A horse that frequently flips, tosses, or shakes his head is not only frustrating, but can
also be cause for concern. Headshaking can be caused by a number of things, from a
simple pesky fly to an unknown factor that’s difficult or impossible to treat or manage.

So in last week’s online poll, we asked our readers if they have owned or managed a
horse that had a problem with headshaking. More than 350 people responded, and
we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 356 respondents, 148 (42%) said they have owned or managed a horse that had
a problem with headshaking, while the remaining 208 (58%) respondents have not.
Additionally, more than 50 people commented about their experiences with
headshaking in horses:

Many people shared their experiences with horses and headshaking:

  • “My horse is a photic headshaker. I ride her normally in a mask.”
  • “I’ve managed several over the years. Causes and treatments varied.”
  • “It was worse when the horse was stressed and in bright sunlight. No good treatment
    found.”
  • “Headshaking with activity. He had sarcoids on face, and the headshaking stopped
    when sarcoids were treated with acupuncture.”
  • “My aged Mini developed violent tossing of head. Found to be response to bright sunlight. Must wear mask.”
  • “I leased a horse with headshaking in summer months years ago. Turned out to be allergy issues.”
  • “I had a horse who developed headshaking from being ridden in a bit with a port (took a year to recover).”
  • “My gelding has been shaking his head for the last couple of months. Not sure why yet.”
  • “I have a 10-year- old Arabian gelding that I’ve owned 4.5 years. He is triggered by speed, sunlight, and wind.”
  • “Slight head shake; I think in response to bit/new noseband. On removal of it, headshake stopped.”
  • “Noticeable when turning out in sunlight, behavior worse when feeling pressured in training.”
  • “My mare tosses her head sometimes while riding and when her bridle is taken off. It can be annoying.”
  • “We have never been able to successfully treat it.”
  • “I have a seasonal headshaker, the triggers may be pollen and dust. It is 99% better with a nose net.”
  • “Behavior observed mainly in late winter or early spring in bright sunlight.”
  • “Headshaking led my horse to have to be retired from competition work at the age of 6 years.”

Some shared how they managed their horses’ headshaking condition:

  • “I keep him on Platinum Skin and Allergy and Immuzim, and he wears a nosenet for
    riding.”
  • “Acupuncture cured, after trying everything else. Horse went from unrideable to 95-100%.”
  • “Panty hose over the nose worked wonders like a thunder shirt does for dogs.”
  • “Hydroxyzine, cyproheptadine, allergy testing, and desensitization, not riding near wetlands.”
  • “Gentle massage of the head seems to help.”
  • “I tried everything in the literature multiple times. Finally, correct shoeing and a nosenet helped.”
  • “It’s a devastating condition. Dex pulsing, cypro, and a Guardian mask kept me from euthanizing mine.”

While a few said they had no experience with headshaking in horses:

  • “Never, and I have owned 16 horses in my life.”
  • “No, but would consult vet immediately if it occurred.”

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which
offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on
common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat
them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on
TheHorse.com.