Headshaker Horses, Head Here for Resources and Research

by Fran Jurga | 19 June 2009 | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com

Sometimes I finish writing an article for a magazine or a post for this blog and I look at my desk in amazement: piles of books, files strewn everywhere, journals falling on the floor, three monitor screens flashing information. Is it information overload or is it…information nirvana?

If you’re like me, you haven’t given up on books and files and journals and notes from conferences to do your research on your horse’s health problems. But you love the ease of surfing the net to make sure that there’s nothing new that you’ve missed, providing you can trust the source.

But in my library I can go back and research horsecare as it was practiced 100 years ago or 50 years ago or 25 years ago, with the same ease that the internet carries me deeper and deeper into the Right Now.

One condition in horses that brings many people to The Jurga Report and lots of other sites is the problem called headshaking. It’s usually getting worse in horses this time of year, which is why I’ve put this post together now. The bright sunlight seems to irritate headshaker horses, and they’re going to it now. When I go to shows and events now, I see more and more horses with those discreet little nets over their noses, and I’m so glad if they are working.

Headshaking is a subject that fascinates all of us, perhaps because it still eludes explanation. We really don’t understand it, but so many of us have been around a horse that has this problem, that we’ve spent a lot of time pondering it. How many truly great horses have had performance careers curtailed because of headshaking? And how many horses in general just could live a happier, less stressful life without the annoyance of headshaking?

A question that really bothers me is why I don’t read more about headshaking in the old books. Did they have a secret remedy that didn’t survive into the modern times? Or was headshaking simply not as common then as it is now? And why does it seem to be more common each year?

The University of Lincoln in England has created the most comprehensive resource that I’ve seen on the problem, and they include both their own research and others. Click here to go there and have a look, but be prepared to spend some time.

This group of researchers has surveyed owners of headshaker horses through a project called the National Equine Headshaking Survey and created a site that is absolutely overflowing with literature citations, links, video, illustrations, and advice for owners. It’s very inspiring and would make a great model for anyone considering an information-based site on a horse health problem. They’ve done a great job.

Headshaking is a seasonal problem for many horses, and the new lightweight nosenets are giving some relief, so I hope you will check those out if you haven’t already. The University of Liverpool vet hospital has a page about their program of surgery for treatment of headshaking as a form of neuropathy.

Medication, nasal sprays, homeopathic Capstar…all are options that work for some horses, but there still doesn’t seem to be one solution that works for all horses and fits the budgets of all owners.

I’m looking forward to that Eureka! day when we can post the news that a definitive answer to the headshaking mystery has been found. In the meantime, the University of Lincoln’s web site comes very close and they are so sympathetic to horses suffering from headshaking that you feel that you truly do have a friend out there on the web. And your headshaking horse does, too.

Photo credit: Stock Exchange




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