What Is Horse Cribbing

What is Horse Cribbing?

“Cribbing”, also known as “wind sucking”, is the act of a horse gripping an edge such as a wooden fence, grain bin, metal round pen, stable door, etc., with his front teeth, arching his neck and swallowing air.

This act of swallowing air creates a grunting or belching noise. Note that cribbing and wood chewing are not the same. Some horses will chew on wood without arching their neck or sucking in air.

The last thing that a stable owner needs is a cribber. A cribbing horse can drive even the strongest horseman to his knees in frustration. Not only is it obnoxious to witness, cribbing can also impair a horse’s long-term health and cause significant damage to a stable.

The bad news is there’s no “magic bullet” to overcome a cribbing problem since what may work for one may not work for another. But there’s an assortment of remedies that just might solve your horse’s vice. But first things first, what causes a perfectly healthy and supposedly normal horse to crib?

So far it is believed that the two major causes of horse cribbing are:

* Boredom
* The example set by other cribbers in the stable

By nature, horses are grazing animals. So when they’re forced to remain within a stall for long periods of time without hay to graze on, they’ll eventually become stressed. This stress leaves them open to picking up a vice to distract their idle mind.

So the easiest measure you can take to prevent your horse from turning into a cribber is to ensure your horse doesn’t stand idle all day and become bored. One step you can take is to consider much more frequent yet slightly smaller portions of hay instead of feeding three huge flakes of hay a day.

Another measure is to look into finding horse toys that can entertain your horse while he’s not eating or you could consider salt licks for his “down time”. Of course, the most ideal solution is to set him out to pasture. Unfortunately, this isn’t an option available to most stable owners.

The second major cause of cribbing is the example set by other cribbers. Horses are herd animals and so they tend to observe ― and more importantly imitate ― each other’s actions. If a horse watches another horse crib for extended periods of time (especially an idle observer) then there’s a good chance the observer will also copy the behavior he sees. Some horses will dismiss the cribber and never pick up the vice. But it can be an extremely contagious habit. If it’s possible at all, a stable owner should isolate a cribber from the rest of the herd.

Cribbing can be an incredibly difficult habit to break a horse from once it is allowed to take root. The reason for this is two-fold:

* Cribbing is believed to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
* Cribbing is a natural high

Cribbing is more than just an obnoxious habit that can damage your property. It is a vice that can create long-term health problems for your horse. The most obvious health issue for cribbers is their teeth since the constant grinding of teeth against wood, plastic or metal wears them down at an abnormally quick pace. A long-term cribber can grind his front teeth down so low that a gap exists between the upper and lower teeth even when the jaw is completely closed.

It is also commonly believed that cribbing can ultimately lead to an increased chance of colic, flatulence, and digestion problems due to the air that’s swallowed. For this reason, there are some equine insurance companies that will refuse to provide insurance to a horse that exhibits this vice. They simply don’t believe the increased risk of health issues is worth it.

Some recent studies have questioned this common belief, suggesting that only a small amount of air is taken in during cribbing that actually reaches the stomach. The researchers suggest that the increased colic and flatulence aren’t directly attributed to the cribbing itself, but rather to secondary factors such as worn teeth.

When a horse’s teeth are worn down to the point they can’t properly grind the food, their digestion will suffer significantly. As a result, this leads to an increased chance of colic. So no matter how you look at it, cribbing can impair a horse’s health significantly, particularly over the span of a lifetime.

If you own a cribbing horse, then don’t despair! There are a variety of products or techniques that you can use to help you overcome horse cribbing in your stable.

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