Headaches are something that we don’t really talk about when it comes to horses, but animals can get headaches as much as we do!
The horse’s head is made of multiple bones that are articulated to each other via fibrous joints called suture. The movement of each of those joint is incredibly subtle and it takes years of practice to be able to feel it, but there is movement, and that’s an incredibly important point as it allows the brain (and so the entire body) to function at its best!
But just like in the rest of the body, tension can occur, resulting in reduced movement of the cranial joints. This creates a mechanical imbalance that will affect local activity as well as far-off structures such as the sacrum.
This imbalance within the cranial joints might cause a headache on its own, but often something else will come and trigger the pain: slight dehydration, change in feed, change in temperature, tiredness, stress, added tension in the neck or pole etc.
Symptoms of headache might be as subtle as a change in behaviour where your horse seems in a bad mood for no reason, is jumpy or unwilling to work. But for more painful headaches, the symptoms can actually be similar to a mild colic, with a horse standing in a corner, refusing to eat and looking in pain. Unfortunately there’s no way for us to make the difference between symptoms of a colic and ones of a headache, so you should of course call your vet if you suspect a colic, but if your vet is unable to say which type of colic it was, keep in mind that it could have been a headache.
The good news is that with craniosacral techniques, your practitioner can identify tension within the cranium and stimulate the body to bring back mechanical balance of the joints, which will limit the possibility of headaches. So make sure your horse’s head gets treated as it’s absolutely key to its well-being