You walk into your horse’s stall and notice that his feed bin is pulled half way off the wall, with teeth marks in the plastic. Then you look around and see that he’s pulled chunks of wood off the wall all the way around his stall. Sure enough, you look over and see that your horse is cribbing – setting his teeth on the wood of his stall and sucking in air.
Before you panic and write him off as a lifelong cribber that will never have any resale value, understanding some of the reasons that horses crib can help settle your mind and come up with a game plan (with your vet, of course).
“Usually this behavior is associated with boredom or confinement of horses,” said Dr. Cleet Griffin, an associate professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, in his article about the behavior.
What can begin as a boredom beater can turn into an addictive habit as the action of windsucking can release endorphins, making the feeling of cribbing pleasurable.
“Prevention can include the use of mechanical devices to prevent grasping objects, such as a muzzle,” said Dr. Griffin. “The muzzle is worn continually by the horse and limits cribbing behavior, but not eating and drinking. In my experience these seem very humane and work well at preventing the behavior.”
He continued, “A ‘cribbing collar’ fits very snug around the throat latch area of the neck of the horse and discourages the horse from engulfing air. These have been utilized commonly to help prevent cribbing behavior. Other approaches that have been practiced include surgery, acupuncture, nutritional alterations, and environmental alterations to deter the behavior.”