation of headshaking syndrome, and this is also the typical time of year for it to first present. Riding in a mask or nose net might help. I found riding in a fly mask very helpful for a photic headshaker I had once. There are also medications you can try, but I never found them helpful.


      • #4
        Take the Miracle Collar away so no one can put it back on. They can sometimes cause nerve damage, I had one on a horse that somehow it caught on something or was too tight, she could not raise her head above her shoulder the next day and was in a panic not to allow you to touch her. Find a French cribbing strap, that has worked the best for the horse.
        "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK


        • #5
          How old is she? Mine started exhibiting symptoms around age 10, which is the most common age for it to start, but it can start younger.


          • Original Poster

            She's 8 - and she only does it while riding - I looked up the photic headshaking before posting this and it seems most do it all day? I know there are atypical cases but she doesn't do it constantly, just a few times and mainly when she is super fresh, I guess it's possible that she is fresh because she is annoyed. I was hoping it might be something as simple as the loose-ring annoying her but she has been in the same bit for a long time with no ill-effects.

            Also, it isn't consistent from day to day. Last Friday was sunny and I rode her outside and she was quiet. Today it was sunny and she was fresh and tossed her head a few times, striking at her nose.

            She is super sensitive so is it possible that she is still recovering from her teeth being a bit sharp? The vet said she should be symptom-free after a few days (teeth were floated March 29th).

            I would prefer she didn't wear any type of cribbing strap actually - as long as she is eating and is happy the cribbing doesn't bother anyone.


            • #7
              consider switching to an Aurigan bit rather than a nickle alloy one.

              But I agree with others, wounds like she may be starting head shaking syndrome.

              Sensitivities can develop anytime in life..

              Sun in the early morning and late afternoon is prime time for Culicoides ( no-see-ums / gnats) they can be quite biting and annoying.
              -- * > hoopoe
              Procrastinate NOW
              Introverted Since 1957


              • #8
                I posted yesterday but it is not here. I am thinking allergies. HAd a friend who's mare used to do that a lot in the spring and fall.
                They put a piece of Nylon stocking loosely over her nose and attached it to the nose band. Believe it or not it made a difference. Just a thought. As the horse never did it unless it was allergy season. When it was windy she was worse.


                • #9
                  Yes, sounds like classic headshakers syndrome. Age of onset is right, and many don't do it all the time. I'd try the nosenet.


                  • #10
                    Mine does that too, and it's related to bugs. She doesn't do it at all in the bright sunny winter days, or on cloudy or breezy summer days. It starts in Spring, with the first tiny bugs. It gets so bad, she has to wear a mask and nose net all Spring-Summer long for riding.
                    With the mask + nose net she won't flip / shake her head, but if she sees a big bug (bumblebee, horse fly, dragonfly...) she'll strike at it. We live in bug-central (New England) and so it makes for interesting rides...!
                    Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                    • #11
                      Headshaking and allergies often present in similar ways. This is the right time of year for either, and headshaking isn't always photic. Try a nose net of some kind and see if that helps. My headshaker also likes it if you rub a wet paper towel in his nostrils.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Perfect10 View Post
                        Headshaking and allergies often present in similar ways. This is the right time of year for either, and headshaking isn't always photic. Try a nose net of some kind and see if that helps. My headshaker also likes it if you rub a wet paper towel in his nostrils.
                        Thanks for the tip! I'm hoping allergies although there is no discharge but she does sneeze occasionally (a few times a ride) so maybe her nose is itchy and bothers her more when she is anxious. Best example is today: rode her in the outdoor ring where is was sunny and lightly windy. She was totally fine. Fresh, but fine and listening better than yesterday. Went for a short hack and she was totally fine until something spooked her. She started the flips- one then break then a few more. Only one at a time, never non stop but this continues until she is happy again. The striking happens less frequently but if she's spooky she'll probably do both at intervals until she calms down.


                        • #13
                          OP, I think you mentioned she cribs? It has been my experience that cribbers can also have idiopathic behaviors such as sort of nervous twitches that could resemble head shaking. I wonder if that is what is going on with your mare?


                          • #14
                            My horse did this while he wore one particular bit-on closer investigation the bit was pinching at the shank and pulling his whiskers out one by one! Poor buddy, I switched him out and he never did it again!
                            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                            • Original Poster

                              Originally posted by cowboymom View Post
                              My horse did this while he wore one particular bit-on closer investigation the bit was pinching at the shank and pulling his whiskers out one by one! Poor buddy, I switched him out and he never did it again!
                              I thought of that : ) Trying the bit protectors tomorrow but I'm pretty sure she doesn't mind the bit - she has been in it for years, year round, and has never exhibited this behavior before :-/

                              I think it's what another poster mentioned...or is at least turning into...and idiopathic behavior caused by allergens or something that she is able to ignore until she is stressed. She has a tendency towards stress...it makes her an AMAZING (over achiever) jumper but also adds some quirks...


                              • #16
                                My gelding started headshaking this week last year as an eight year old. It originally started only while under saddle and then progressed to happening while on turnout as well. His also started as an occasional nose blowing, wanting to stop and rub his face on his leg (even did this once in the middle of cantering and he almost rolled both of us - not fun) and then it went on to full blown tics. We did do allergy testing but I haven't been able to narrow it down to one specific cause. Sunny, overcast, windy, still, while exercising, at rest, I haven't been able to find a connection. I tried to ride in a nose net precisely once - it not only made him worse, he was horrible in it and I didn't stay on him more than a couple of minutes because he was losing his mind with it on.

                                His symptoms went away at the beginning of July and he's been off meds since then (although I do keep him on Quiessence for the magnesium just in case) but I'm just now putting him back to work after he had the winter off so I'm super vigilant (meaning: paranoid) about watching for any little tic to show up. I truly hope this isn't your mare's problem and that you find some other cause for it - it's heartbreaking to watch them and not be able to do anything to make it go away.
                                It's not about the color of the ribbon but the quality of the ride. Having said that, I'd like the blue one please!


                                • Original Poster

                                  It appears to be allergy induced and it much reduced with anti-histamine prescribed by vet. Not totally gone but much much better. Now presents only when she's fizzy and not nearly as badly as before meds!