10 Steps to Reversing Head Flicking head flickers

Has there been any permanent damage to the trigeminal nerve?

No. Horses come completely back to normal so long as you are diligent with your pasture management. Also head-shaking/flicking is known to be ‘seasonal’ which means they can be perfectly normal at certain times of the year. If there was permanent damage the horse would be head-shaking all year round.

Will my horse always have to be kept like this?

Don't think of your horse as being any different to any other horse! This is really how they should all be kept; i.e. on a high fibre, minerally balanced diet with no access to unsuitable grass. You will find he will be better in every, single way. You will find pretty well ALL the problems disappear on this kind of a feeding regime. You have been 'forced' to make a change, other people whose problems aren't as drastic, 'get by'. They think they are OK but don't know how good their horse could be if they made similar changes! They haven't yet made the connection between the grass their horse is eating and his various quirks or issues.

It's not fair for my horse to be locked up!

I agree. In the short term until you have a chance to make something more suitable it is preferable to having him head-shake/flick as this is a very debilitating and painful condition. Longer term, people are setting up fabulous dry lots, in the form of tracks that go round and under any trees, they bring in various features like logs or boulders, bring in metal to fill muddy spots, make a nice area for rolling etc. Think outside the square!!


The First 5

  1. Take your focus OFF trying to get the horse right and focus on ‘getting it right for the horse’!
  2. Make an area where there is NO GREEN GRASS! Do whatever it takes, it doesn't have to be a large area but this is the KEY. This means either spraying out with Round Up plus a pre-emergent (so it won't grow back for several months) or scraping the grass off or bringing in some material to cover it up. You need to make sure they can’t reach under or over fences to nibble on any that way. In other words get your microscope out to check for green!!
    NB Smaller areas of green grass can be killed by covering with salt. Then there is no withholding time.

  3. Source some plain hay, the browner the better and make sure there is NO clover, Lucerne or Rye-grass in it.
    Take out all feeds that contain Lucerne, Rye or clover, molasses, kelp and most herbs.
    Invest in some sort of ‘slow feeder’ to slow down the hay consumption so they never run out. Hay such as Oaten, Wheaten, Rhodes, Brown Top, Cocksfoot, Prairie and Timothy are usually OK sources of hay. A ‘Hay-Saver’ Net with small size mesh slows down the hay consumption. If you put a whole bale in the net then you know they won’t run out of hay. This is very important to prevent stomach ulcers and for their mental well-being. If your horse would be inclined to pee on the bag then loop the draw-string over the top of a fence-post.

  4. Feed plain feeds, beet and oaten chaff make a great base. You can add barley and oil for keeping on condition, pollard and/or copra if you want to avoid grains. Linseed meal is a great source of protein and Omega 3. Soya bean/canola meal are too high in potassium.

  5. Add salt to their feed in addition to supplying a salt lick. At a rate of approximately 10gms per 100kgs live-weight. Unrefined sea salt is good or just plain salt will do until you can source some. I know it sounds a lot but isn't actually for horses and they absolutely don't get enough from a salt lick.
    Read The Importance of Feeding Salt

6 - 10

6. Add Quality Minerals. Getting them off all green forage lowers potassium levels, then we need to get the other electrolytes UP! (the salt takes care of sodium and chloride and the combination of AlleviateC and GrazeEzy take care of calcium and magnesium).

Be aware - it is not a case of simply feeding more magnesium.

Premium NZ Horse Minerals or Supreme Vit & Min will supply all the other vitamins and minerals including organic selenium, copper, zinc, chromium, MSM, Vits A, C, D, & E and all the B Vitamins.

7. If your head-flicking horse is showing symptomseye net of photophobia (can't stand the light, just like they have a migraine head-ache) then provide shade and put on a mask. This symptom normally disappears within the first few days on their new diet regime.

8. Light exercise is OK so long as they are comfortable. This is where nose-nets can be a big help. Don't expect anything in particular of the horse because increased blood supply with exercise will trigger more episodes and cause distress.

9. Expect that recovery will take several months and that it will be somewhat erratic. In other words you may be making great progress and then they will have a bad day for some reason. Don't panic just stick to it!

10. Keep a diary of your observations. It will be very helpful to be able to record your experience for others. Feel free to e-mail Jenny, Val or Nina for moral support! Be sure to include your landline phone number.

Jenny - info@calmhealthyhorses.com
Val - vcoker@xtra.co.nz
Cathy - cathy@cathydee.com
Nina - inhagan@gmail.com
Vicky (for Australia) provideit@bigpond.com


Back to Grass?

How do I Introduce Grass Back into my Horse’s Diet?
While your horse is in his Dry Lot:

Conduct a pasture inspection, if possible with someone who can identify grasses. Alternatively take photos of your grass and send them to one of us.

2. Depending on what is identified you will either need to spray out and resow more horse-friendly grasses** OR just spray out for the broad-leafs like clover, cat's ear, cape weed etc

3. Whilst your horse is recovering let the grass grow as mature as possible.

4. A week before you plan on allowing some access to grass, start adding GrazeEzy to the feeds.

5. When your horse is completely back to normal start allowing access to the long grass for 10 minutes morning and night.

6. Gradually increase this time so long as he remains flick-free

7. You will soon learn when and how much of your grass is OK for your particular horse in your particular situation.

8. Times you can guarantee it won't be OK include Spring, other times of the year for a few days after rain, and Autumn. If there has been a dry spell followed by rain then the grass won't be OK. At these times he goes back into his dry lot.

9. Times the grass is usually OK: summer when the grass stops growing and browns off and depending on where you live: and winter