What is Cribbing and How to Prevent Cribbing in Horses
Cribbing is a bad habit seen in some horses is also known as windsucking. The technical term for it is aerophagia. This is a problem not only in horses, but mules and donkeys as well. A horse may develop this behavior on its own, or learn it from a stablemate, or their mother.
What is it?
Cribbing is act of a horse biting a surface, often a fence, and while arching their neck, they inhale air. A huffing noise also occurs at this time.
A very few chronic horses will crib on nothing at all.
Cribbing is very often a symptom of boredom or stress. As such it is common in horses that are stabled for long periods of time, as in horses at race tracks, PMU mares, and those in show barns. As mentioned it can also be learned from being stabled with other horses who have this problem.
- Cribbing/Windsucking is a health problem because horses who do this may have a greater risk of colic.
- Horses with this behavior often wear their teeth down and an angle that causes them problems eating.
- Horses may risk getting slivers of wood stuck in their mouth or throat.
- Horses who are cribbers tend to be poorer keepers and often have difficulty keeping weight on.
- Cribbing is destructive, damaging to fences, stall doors, and even trees.
- Some boarding stables will ask that owners with cribbing horses to remove them from the stable. This is not only to stop the destruction to their barn, but to also reduce the risk of other horses learning the behavior.
- There really is no “cure” as such, only fixes. The most common fix being the use of a cribbing strap which goes around the horses neck, and fits in a way that it does not allow them to do this. It should be put on all the time the horse is in a stall, and may need to be used when the horse is in the pasture too.
- More entertainment, and less time in the stall may help.
- For horses kept in box stalls, using a stall guard which allows them to stick their head out of the stall and look around is a good option, as these are not solid (typically made of canvas) they do not allow cribbing.
Use caution when buying a horse to make sure it does not have this habit. Examine the stall the horse is kept in for signs of cribbing, such as teeth marks on the stall door.
Do not stable your horse where horses with this behavior problem are kept unless they wear proper cribbing straps.
Keep your horse mentally happy. This means lots of outside time in a large and interesting pasture. You can get toys for horses, such as inner tubes and large balls. Providing a different routine will also aid in having a happy horse.
Add variety to your riding routine. Sometimes in the arena, sometimes out, some times just going for walks on a lead. Some morning rides, some afternoon.
Reduce stress by remembering that horses are basically herd animals, they do best when kept with companions. Even a llama is a good companion where a second horse cannot be kept.
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