Shivering in horses isn’t about a reaction to cold – it’s a relatively rare movement disorder of horses that’s not well understood. The University of Minnesota’s Equine Center has an excellent overview of what is known about Shivers. The condition typically affects draft horses, but can be seen in lighter horses like Warmbloods. Horses with Shivers have difficulty backing up or even having their back feet picked up for cleaning, trimming, etc. The limb seems to jerk up and lock in a flex. Horses who are in early stages may seem to “snatch away” their back feet when having them lifted. It can also make backing out of a trailer into an ordeal.

Researchers at University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine undertook a web survey to find out how prevalent this disorder is and gather information about affected horses. Owners who suspected their horses had the Shivering condition submitted the surveys and also videos, which served to confirm or rule out the condition. As a result of this web-based epidemiologic study, they found that Shivers is first seen in horses less than 5 years old, is more prevalent in male horses and also – interestingly – taller horses.

I’ve been around horses all my life, but had never heard of Shivers. Besides the fact that Shivers is a rare condition, it could also be because I’m a Quarter Horse girl – and they’re typically shorter than those affected by Shivers. What’s interesting to me, though, is that these survey results will help researchers narrow their focus on those horses – young, male, and tall – who have a higher chance of suffering from this condition. Check out these videos to see how Shivers affects a horse’s movement.

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