Shake It Off - What is Head Shaking In Horses?

Why is my horse shaking his head?

Headshaking can be worrying and frustrating for both horse and rider. Research suggests that affected horses experience hyper-sensitivity of the trigeminal nerve, and although the exact causes are still unclear, it seems there may be environmental triggers or a chemical instability that causes the trigeminal nerve to fire inappropriately causing mild, irritated tingling through to severe shooting pains like an electric shock for your horse.


What signs would my horse show if he was a head shaker?

Affected horses may show some of the following signs:

  • Uncontrolled and sometimes violent upwards movements of the head
  • Nostril clamping
  • Striking out at the face
  • Rubbing the nose / face

As Headshaking is associated with severe pain, and is typically a progressive disease, it is advisable to contact your vet if you suspect your horse may have developed Headshaking however, as yet a cure has not been found and therefore most owners of Headshaking horses choose to look at how best to manage the affected horse.

It is important to know what your horse’s triggers are and try to limit their exposure to them. For example, for many limiting their exposure to sunlight can be very important which can mean stabling during the day and/or use of a UV blocking face mask when turned out and riding.

Additionally, targeted nutritional support can be very beneficial. Magnesium plays several extremely important roles in nerve health and function, and particularly in the regulation of neuroexcitation.


Can I feed anything to support my horse?

Shakergard from Equine America was formulated to provide two different sources of magnesium, including the amino acid chelate which is thought to have a very high bioavailability. It also provides a number of antioxidants, and plant-based anti-inflammatories, as well as key vitamins and phytochemicals to help with Headshaking caused by seasonal allergies as well as by trigeminal nerve dysfunction.