What are the causes and remedies for head shaking or twitching
Although the cause of headshaking is a mystery research shows that it may be caused by various factors.
It may be a behavioural problem (vice or misbehaviour)or a biological one caused by ill fitting tack etc, teeth/ear problems or an allergy. It does tend to be seasonal triggered in spring/early summer and seems to subside in winter.
Other symptoms often accompany headshaking including:
- excessive snorting
- striking out at the nose with foreleg
- swellings/hair loss on the face, often caused by excessive rubbing
- inflamed and/or watering of eyes and nose
Some horses have been known to headshake when coming into bright light, for example when coming out from a dark stable into bright sunlight or when emerging from dark woodland into bright daylight when out riding. This is known as Photic Headshaking.
Try lunging/riding your horse blindfolded to see how he goes (you may want to ask a friend to lunge while you are riding him. In some horse a blackout blindfold has been found to immediately relieve all symptoms. Some owners have confirmed that this test allowed their vets to confirm a diagnosis.
Before calling out the vet it is worth checking that all tack fits well. You could try some lunging (without tack) to see if the problem still occurs - if not then your tack is a likely culprit. You could ask a friend to ride your horse to rule out your riding techniques as a cause.
Finally try using a nose-net when riding just in case tiny flies invisible to the naked eye are causing the problem. Having your horses teeth checked is also advisable.
After ruling out all of the above it may be time to call in your vet. Ask them to check his/her ears as a deep seated ear infection could cause the same symptoms.
Your vet may prescribe an anti histamine type of product or a steroid spray which temporarily numbs a nerve in the muzzle or the nasal cavity which is reported to have been successful in some cases.
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