Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Heart-Breaking, Disturbing Day

A serious issue emerged yesterday which kept me from ponying Beautiful. It started when I got Cowboy and went to saddle him. When I lifted the saddle towards him he panicked a bit like he didn't know what it was and pulled back. He did this before with fly spray before a ride, but he's never done it with a saddle. Last week one of my stirrups fell off and when I went around to the side where I needed to reattach it, he got the same look in his eye.

I decided to work him in the round pen to see what was going on and he started doing all this head-shaking and stamping and rubbing of his nose on his foot. He couldn't even think properly--which made him dangerous. I asked my husband to film some of it. My husband thought it was all behavioral--which, in some ways, is true. First, he gets the tickling or whatever is happening in the nose, and then he wants to charge back to the herd for safety. He seems unsure of what's happening to him and very frustrated by it.

I worked with him for over two hours and by the time we were done--in the heat of day--he wasn't doing it as much, but there was still the occasional rubbing of the nose and frustration while I was in the saddle.

I decided to separate him from the herd and put him back in a stall to observe him. He stayed in the barn all day, seeming to want to be away from the sun. His personality returned back to normal.

I'm going to go out again today to work with him. The pulling back is really strange because it seems like he doesn't really see what's coming at him. The head-shaking, stamping reminds me of a horse who has been stung by a bee or has a horse-fly stuck to him--this mindless trying to escape.

I just observed him, moments ago, in his run and he was doing the same thing, but on a more minor scale--bobbing his head and rubbing it against his leg. The whole thing is very disturbing. I'm going to let my vet see the footage below so she can get a better idea of what I'm talking about. If anyone out there has any ideas, you're welcome to share them. It makes me heart-sick to see my normally sweet horse like this.



http://headshakingsyndrome.com/criteria.html This is hallmark head-shaking syndrome with the vertical, involuntary head-tossing and the striking at his nose and trying to escape the pain. I would say he was a 5-6 on their scale.

17 comments:

  1. Cowboy is a beautiful horse. There is definitely something bothering him to cause that behavior. I had a horse who did a lot of head shaking and rubbing on his leg once. He was allergic to all the spring buds coming out and the pollen and grasses. It would stop once everything settled down. Cowboy looks more agitated than mine ever did though.

    I'd have the vet check him anyway to make sure he doesn't have a bite or something lodged up his nostril like a splinter or whatever. At least it would be a place to start.

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  2. Something is clearly bothering him. Definitely his head and most likely his nose, but could also be ears (should get everything checked out). I think the vet needs to use a scope and look up his nose and see into his nasal passages. Horses don't get these, but sheep do - bot fly larvae that live in the nose. Weird, but I'd think that would cause symptoms like this...again, horses don't get them. The stamping looks more like striking to me - he's striking at whatever is bothering him so much in his nose. Does he sneeze at all? Or chew? I wonder if he just got something in his nose. Has he ever has porcupine quills in his muzzle? They migrate around if you don't pull them out. Gosh, I can see how helpless you feel. You don't want him to be this uncomfortable. Definitely show your vet that video.

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  3. It could be a variant of head-shaking syndrome, where the theory is that the facial nerves get aggravated and painful - there are some treatments for it, involving anti-histamines and in some cases a nose net when riding. Or it could be something that's affecting his vision or something in his mouth or nasal cavity - it's very hard to tell. Something's clearly hurting, and it involves his face/head - I'd start there with the vet.

    Good luck - sending best wishes to you both.

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  4. Check this out,
    http://www.headshaking.com/syndrome.htm

    Poor horse! I hate it when they are so bothered.

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  5. When my horses hurt, it makes me want to cry. I've been out there with him this morning and he's doing very light bobbing. He lost his mask in the pasture and I haven't found it yet, but I do have an extra with the ears, so I'm going to go put it on him. He'd lost his mask and was out in the sun when this flared up. It's the exact same thing we've been dealing with for a year, but worse in that video--so I don't think its anything new. She checked his ears and nose before, but didn't scope it.

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  6. I'm always surprised horses don't have more nose/eye/mouth trouble as much stuff as they're exposed to (breathing dust, insects, seeds, etc.). I'm with Linda--a horse that's in pain=owner in pain. I'm sorry this is happening and hope you have some answers soon.

