Headshaking - why do horses headshake?

Headshaking can make a horse or pony almost unrideable - it certainly limits his competitive abilities.

A horse will headshake for a number of reasons:

  • Irritation in the nasal tracts This irritation can be caused by an allergic reaction to dust, pollen spores etc.
  • Discomfort in the mouth due to tooth problems, badly fitting or sharp bit or bridle - have the horse or pony's teeth examined and check the fitting of his tack. he presence of wolf teeth can create discomfort and result in headshaking.
  • Ear disease. Middle ear disorders, guttural pouch infections and ear mites can all cause headshaking in a horse.
  • Other disorders - nasal disease and eye disorders can also be causes of headshaking.
  • Spinal pain or impingement such as kissing spines.

    If the horse's spine is out of alignment or the nerves are pinched this can cause sudden headshaking or twitching. Have the horse examined by a vet, or equine chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist.
  • Stress or anger. Some riders complain that their horses headshake when schooled but not when being ridden out. This could be for several reasons, but it is possible thart the arena surface, if dry and dusty, could be irritating the horse.
    Another cause could be that the horses is put under additional mental or physical stress whilst being schooled and develops the habit of headshaking as an evasion or in response to muscular or nervous tension or pain..
  • Mineral deficiency. It has been suggested that some horses may develop headshaking if their diet is deficient in magnesium.
    In very wet areas where minerals are leached form the soil magnesium deficiency can occur in pastures. Some vets have linked this deficiency with headshaking. This would make sens as magnesium is vital for proper muscle and nerve function.
  • Exposure to light - Some vets believe that in some horses light over stimulates the eye, which leads to irritation similar to hay fever. This is referred to as photic headshaking

 Stop Headshaking - why do horses headshake? What a causes a pony to headshake