Shivers in Horses: Newest Facts and Findings

Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price

Although cold weather can affect many horses and their owners in the Northern Hemisphere region, ambient temperature does not have any effect on whether a horse shivers despite its bonechilling name. Although this condition has been recognized in some breeds of horses for several centuries, little information was available about its causes and what to do about them.

Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist, shared that the equine community now knows more about shivers, than it did 10 years ago. She also believes it can make progress in terms treatment.

Shivers can be defined as a neuromuscular condition that causes a slow, chronic, and progressive progression. It is characterised by the quivering of the tail and hind limbs during backward movement. Horses rarely experience shivering at the trot or walk. Hyperflexion or hyperextension in one or both of the hind limbs can be seen in affected horses when they are asked to turn their backs. Hyperflexion is when the horse raises one of its hind legs up towards the ceiling and moves it away from the body. This can last several seconds or more. Hyperextension causes the horse to place his hind feet farther back than normal when he moves backwards. Hyperextension causes the hock and stifle joints to become stiff and rigid. In advanced cases, it is possible to feel trembling in the hindquarter muscles.

The cerebellum, which controls muscle activity and is responsible for shivering, appears to be the cause of shivers. According to the latest information, horses suffering from shivers have a cerebellum that lacks an “off button,” which causes certain muscles to be constantly active.

Shivers in Horses

Here are some other things you should know about shivers.

  • Shivers are easy to diagnose if you look for the signs mentioned above. However, shivers can appear in the early stages of a disease. This makes it difficult to diagnose until the disease is fully established. To get a definitive diagnosis, you should consult a veterinarian.
  • Although most horses don’t show signs of shivering until the age of five, some horses may exhibit signs at a younger age.
  • Shivering is more common in horses than in mares.
  • Tall horses, particularly those with 16.2 hands or more, are more vulnerable than shorter horses. Miniature horses and ponies are rarely affected.
  • Researchers believe there is a genetic component to the shivering, which most often occurs in Warmbloods and draft horses.
  • There are many conditions that can mimic the symptoms of shivers, including neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders. A veterinarian examination should rule out stringhaltupward fixing of the patella and equine neuron diseaseEquine protozoal meeloencephalitis is also possible. Don’t confuse shivers and polysaccharide-storage myopathy (PSSM). Some horses may actually have both.
  • Shivers are not a treatable condition. Some horses can compete and perform athletically while others need retirement or humane Euthanasia.

” VitaminE is an important component of neuromuscular conditions. Crandell stated that experts recommend that shiver horses be able to absorb adequate amounts of vitamin E. A single 5,000 IU dose (e.g Nano*E) of water-soluble, natural-source vitamin E doubles serum vitamin D levels in 12 hours.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!