How Natural Therapies Can Help Your Headshaker Horse

How Natural Therapies May Help Your Horse's Headshaking

What Is Headshaking?

A horse who's known as a head shaker, is one who has a severe shake to the head. This isn't a mild shake to remove a flying insect. But a shake that means a frequent vertical movement. Although sometimes there's a movement side to side.

What Causes A Horse To Headshake?

There's not a simple answer to this. Environmental factors can make a difference. This could be sunlight, dust, pollen, wind or noise. Tack can cause problems, such as the type of bridle used. But there can be physical reasons too. These could be from sinusitis, dental issues or an infection.

There's been research to review whether neuropathic pain is a cause. Research in 2019 confirmed that the clinical signs of trigeminal-mediated headshaking are consistent with neuropathic pain of the trigeminal nerve". Read this Vet Med (Auckl) research here.

How Would You Know If Your Horse Headshakes?

As I mentioned above, it's very obvious. A sharp movement of the head. It is often noticeable only when you're riding your horse. Or when you're handling them, such as leading or grooming. When the horse is grazing, often there's no issues.

If there's an occasional shake to the head, then this is normal! If you're concerned, then do speak to your veterinary surgeon. There can be many reasons your horse could shake the head. Many you don't need to worry about and will pass.

What Can You Do To Help A Horse Who Headshakes?

Do speak to your veterinary surgeon. If there's a physical cause such as sinusitis, dental issues, infection, etc, then this will need to be identified and resolved. Remember the longer an issue continues, the more complex it maybe to help, so the earlier diagnosis and treatment can be the better.

If there's no obvious physical problems, and you notice the problem when you're riding. Then speak to an experienced riding instructor. A change of bridle, bit or riding position can make a huge difference.

If pollen, dust or sunlight exacerbate the head shaking. Then try a face mask. There's many different types of face masks for your horse. Some have the ears covered as well. Some also have veils to go over the nose too. What your horse minds wearing will vary! And there are many different styles. You can ride your horse in many of these, as they often fit with the bridle.

Also try riding at a different time of day. If sunlight is a problem, then try riding in the evening or early morning. Away from the midday/early afternoon sunshine can make a big difference.

How Natural Therapies Can Help Your Horse Who Headshakes?

Equine craniosacral therapy is a holistic approach that's been used to help many horses affected by head shaking. Although veterinary research is limited (read more about why this can be here). You can find out more information, including case study articles and videos on how equine craniosacral can help with TMJ (temporomandibular joint) imbalances at

Veterinary Acupuncture, research published in 2017 showed that Electro-acupuncture can be beneficial to help with headshaking. Read this here

Zoopharmacognosy and its use of essential oils can have a big impact on behavioural issues. So of course, it will depend on the cause of the head shaking as to whether it will work or not! Seek the services of a professional zoopharmacognosy practitioner to ensure your horse gets the most out of this therapy. And only after you've got veterinary approval that this is worth trying.

Pens Therapy, this is used with humans to help with nerve pain. And according to the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) can be used for horses who headshake. Find out more information at the RVC website here. Or read this research here

Herbal supplements, again it depends on the cause of the head shaking. But although natural, herbs can be very powerful. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise if this could help, as some horses may find irritation reduced through the appropriate use of herbs. There are too veterinary surgeon's who've trained in herbal medicine, if you need help finding one, please email info at taranet

Homeopathy encompasses dozens of different remedies. A qualified veterinary homeopath will be able to advise you if they can help you. But if the likely cause of the head shaking is known. Then homeopathy maybe useful to reduce symptoms. Research on its use can be found in the Vet Record here

Remember that if a physical cause is found and resolved, your horse may take some time to get used to being pain free. So patience and training will be required. Also, Bach Flower Remedies are helpful to help with the emotions and with training. Find out more about these 38 different remedies here.

In conclusion… Headshaking is complex. There can be many reasons for your horse to headshake. Many people have different opinions on the cause. My top tip is always listen to your veterinary surgeon. An experienced equine veterinary surgeon can advise and help diagnose.

But always look at management of your horse alongside the physical cause. Changing your exercise routine. Changing tack. Using fly masks. These are simple, but can make a huge difference. As part of an integrated and holistic approach, all aspects of care should be considered as all inter-link and make a difference.

Different therapies can have a place to be useful. But only after your veterinary surgeon has diagnosed the cause and identified what treatment is required.

Any therapies or medication or management changes, can of course come at a financial price. But then again owning horses is never cheap!! And helping your horse to live a happy and healthy life is priceless :)

Like help finding a veterinary surgeon or therapist for your animal?
Please email me at info at taranet . co. uk

Please remember that if your horse is unwell. Or on any kind of medication or other supplement. Then always speak to your Veterinary Surgeon first before using any supplement or therapy. Even natural ones. To avoid any possible issues.

´╗┐And do you know someone who'd find this helpful? Please share, the more we can spread awareness of the benefits of natural therapies the better! :)

Find out more about other natural animal therapies here at Taranet. Or read other articles in this Natural Pet Health Blog. Take a look at the sitemap here to explore!

About the Author

Suzanne Harris is founder of this Taranet website at, and also provides business coaching to horse and dog care and veterinary professionals.