" I wanted to thank you for saving my competition horse. I have an elite athlete Dutch Warmblood almost at Grand Prix in dressage that is working 4-6 days a week. He came in from Denmark to the US.
I live in Texas and when I got him I felt he needed to gain a little weight. He had ample turnout on coastal bermuda grass in about an acre paddock. I fed him a normal Purina ration.
I started to pour the alfalfa pellets into him to aid in weight gain. Then it hit.
Totally un-rideable with head shaking, snorting, boxing his face, burying his face in the water bucket, burying his face in bedding.
Under saddle I attempted to ride him in the field but he was so irritable he would almost hit me in the face with his head.
I had never seen head shaking before. My well trained, obedient horse was now gone and I didn't know why. Thank goodness for my cranial sacral therapist who came to try to help me and it was she who recommended your website.
I followed your “10 Steps to Reverse Head-Shaking” to a T. I was broken-hearted keeping him in a stall with no turnout but I was desperate. I kept a diary of daily improvements to see what was working.
Bottom line I completely changed everything for him. I soaked his coastal bermuda grass hay, found a feed, Triple Crown Lo Starch with no alfalfa, no molasses, and no grain, to lower potassium as much as I could. I added 2-4 tablespoons of salt/day and increased his magnesium to about 50-100gms.
Only one hour of turnout was allowed after a month or two.
Slowly things started to improve over 2-3 weeks. I could ride him in an indoor arena but not out in the sun...
I couldn't believe my horse was back. That was 4 years ago and I have only had 2 acute attacks of head shaking since. One was from new hay when I went to Florida to compete and one was from (I think) a reaction to smoke from a large burn near our stable when competing in Florida.
I have pretty much stuck to this routine for 4 years and it has been successful. I am so grateful I found your website as our vets could not offer much help. Thank you for your help. People think I am nuts when I tell them that I don’t turn my horse out much but it is working for us and it was so distressing for him I don’t want any relapses!"
A successful return to competition for Funky Stuff.
Note: In our experience head-shaking is a disturbance to the bio-chemistry of the horse. We interpret it as a systemic problem which affects the trigeminal nerve in the head but the trigeminal nerve in our opinion, is NOT the cause. Neither was Alfalfa in itself the cause for Roxanne’s horse – merely the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.
Unsuitable forage like green, growing grass, fertilised grass, legumes like clovers and alfalfa/Lucerne compounded by hard feeds which ADD to the horses load rather than helping it, inadequate salt intake, there are many contributing factors! Management and dietary changes are consistently the answer – time frames vary from one- twelve months.