Bumblebees in the head when horses headshake

Bumblebees in the head when horses headshakeHeadshaking is a medical condition that affects approximately 1 to 2% of horses.

Bumblebees in the head when horses headshake

The uncontrolled headshaking in the horse was already mentioned in the literature more than 200 years ago. The cause is as yet unknown.

Headshaking is not a disease or in rare cases a behavioral disorder like z.B. the koppen or weaving, but a symptom that can be triggered by different causes. The headshaker moves his head suddenly and for us without any apparent reason vertically, horizontally or also rotating.

The symptoms often start insidiously or come from one day to the next and can increase to the point where riding becomes impossible and the horses become a danger to themselves and their environment. Headshaking occurs across all breeds, although scientific studies have shown that affects 75% of geldings of all breeds and disciplines.

Headshaker is divided into three types:

1. Stereotypical headshaker

Triggered by bad keeping and/or extreme stress – rather rare (behavioral disorder)

A species-appropriate attitude with plenty of horse contact and exercise, as well as considerate riding with appropriate equipment and friendly handling are in most cases "remedies. Originally the horse is a prey animal. Made for life in a herd. It spends the day grazing. Is constantly on guard against predators. The resulting stress reduces it by steady movement in the protection of the herd again.

2. Symptomatic headshaker

Dental problems (z.B. disturbing wolf tooth), parasite infestation on the head (ear), pain in the neck area (musculature, cervical spine), back problems, eye diseases, pathological changes or infections of the sinuses or nasal passages, rideability problems or rider errors are usually the cause.

3. Idiopathic comes from Greek. Means "for no reason.". That is, no specific trigger for headshaking can be found in idiopathic headshakers.

The cause is not known or. several triggers are suspected:

The Trigeminal neuralgia (inflammation/ hypersensitivity of the fifth facial nerve, nervus trigeminus) is now among the most common causes, causing horses to react to even the slightest stimuli by shaking or banging their heads.

The trigeminal nerve (lat. for triplet nerve) divides throughout the horse's visual field and supplies the forehead, chin, eyes, face, upper and lower jaw via three branches.

Shara Sheldon, researcher at the University of California, Department of Veterinary Medicine and Epidemiology describes that horses with trigeminal mediated head shaking suffer from neuropathic nerve pain because the trigeminal nerve, which supplies all sensation to the face, is constantly on the edge of firing. electrical sensations, itching, tingling and burning cause the listed visible symptoms.

Bright sunlight can additionally exert a stimulus on the trigeminal nerve, triggering the so-called photosensitive headshake. For this reason, many headshakers begin shaking in the spring or early summer.

The optic nerve (optic nerve, 2. cranial nerve) or the auditory nerve (vestibulocochlear nerve, 8. Cranial nerve) can also be affected.

Vasomotor rhinitis (chronic, non-infectious and non-allergic rhinitis, which manifests itself in a runny or blocked nose) can also be the cause of headshaking.

In addition to viruses (z.B. the herpes virus) is discussed with the horse also the Borreliose as a cause. Borrelia can attack nerves especially in the eye and cause damage. Vitreous opacity occurs as a symptom, causing horses to feel as if a fly might be in their eye when exposed to sunlight.

In the case of infection-related and allergic headshaking, improvement in health could be achieved by treating the immune system.

Other accompanying symptoms to the sudden and recurring bobbing or shaking of the head may include:

– Slobbering with upper lip – increased snorting – twitching of facial muscles – rubbing of nostrils on front legs – rubbing of nose on wall or floor – increased whitish or clear nasal discharge – deliberate avoidance of sun, brightness, wind, heat, horses are reluctant to leave their "comfort zone" (shade or dark corner in stall)

Symptoms worsen in stressful situations, often horses have a background of disease that is either highly acute or chronic stress in a variety of forms.

Stress in various forms produces physiological consequences.

– environmental stress such as cold, heat, noise, etc. – chemical stress such as drugs, vaccines, dewormers, pollution, etc. – biochemical stress such as lack of nutrition – physical stress such as infections, overwork, trauma – psychological stress such as change of stall, fear, loss of "mate" – the psychological stress is followed by the physical stress!

