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Over the past five years, vet Stephen Ashdown has written many articles, spoken on equine matters and contributed widely to horse magazines.

Here he reproduces in the form of questions and answers about 100 topics, all of them common problems which afflict horses.

To access Topics click on Vet Advice Menu.

He Headshakes
Q Last Spring my 16.2hh, five-year-old Thoroughbred gelding appeared to develop sensitivity to small flies and strong smelling wild flowers such as cow parsley.

The problem settled only to return this year. He began headshaking quite badly as soon as the flies and oil seed rape appeared and this has continued despite veterinary intervention. Are there any herbal remedies I can try.

A The problem of pollen sensitivity and headshaking is common and shared by many distressed horse owners. It appears that such allergies are becoming more common with each passing year this may be due to increasing levels of pollution and the cultivation of new crops such as oils seed rape.

You also mention that your horse is becoming very sensitive to flies, which makes the whole problem worse. In the normal veterinary armoury there are very few ways of tackling such problems effectively. Vets can use antihistamines and steroids in the worse cases. However, the fact remains that horses when they are outside grazing are constantly exposed to high levels of pollen.

As time goes by, horses will become more and more sensitive to allergens in the environment and the situation often progresses to nerve damage inside the head, which causes headshaking in the winter as well as the summer. Herbs are one effective way of tackling such problems.

Many herbs have a type of antihistamine action, e.g. fresh extract of nettle (dried nettles don't work). Some ayurvedic herbs can also work and will help to repel flies. An extract of cedar trees can be extremely helpful in repelling flies and soothing the lining of the nose. 

. We have also found that magnesium supplements and using calming formulas can help speed recovery. Managing affected horses is also important and nose nets may improve the situation further.Global Herbs have a new product out called Shakefree which combines all these ideas.

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