September 13, 2019

Headshaking, Part 1

Thank you so much for your comments on the Little Red post.  Me and my mom read every single one, and they meant so much to both of us but especially to her.  The blogging community is awesome <3

Longtime readers will remember that Connor has a "tell" when he's about to come onto my aids.  His ears will both swivel in circles, and then he'll shake his head violently a few times, and speed up. 

It always happens on the left rein, immediately after I get him to stop leaning on the right fore and his body straightens out, and it never happens again throughout the rest of the ride.  He usually goes quite well once we're through that, if a bit more tense than he'd been before the episode.

I've gone back and forth on what's causing it.  My bad riding?  Bridle fit?  Habit?  Conformation?  Is it just a quirk?  But I couldn't shake the idea that it was pain related somehow, so I really buckled down on trying to figure it out.

I started with focusing on me, my hands, but it clearly happens regardless of how heavy the contact is (unlike him getting his tongue over the bit, which is a direct correlation to how heavy the contact is). 

Unrelated: If Indiana Septembers were what the state was like all the time, my house would be worth a million dollars.

Next up was the bridle fitting clinic.  But even with the new, professionally-fitted bridle exerting much less pressure on his poll, the headshaking continued. 

Such a beautiful, well-fitting brown bridle
One day, I was tacking him up and I pulled the bridle's crown back (toward his tail) on the left side underneath his ear, and he did the same ear-swivel-head-shake he does under saddle.  Intrigued, I pulled the bridle back again and he did it again.  I then palpated the spot with my fingers, and he swung his head away from me like, "Ow, lady!"  The same spot on the right didn't palpate nearly as sore.

Red dot = sore spot


I wagered that IF that spot is sore on the left, that could also explain why he doesn't like to flex left, why he often carries his head crooked with the top of it leaning to the left, why he is often against me on the left rein and will swing his head right if he gets half a chance, and why I feel like the left bend is harder to get than the right even when my trainers tell me the bend through his body looks fine.  I mean there was that whole period of time when I first got him when I could barely even turn him left, so it's better than it was, but it's always been an issue.

So I did what any good horse owner does and called my vet.  To be continued!


  1. Intriguing, I am thoroughly invested in the outcome. Don't leave us hanging!

  2. Interesting. I’m curious as to what the vet says.

  3. I'm super behind and I know you have three more parts... But I am going to guess TMJ. My TB had it, and I didn't know until I switched bridles. The newer one had a smaller browband that bothered him. He would shake his head so violently, I honestly thought he was going to concuss himself. I'll keep reading to see where you go!