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  7. I have no idea what could be causing that but he definitely is in pain. All that shaking and striking... hard to watch, poor guy. I hope the vet can figure it out. I also thought of scoping.

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  8. I wanted to let you all know that he's doing great right now. He seems to prefer the dark stall and he has his fly mask back on. He's back to his old self. Now it's just a matter of how he will do coming out in the sun again for rides.

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  9. Sending you and Cowboy hugs and hopes that this is easily remedied.
    *hugs*
    ~Amber

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  10. Came over here from Nuz Muz's blog. Broke my heart to watch the video and see your worry for him as you worked with him in the round pen. Poor Cowboy. I hope he can be healed. Nerves are a tricky thing. But they can and do heal sometimes.
    Sounds like you are doing the best for him. Did you contact the Head Shaking Research folks to get their opinion and possibly participate in a study? It might help you figure things out:

    p.neffdressage@yahoo.com

    I'm so sorry you and he are having to go through this. I have a horse that was affected by sage toxicity last summer and suffered from ataxia and behavioral problems. She even kicked me in the face and broke my orbital bone because she just wasn't acting normal.
    So, please be careful while Cowboy is going through this situation, so you don't inadvertently get hurt.

    Take care,
    ~Lisa

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  11. Thanks, Lisa. You're right--it is very dangerous. They can't think, but they come to you for help and then you have to push them away. It's awful. I'm very sorry about your mare. I did wonder, too, if Cowboy had eaten something toxic, but this has been going on on a smaller scale since last year.

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  12. Oh, and Lisa, I did contact them this morning and I sent them the video. I haven't heard back yet.

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  13. Hmmm. My gut, after watching the video, says that something is stuck up his nose. I'm glad you have contacted your Vet. That is what I would do too. Let us know the outcome, okay? I'm worried about Cowboy!

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  14. Hi Deanna--Actually, I haven't contacted my vet yet since Cowboy is now doing fine and she assessed him for this not long ago and couldn't find anything. All signs of head bobbing have gone away...for now. I have no doubt he has head-shaking sydrome. My vet, unfortunately, doesn't know much about it--I don't know if anyone really does, so I contacted two vets who seem to know the most, and I've sent them the video. I will definitely keep you posted as I find out more. For now, Cowboy is happily eating his dinner with his mask on....in his cool, shaded stall.

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  15. Oh thank you so much for the update Linda!!! Sounds like Cowboy is feeling better.
    I'm so interested in what you learn from the Vets you sent the video to!
    Thanks again -

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  16. I couldn't picture what you were describing at first. The video really put it into perspective. He's obviously so irritated that anything or anyone who gets in his way could definitely be in danger. I'm glad he's doing better. My thought was a burr or insect in the nose or ears, possibly a toothache. It was interesting reading about the facial nerve comments. I wonder what it is about the sun or heat that aggravates it. Maybe whatever it is expands in the heat? Do you have foxtails where you live? I'll try to remember to take a picture of mine. We have a really bad outbreak of these weeds. I can't walk around my property without these sharp burrs getting stuck in me. They go right through my shoes and socks and start burrowing into my ankles and feet. Very dangerous for animals that don't have a thumb and forefinger to pluck them out. Dogs get them stuck in their paws, nostrils, ears and eyes and they burrow right through their internal organs.

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  17. Like your vets not knowing about head-shaking syndrome, the local vets around here had never heard of sage toxicity either. In fact when I told anyone about my horse's symptoms and that I believed she had OD'd on the sage in our pasture because nothing else was growing in there at the time, most folks just scoffed and told me things like their horse eats sage all the time and nothing ever happens.

    I had to do a lot of research online and discovered a toxic plant list book written by a college in Colorado that listed the symptoms, causes, treatments and predictions. It was kind of funny actually to feel relief to know that my suspicions were correct and that I wasn't just making it all up.
    I suspect head-shaking syndrome probably gets some similar reactions, too.

    I hope those folks contact you. I bet it will end up being helpful to have their support. Let us know if they do.

    Take care,
    ~Lisa

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