Hektor, a TB gelding, raced successfully for the first four years of his life. He was sold in the autumn of 1990, age 11. Unknown to his new owners, he was a headshaker. His headshaking was first noticed in the spring of 1991. Hektor was diagnosed as having seasonal allergies and being light sensitive. He suffered a head trauma with compression to the right nasal bone, frontal bone, sphenoid and maxilla. To make things worse, in 1995 he had another head injury, losing his two front incisors, only exacerbating his initial condition. Swelling of the tissues that line the inside of the upper airway affected the head injury. After his second head injury, he shook his head 24 hours a day. His headshaking was so severe, it rendered him unrideable.
Treatments tried prior to Cranio Sacral therapy included antihistamines, steroids, chiropractic and acupuncture, none of which provided much relief. In 2000, 10 years after the onset of the condition, Cranio Sacral treatments began.
A significant change was noticeable after the first Cranio Sacral treatment. After the second treatment, the headshaking nearly stopped. After five treatments, Hektor was free of headshaking symptoms. He remained free of symptoms for the last 8 years of his life. Hektor received regular Cranio Sacral treatments to maintain his overall balance and wellbeing.
Movie youtube: Hope for headshakers from Maureen Rogers.
Other causes of headshakers could be:
Teeth who need a dental treatment. Young horses in the age of 1 to 6 years old can experience pain from getting their adult teethes, in this age range headshaking can be caused by sharp remnants of nerve roots who remained in the gum. Wolfs teeth can cause problems with horses from every age. Most of the time in a combination with the bit.
Fractures especially in the TMJ.
Bad fitting bits, which can pinch the tongue.
By applying Cranio Sacral Therapy on headshakers, the therapist will try to loosen up the structures in the skull who are under great tension because of external pressure.
An example is pressure on the jaw from the bit caused by tight fitting nosebands (often seen at dressage) Because of the tight fitting noseband the horse will try to open his mouth to escape from the pressure. This causes tension on the muscles in the mouth and will give problems with chewing what finally results in big problems with the TMJ. After a while the combination of the tension on the muscles, the problems with the TMJ and the skull bones, will give pressure on the temporal bone (forehead) where the trigeminal nerve is located. This nerve might trigger headshaking.
Cranio Sacral Therapists assume that when there is too much pressure on the temporal bone (forehead) the trigeminal nerve will get squeezed by the surrounding tissue. The horse will experience a burning sensation and sharp pains in his head. You can compare it with migraine. By shaking his head the horse tries to get rid of the pain.
That's why it is important to get your horse (young and old) checked by a specialized dentist!
Is your horse a headshaker or do you recognize the symptoms you've seen in the movie about Hektor. You can contact Helping Hands on Horses!
Send a movie of your horse together with an explanation to