Other factors that do not usually cause the disease, but can also be associated with nerve damage and exacerbate symptoms, are mycotoxins in grain, hay, or silage.

– Heavy metals z.B. in water – electrosmog from power lines, mobile phone masts o.a. – Environmental toxins z.B. from exhaust fumes or wood preservatives

Masks or nose nets reduce the symptoms

Treatment is often not easy due to the multitude of possible causes.

In the case of "photic headshaking" (light-induced headshaking), a light protection mask with good UV protection for the eyes and/or nostrils can often provide relief for sensitive horses. As an additional symptomatic treatment, riding in a rather dark riding hall or at dusk is recommended here.

Face mask protects the trigeminal nerve or optic nerve from direct sunlight, which is responsible for the involuntary typical twitching of the facial muscles.

By wearing the nose net, a permanent stimulation of the upper lip should take place, so that the mechanical stimulus relieves the pain stimulus. Additionally pollen and wind are filtered through the net. Brow bands, nose bands and fly fringe bands have a similar stimulating effect.

Chewing movements can additionally trigger pain, which is why sensitive horses u.a. on the dentition resp. Chewing on the bit react. Bitless bridles or snaffles have proven to be effective with such horses. An appropriate bridle puts as little prere as possible on the nerves in the face and neck area.

To what extent can feeding influence headshaking??

The therapy with headshakers can be supported well by feeding. As with healthy horses, the basic supply must be correct. The basic feed should consist of very good and preferably low-dust as well as mold-free hay, so that no allergic reactions and irritation of the mucous membranes occur.

High-quality mineral feed consisting of organically bound trace elements and vitamins provide the body with minerals needed for the daily regeneration processes of the irritated structures during headshaking.

A quite useful supplement is linseed oil. It is rich in unsaturated essential omega-3-6 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect, which has a positive effect on chronic irritation of the nerves and mucous membranes. Unsaturated essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the organism itself, therefore they must be supplied daily with feed.

Various studies provide the following results on supplementary feeding:

1. The essential amino acid tryptophan stimulates the formation of the "feel-good hormones" (serotonin and melatonin). Serotonin acts as a regulator in the transmission of stimuli in the central nervous system. Is essentially responsible for the well-being of the horse. 2. Strengthening the nasal mucosa is also recommended, as headshaking is often associated with allergens. Effect of the respiratory tract. Mucous membranes estimated. Combined with rosehip powder (10 to 15 grams each), hibiscus flowers are an ideal natural supplement for boosting the body's defenses and immunity. 3. The additional feeding of MSM (methyl sulfonyl methane), natural sulfur, also contributes to symptom relief. It inhibits inflammation and pain and increases resistance and the body's own defenses. MSM promotes the removal of so-called "slags" from the cells. Detoxifies the organism from burdening heavy metals. 4. The medicinal effect of Licorice root was already very popular in ancient times. Licorice here means the root of the licorice (Glycyrrhiza). It has been shown that licorice, preferably in ground form, as a feed supplement in horses very effectively alleviates headshaking and slightly increases the willingness to perform. Licorice root inhibits bacteria and fungi, prevents inflammation and is highly valued for its antiviral and anti-allergic effects. A reasonable dosage for headshakers is between 1 and 10 grams per 100kg/LM, depending on the season, since even 1 gram per 100kg/LM brings positive changes with low allergen exposure. 5. Homeopathic approaches are found in sensitization with complex preparations with the active ingredients Arsenum iodatum, Apis mellifica and Urtica urens. Constitutional treatment can also have a supportive effect, as well as nosode treatment for known allergens.


To what extent headshaking is a behavioral disorder, an allergy or involved organs of the horse is still not clear.

A holistic therapy is always useful for headshakers. Optimal housing conditions, considerate riding and optimal basic feeding as well as supportive feed supplements, medicinal herbs, homeopathy, osteopathy and acupuncture often bring a significant improvement in symptoms.

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