Horses get headaches too!
Headaches! We all have experienced these at least once in our life. They can occur at any stage of the day and make us feel uncomfortable and stressed for the duration of the headache. A headache is known as throbbing, squeezing, intermittent pain in the head. If you are unable to go home and sleep the headache off, the only way of getting through the day is to go and have a panadol. I have experienced a lot of headaches in my life and also been a regular sufferer of migraines. Migraines are horrible! Generally, there is a reason for why we get a headache. I know myself that there are many triggers that can cause them. I am always being mindful of the things that I am eating and activities I am doing, trying to prevent the headache before it sets in for the worst. Some triggers for me that can cause a headache include: dehydration, exercise, caffeine, neck strain, stress, sugar, dental issues (if any of you have had braces or do have, tightening them is the worst!) and the flu. You may be able to relate to some of these causes.
Muscle strain can also be a significant trigger for a headache. Due to the brain not having any pain fibers; veins, arteries, nerves and the spinal cord can become inflamed and send messages to the brain causing a headache. I have experienced headaches that many times that now if I get one I can usually pin point the cause of it. Without having to take Panadol I find the best natural remedies for me is using my Doterra peppermint or lavender essential oils and rub it on my temples and back of neck, making sure my body is really hydrated and also supplementing magnesium into my diet. If pain is really bad always seek a professional doctor's advice.
Headaches! Can our horses get them?
Well, they sure can!
Headaches and horses are not the best combination. Head tension in horses can be the cause of a lot of other problems. Using mindfulness to create awareness of your horses tension issues is important to see if your horse has head tension. Horses experiencing head tension my show their symptoms through their behaviour or in their physical work.
Common symptoms that may occur with a horse with a headache:
- Problems putting on head gear (bridles, halters)
- Resisting bending in one direction
- Heavy in one rein when riding
- Difficulty worming
- Revisiting dental work
- Unable to catch the horse in a paddock
- Stress, anxious or worried
- Head shy
Headaches in horses occur from various body tension. Common areas of tension are the poll, temporal mandibular joint (TMJ), mandible and cervical vertebrae. It is also possible that if there is tension in the left side of the poll the right hind can also be affected. This is why it is important to consider the connection of all areas in a horse's body. If there is an injury in one area another structure will be compensating for the pain and is more susceptible for injury as well.
The poll is located behind the horse's ears and begins each side of the neck. A lot of the activities we ask of a horse affects the poll. Regular stretching and flexing of the poll in awkward positions can cause a horse to get a headache. If there are any cervical vertebrae out of place and in need of realigning the poll is directly affected. Dressage horses can experience this due to the high demand of constant flexion through the neck.
A common duty of care when owning horses is keeping up to date with their dental care. Dental issues are one of the primary issues that can cause head tension in horses. If their teeth are not regularly maintained sharp edges can rub and cause pain. Rotten teeth create holes in the gums, food can then build up (take notice of abnormal smells coming from a horses mouth) and mouth diseases can occur. Dentists can pick up on any problems before diseases can occur.
Horses can make multiple facial expressions if they are experiencing a headache. The nostril can be pinched and pursed making the lips tight. Ears showing stress lines underneath them while the ear itself is tight and resistant to freely move. The temporal muscles on the head could also look uneven and not symmetrical. Saliva is important to make note of. If dry, white and thick in texture the horse can show you that they are feeling stressed or worried about something. Other behaviours include chewing, sucking or lolling their tongue. If the bottom lip is relaxed and hanging lower than the top lip this has been known as a form of a relaxed horse but some people don't realise that it can also be a sign of a dental issue. Behaviour is significant as well, horse's can sometimes withdraw in themselves and suffer in silence. If this is an abnormal behaviour of your horse then something might be wrong. As you have read there are SO many things to take notice of when it comes to being aware of head tension in your horse! If you are passionate about taking a holistic approach with your horse then I hope the few things listed can help make you aware of head tension.
Now, I bet you are wondering how can I prevent or stop the discomfort if my horse is experiencing headaches. There are multiple things that can be done. Muscle therapy is one example. If there is a horse with poll or head issue I use my Bowen therapy treatments to relieve them. I have seen many benefits from Bowen therapy when head tension is a problem for the horse I am treating. The riders balance is important, if unbalanced they alter the horse's balance creating muscle strains putting pressure on the head.
I hope this post has made you aware that horses can experience headaches just like US! Being able understand possible subtle hints from your horse may be the difference from your horse living everyday with a headache or being pain free and enjoying their time with you.
Jo-ann Wilson, Preventing and Relieving Tightness in Your Horse's Poll, November 2015, Cited 16/09/17, Website: https://practicalhorsemanmag.com/health-archive/preventing-and-relieving-tightness-in-horses-poll-30187
Sarah Fisher, Tension Patterns in Horses, 2015, Cited: 16/09/17, Website: http://www.listeningtowhispers.com/tensionPatterns.shtml
If you are interested in Aromatherapy for yourself if you are experiencing headaches your self feel free to send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org