Survey Attempts To Find Cause Of Headshaking

Researchers at De Montfort Universityâs (DMU) School of Agriculture in the United Kingdom are getting closer to putting a halt to headshaking, a problem that plagues some horses for an unknown reason while being ridden. The

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Researchers at De Montfort Universityâs (DMU) School of Agriculture in the United Kingdom are getting closer to putting a halt to headshaking, a problem that plagues some horses for an unknown reason while being ridden. The National Equine Headshaking Survey (NEHS) began at DMU in 1997, headed by Daniel Mills, MRCVS. Researcher and PhD student Kathy McCormick says, “DMU now has what it believes to be the largest database in the world on headshaking and hopes that continued analysis of the database and reporting of new cases will help improve the life of horses affected worldwide.”


With more than 60 causes of headshaking, it is hard to distinguish the cause. However, recent advances at DMU suggest that through behavior analysis, distinct types of headshaking are discernable and might correspond with different causes. McCormick describes a few of the causes as sensitivity to light (which can be controlled with a form of horse sunglasses), a hayfever-like syndrome, previous damage to the nerves of the horses muzzle, or possibly certain viral infections. Some of the treatments include the use of face masks, nose nets, ear nets, bitless bridles, fly fringes, ointments, homeopathy, or by improving diet, eliminating sugars and poor quality hay, or by riding in low daylight hours. DMU has done research on a lightweight and nearly invisible nose net or a “half net,” which will be for sale later this year.


“Research at DMU aims to make this frustration a thing of the past,” McCormick says.


If you have a horse with a headshaking problem and would like to participate in the study, go to https://www.medstats.dmu.ac.uk/headshaking

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Odessa is a former editorial intern and advertising representative for The Horse. She earned her BA in English at Averett College in Danville, Va.

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