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Dazzy 12-22-2012 11:44 PM

Help my horse is Head flicking
I own a 13 yr old tb gelding. I have owned him for 3 yrs and he has always had a mild head flick sometimes accompanied with a foot stomp. It can be hard to school as it can take his attention away but in general hasn't been an issue (been competing at dressage without an prob).

This year his head flick is severe..... its to the point where I can't get forward movement and if he is pushed too hard his head flicks hard enough it causes him to rear and then buck due to frustration.

I know he is not being naughty, he is the most giving horse i have had and will comply ridden even if dog lame. I've had him checked by a chiropractor who has given him the all clear. I can ride in a halter with the same problem and his teeth have been done regularly. He has had the same saddle for the last three years and has been checked and fits fine.

He is currently (since before symptoms started) on Mycosorb and equi-guard plus pellets (toxin binders).

I love my boy and hate to see him this way!!! He can run around the paddock happily and gets a reasonable flick on the lunge but the big problem is ridden. He gets bad enough that he is going to head butt me in the saddle.

I,m open to all suggestions, any other questions please ask.......... Help me save my boy!!!

tinyliny 12-23-2012 12:24 AM

I don't understand what you mean by "head flick". Can you describe what sort of motion you are talking about? Is this the kind of lowering of the head, then half circling it and throwing it off to the side that horses will do to express their irritation or during play?

DRichmond 12-23-2012 01:10 AM

Gut feeling says it may be the dressage. Do you have places to trail ride where you two can cut loose and where he can move naturally with you?

Oxer 12-23-2012 01:28 AM

214 Attachment(s)
Have you asked your veterinarian about the condition photic headshaking? Horses with this condition experience neuropathic pain (a burning sensation or tingling in the muzzle) due to a chemical imbalance in the trigeminal nerve, a large facial nerve. This condition is often triggered by natural sunlight.

Muppetgirl 12-23-2012 01:38 AM


Originally Posted by tinyliny (Post 1811387)
I don't understand what you mean by "head flick". Can you describe what sort of motion you are talking about? Is this the kind of lowering of the head, then half circling it and throwing it off to the side that horses will do to express their irritation or during play?

Head flicking is when they pretty much flick their head back at you, not rearing, just throwing the neck and head back. Lots of racehorses do this, in particular heading on and off the track. A good friend of mine got above her eye, where her brow bone is split open from this and had to have stitches.....she's quite mad about it because her eyebrow points up now!

This behaviour is particularly dangerous if you ride over their necks, like track work or cross country........not sure how to fix it, as never had to deal chronic head flicking......

Dazzy 12-23-2012 02:22 AM

tinyliny - it is exactly as muppetgirl has described but if I try to push him on the flick turns into a rear. Its an action where his head rapidly moves directly skyward starting at his nose.

DRichmond - its not the dressage he can even trot in a straight line as i can hack him round the farm but if asked to trot it all starts.

Oxer - Next step is the vet and some people had reccommended a uv/ pollen mask to block out some of the sunlight. I'm going to try riding him at dusk or dawn this week and see if there is a difference.

Has anyone out there tried a uv or fly mask on their horse - how did you find them adjusting to it??

DRichmond 12-23-2012 06:33 PM

If he's tossing his head at a trot, have you inspected hooves and shoes for any possible clues to subtle discomfort?

Yes, I've used Guardian masks, and they are great!

Nevreme 12-23-2012 06:59 PM

This sounds very similar to a horse at my barn. When he first came to us his head flipping was so bad it was dangerous, as it sounds like your horse's is turning out to be.

We ride him with a fly mask (a good thick one, not one of those practically sheer ones) and an extra large knee-high stocking over his nose. If we have a good overcast day, with no wind and no bugs and the grass is cut short we can take off the fly mask, but he is awful without the stocking. With all his gear he still flips his head a little bit, but not in a dangerous way and definitely not as much as if we took it all off.

If you're interested I think I have a picture of him with all his head gear on.

Saddlebag 12-23-2012 07:06 PM

When were his teeth last checked? Have you checked his gums where the bit seats to see if they are inflamed. Did this start with a new bit? Is the bit too thick for his palate.

Dazzy 12-24-2012 11:55 PM

DRichmond - his feet (according to my farrier) are in the best condition they have been the whole time i have owned him. He is barefoot so no shoe issues. He is feeling the ground at the moment as its rock hard but he's happy to run around on his own. I will look into the guardian masks, I have been looking at the cashel ones.

saddlebag - His teeth were done a year ago and are due at the start of winter in 4months time. I've tried riding bitless but this doesn't make a difference. He has no inflammation or discomfort and has been eating his feed without dropping too much etc.

Just as an update to last two evenings I have been able to ride without an issue but have been riding in the dusk light... sunlight effecting him?? maybe??

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