Three Horse Cribbing Solutions
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What is Cribbing?
Like all other stable vices, cribbing is caused purely by the horse’s lifestyle. While some oldfashioned sources and horsepeople consider cribbing to be a misbehavior – even likening it to addiction in humans – it is, in fact, a symptom of a lifestyle so depressing it has driven the horse to distraction. If we want to liken stable vices to a form of human behavior, we’d be better off comparing it to self-harm.
Horses crib because they are stressed and bored. As a flight animal, the horse typically seeks solace in movement. When he’s trapped in a small space for too many hours every day, the horse feels confined and is unable to express himself naturally, so he turns to odd behaviors to keep his body busy and attempt to feel better. Cribbing is one of these behaviors.
This stable vice is also one of the most harmful to the horse’s health. For a start, over time, the cribber’s upper incisors can become worn down to almost nothing from all the pressure he places on them. Another problem is that the ingestion of air can cause bloating, ulcers, and other forms of gastric problems – all of which eventually lead to colic, which can be deadly. To add to this problem, the stress of the cribber’s lifestyle already predisposes him to gastric ulcers, so once he starts cribbing he is almost guaranteed to suffer from this painful condition.
Once a cribber has learned the habit, he will never forget it. It’s almost impossible to actually cure a cribber of his condition, but it can be mitigated to the point where he only does it so rarely that it has almost no impact on his health.
Addressing the Cause
The only way to really help a cribbing horse is to fix the cause of the vice, which is, quite simply, the fact that your horse is miserable. While most horses are quite happy to be stabled overnight, your cribber might be staying inside for too long – either now or in some past home. The simplest solution and the one that is best for your horse’s welfare is to make him a happy horse.
To do this, consider the horse’s natural lifestyle. He lives in a large, open space with a group of other horses. So your cribber would do best when turned out in a big pasture with plenty of friends all day and night. In most climates, horses can be quite happy when living out full-time if they have access to a run-in shelter and are appropriately rugged up in inclement weather.
In order to really put a stop to the habit, you can also ensure that there is nothing in the pasture that the horse can brace his teeth on. Use a water trough with thin sides and feed your hay on the ground or in a
If your horse has to be kept in for some reason – such as severe thunderstorms or requiring box rest for an injury – there are some steps you can take to prevent the vice from occurring. One of the most effective is the use of a cribbing collar. This collar has a metal
attachment over the horse’s throat that allows the horse to breathe and swallow normally, but squeezes the sides of his throat if he attempts to gulp air through his esophagus.
The cribbing collar must be used with great discretion and only when no other option presents itself. Whichever collar you purchase, ensure that it is made of leather or has breakaway points so that your horse can’t accidentally strangle himself with it overnight. Also, bear in mind that the collar is a kind of straitjacket for horses: it will prevent him from hurting himself, but it won’t help him to feel
Feed Enough Roughage
something that also contributes to the overproduction of gastric acid and, thus, the formation of ulcers. Horses should have access to hay or grass 24/7. A single haynet in the stable just isn’t enough. Having something to chew on all night will help keep your horse’s mouth busy, as well as helping his mind and body to feel better. It will even save on your concentrate bill as your horse will maintain condition better on fewer concentrates.
The simplest solution is to provide your horse with enough hay that he always has a bit left over in the morning. However, some chubby equines – especially those on box rest – will become obese if given access to ad lib hay. For these, use a Slow Feed Hay Net or hay bag to make your horse’s hay last longer.