“ Equilibrium / to relieve head shaking in horses. „
I have spent a few weeks sorting through my boxes of horse equipment that I have stored in my garage. I have had quite a few horses over the years so I have amassed quite a lot of equipment. I've never wanted to throw any of it out just in case it became useful again! About two years ago I sold one of my horses due to progressing up the levels and as much as I wanted to keep him I was able to find him a great owner who had originally loaned him then bought him from me so I knew he was in great hands. Like most horses he wasn't 110% perfect but he was a good egg and always tried his best. However, one of his issues was head shaking which had started about a year into my ownership.
Head shaking is incredibly common with horses but it is incredibly hard to decide whether it is short term irritation or a behavioural problem. It is one of those things which horse owners hate. Most horses will shake their heads due to irritation from flies but horses with severe head shaking exhibit sharp, jerky movements which can completely throw the rider off balance. Trying to pin point something which can be so varied is incredibly hard.
After a few weeks of struggling to ride my horse I spoke to a vet who suggested I should keep a diary of when he shook his head. Simple....it was only when I rode him or when he was doing some sort of exercise. However, he was doing it enough to limit my riding which was no ideal considering we had a whole season of competing coming up. After looking on the internet for that miracle cure I came across the Equilibrium Net Relief Muzzle Net. Could this mesh cover really stop the head shaking?
After deciding which size I wanted I was able to buy it at my local riding club and couldn't wait to see if it did the job. The Equilibrium Net Relief Muzzle Net is specifically designed for head shakers and is made by Equilibrium, an equine goods manufacturer who also make horse boots and various other pieces of equipment. According to Equilibrium the Net Relief Muzzle Net has improves 77% of head shaking sufferers (clinical trials held by De Montford University). The muzzle net is made from a soft contoured mesh which fits neatly over the horses muzzle (giving complete freedom and doesn't restrict the horse's breathing) and is fastened by small Velcro fastenings which fit around the noseband of the bridle (these are adjustable).
I fitted the muzzle net to his bridle and found this incredibly simple and I was able to adjust it without any problems. After tacking my horse up and leading him to the ménage I noticed that he was a bit distracted by the muzzle net which was understandable as he never had anything over his nose before so I let him have one last itch before finally getting on. It was a warmish day with not too many flies as I was riding early in the morning. I did notice initially that he shook his head and I just put this down to the muzzle net. After letting him stretch and warm up enough was enough and we had to do some serious work. Despite a few very mild head shakes I was pleased to see that his violent head jerks had stopped and I was able to ride him uninterrupted for an hour. I used this muzzle net every single time I rode him, including hacking out in the countryside and although we had a few little shakes which I just put down to him being him I was incredibly impressed at how useful this little piece of nylon mesh was!
His new owner is still on my yard with him and she still uses a muzzle net on him and from speaking to her, she wouldn't be without it. She has ridden him a few times without it and although he didn't shake his head to much she didn't want him getting back into bad habits. The muzzle net is certainly the best home treatment for this horse as horses who suffer very violent head shakes can actually have a medical procedure where they can cut the nerves which are deemed faulty. For me this is incredibly drastic and I'm glad my horse (well ex-horse!) could be 99% cured by this muzzle net.
The Net Relief Muzzle Net comes in three colour options; black mesh with black noseband, white mesh with black noseband and brown with brown noseband. It can be purchased in three sizes; pony, cob/horse and XL horse. It is permitted by British Dressage and British Eventing for use in competition (see rule applying to the use of muzzle nets for each organisation). The muzzle costs around £22 - £25 and is available readily online and at any Equilibrium retailers subject to stock.
So for a little bit of mesh it does seem quite expensive. However, the actual relief I had from actually being able to ride my horse without having to battle or even lose my battle was great and it was worth every penny. The muzzle net is easily washable too which is great and mine has lasted for a few years. I've still got it just in case I may need it again in the future and the design hasn't changed. I would definitely recommend this to any rider who has a horse with head shaking problems as it may just work. If it is good enough for Carl Hester (one of the best dressage riders) than it is good enough for me!!