"I bought River as a green, 6-year-old Standardbred mare in 2017 when I was 14.
We were both green and we had to do a lot of work getting our confidence up while riding.
As we grew as a team we moved up in our riding level, expanding our riding career.
At first, River was grazing on very green pasture, a mix of rye, clover and cow grass. (Clue!!) As we live in Dunedin, it is quite hard to find grass locally that is not extra green.
For about a year, River was well behaved, though green and sometimes slightly grass affected, which meant not listening and occasionally bolting. Though we carried on through this, growing more confident we moved up in our riding level, starting to do some low-level shows.
River has been a chilled out horse, her only struggles were rushing jumps, and she was not confident while floating.
She then developed a light head flick in spring 2018.
I originally thought it was ‘behavioural’, didn’t understand how grass could affect the trigeminal nerve.
We got in touch with Jenny and we added 1 scoop of GrazeEzy and salt into her daily diet. The head flick subsided for the end of spring, and summer.
Autumn 2019, the head flick started up again but was only present when we were working in the newly surfaced sand arena (previously dark gravel), we did not link this to photophobia at first. We rode mostly on the grass to avoid any flicking. This was very annoying for both of us but we continued through it regardless.
Winter 2019, and River’s head flick eased and she was able to be taken off of GrazeEzy for winter, as there was hardly any grass and only hay. We got a substantial amount of riding in and she got very fit. We did a couple of shows at the end of Winter and the start of Spring.
Spring 2019, head flick started again, we added GrazeEzy back into her feed and the head flicking eased for a week or so then started up again. We were unable to remove her from pasture due to grazing circumstances.
Summer 2019-2020 River’s head flick was on and off, some rides or when lungeing there was bad flicking, other times there were no flicks.
AlleviateC/SOS was added to feed. We attended a show and had great results. She was still on green pasture, but not extremely flush. It was very frustrating that River was sometimes in discomfort and that it was extremely difficult to manage.
Autumn 2020, We decided to scrap the shows we had planned to attend as her head flick became constant and quite bad. We rode about once a week, even then she was still flicky. We moved grazing facilities and although she was still flicking on green grass it wasn’t as bad as at the previous grazing. At this point, I was at my wits end, she was clearly unhappy and it was taking a toll on both of us!
Winter 2020, we had a warmish winter, so the grass was still sprouting. Her hardfeed consisted of Speedi-beet, crushed barley, copra, oaten chaff, vegetable oil, salt. River was still flicking a lot, even on minimum grass, and developed an edema under her belly behind the girth. She was on Premium MVA for her essential nutrition, I increased her AlleviateC/SOS to 2 scoops and then we introduced 4 mini scoops of the new formula ‘Alleviate Gold’.
When it comes to head-shaking it is easy to make the mistake of thinking it is a ‘separate’ issue which only involves the trigeminal nerve. Head-shaking is in fact, just one manifestation of systemic physiological disturbances caused ultimately by a diet that is not ideal for the species.
Edie’s account includes the forage her horse River was on when the head-flicking first appeared plus describes the realities of overcoming this potentially debilitating syndrome. Good on Edie for persevering even when her circumstances made things difficult - she found a way...
Helping horses to recover from head-shaking is something we have a lot of practical experience in. Some are more difficult than others, you will need plenty of support through the process.
Please contact us for guidance and support