Of Horse

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There is no other horse behavior as unsettling than cribbing. Cribbing is both a repetitive behavior and a harmful one. Cribbing is a vice that once it is set in it becomes a hard habit to break.

There are several causes of cribbing: Boredom, stress, nervousness, curiosity, excessive energy and nutritional deficiencies.

By definition crib biting (cribbing) is a compulsive behavior in some horses, and is considered a stable vice. It involves the horse grabbing a solid object such as the stall door or fence rail with its incisors, then arching its neck, pulling against the object, and sucking in air. The act of Windsucking is a related behavior whereby the horse arches its neck and sucks air into the windpipe without needing to grab a solid object. This creates a pleasurable "head rush" for the horse that can become addictive.Windsucking is thought to form part of the mechanism of cribbing, rather than being defined as an entirely separate behavior.

While cribbing the horse simply gnaws on wood rails or boards as if they were a food source.sucking air through his teeth into his stomach..A horse who cribs can see many health issues from the act ranging from a variety of digestive problems to severe wear on their incisor teeth. Cribbing can also cause malocclusions, an undesirable positioning of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed.

Cribbing is a addictive behavior and at times a horse will choose cribbing over eating. It is not uncommon to see a cribbing horse lose needed weight.

Once cribbing becomes a vice/habit it is extremely difficult to stop this behavior. Though there are some ways to stop cribbing once it is established, but they can be expensive. Horse owners can cover all wood surfaces with rounded metal edges. Other methods for halting cribbing activity include subjecting your horse to expensive surgery or harsh mechanical cribbing collars or straps. But the easiest thing to do is prevent the vice.

Experts say the best way prevent cribbing is to avoid confining your horses for long periods of time. Turn out your horses more often to give them more freedom and opportunities to burn off excess energy that they put into cribbing. Try a feed change that will tackle their excess energy. Many opt to feed more roughage instead of grain because their horse still gets good vitamins and minerals, but not the excess carbohydrate energy to burn.

Stress can be another cause of cribbing. A great stress reliever is giving your horse social time with other horses. If you do not have access to another horse a goat, dog or even a rooster can give social interaction.

Regular exercise will also help reduce stress and provide sensory stimulation. Stimulate your horses brain by riding them in different environments. Toys such as Pony Pops or a Jolly Ball can combat boredom that leads to cribbing.

You can also try coating wood surfaces with cayenne pepper or an anti-chew spray. Just remember that cribbing is preventable and stoppable. Keep your horse stimulated and spend time one on one time with them and cribbing may never become an issue.

Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.

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  1. evgr
    Great advice!
  2. chloe
    Very informative! Voted up!
  3. Terri AP Widdowson
    I really enjoy your posts! What do you think of painting surfaces with creosote to prevent the vice and make it less pleasurable for those that already engage in cribbing? When writing my post on different beddings, I found that more complex beddings like straw can help prevent cribbing by alleviating boredom. Have you found that? You have my vote.
    1. Tammy Marie Rose
      Tammy Marie Rose
      I've never tried creosote...I have been very lucky so far Denver has not picked up the vice, but I have many friends with the problem. I really think for horses the biggest problem is boredom...thanks for voting :)
  4. HorseDiva
    It's never happened to me, but I can definitely see how this could become a serious problem. I voted.
  5. PonyGirl
    There is a new cribbing collar out that really works- the Dare Collar. It is not like the old fashioned ones at all. It has a small piece of leather covered plastic or wood in the collar, which fits underneath the horses jaw. It does not interfere with the horse's head in any way as long as his head is in a normal position. However, this piece makes it impossible for the horse to flex his head, as he does when he's cribbing, which makes it physically impossible for him to crib. One of the worst cribbers I've ever seen was "cured" instantly with this method. I use the quotation marks, because if you take the collar off, she still cribs. Since seeing it work on that horse, I have seen it successfully used in four others. It does not rub the horse at all. And while creosote, chew stop, cayenne pepper, and the like will work in the short term, horses usually learn to crib on water and feed buckets which can't be coated, or begin to wind suck without needing anything to bite on. The Dare Collar doesn't have these drawbacks. I highly recommend it if you have a cribber or wind sucker.

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