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Holistic Horse Issue 113

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Lisa Machala, LMT

Just like their riders, many horses suffer from chronic headaches. Horses often sustain repeated blunt force trauma to the skull. Risks for these traumas can be found in nearly every barn and pasture. Horses strike their heads frequently: rearing in a trailer or in a barn often means blunt force trauma to the horse’s head. By merely raising his head from underneath a fence rail or a feed bucket the horse can sustain an injury.

Over the years I have also seen a number of young horses that sustained facial and skull injuries from being kicked in the face. One injury was so severe that the horse looked like two different horses in profile; on one side he looked like an Arabian with a classically “dished” face, and on the other side, he looked like a warmblood with very straight frontal bones.

Often times these injuries go unnoticed or unaddressed. After all, what are you going to do, place an ice pack on your horse’s head? Probably not, but it is important to realize that these injuries can be cumulative and can ultimately reach a point of critical mass where the horse’s behavior changes radically.

Some horses become head shy, while others may develop habits like grinding teeth, TMJD (temporal mandibular joint dysfunction) and some will develop head shakers syndrome. Each of these behaviors can have a number of causes, and treatment protocols will depend on the exact nature of the horse’s condition. Always consult your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

Remington – A Case Study

I met Diane at a horse expo. She had a young gelding named Remington that she had raised from a foal. He had been kicked badly in the mouth as a weanling, and had sustained several broken teeth. At the time of the injury Diane called in a very capable equine dentist who worked on the young horse and corrected what could be addressed. The horse received consistent specialized dental care throughout his young life.

Remington started under saddle and training went well for a period of time. Gradually though, Diane noticed that there were days when Remington did not seem to be himself. He became erratic in his behavior and would take control
of the bridle and bolt with his rider. This did not happen every time Diane rode, but over time the incidences became more frequent and more violent. Diane sustained several serious injuries and began to worry about what was wrong with her horse. Diane’s husband urged her to get rid of the horse if no resolution could be found.

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