Cribbing is an abusive horse behavior which involves placing their upper teeth against surfaces (like fence boards, water troughs or stall doors) before arching their neck and breathing out air with an audible grunting sound. Unfortunately, this habitual behavior can damage fences and walls over time.
Under general anesthesia, surgery that removes muscle tissue has shown some success in curbing crib-biting. Another approach could include laser-assisted modified Forssell’s procedure or laser-assisted modified Forssell’s procedure.
1. Change Your Environment
Lifestyle can have a major influence on whether a horse develops a cribping habit. Studies indicate that horses kept in confinement with limited access to pasture are more likely to start cribping than their counterparts who are free roaming and provided with high concentrate diets and are given no access to grazing areas.
Cribbing is an involuntary behavior exhibited by horses that involves grasping an object with the front incisors and arching their neck to take in air, creating an audible grunting sound. Once initiated, stopping this behavior may be impossible unless stressors such as noise are addressed as well as working closely with your veterinarian to treat any underlying medical conditions that may exist.
2. Change Your Diet
Changes to your horse’s diet could be effective in combatting chronic cribbers. Horses that frequently crib can suffer from digestive issues like ulcers and eating more forage can reduce stomach acidity caused by constant cribbing.
Giving your horse more turnout time and social interaction will enhance his emotional well-being while mitigating environmental stresses that contribute to cribbiting behaviors. Unfortunately, crib biting can often be incurable and horses can resume cribbing even with changes in management.
3. Change Your Training Method
Horses who crib frequently can become bored and need stimulation in order to reduce stress levels. Toys and enrichment devices may provide this stimulation while keeping horses occupied to decrease anxiety levels.
Cribbing may also help relieve gastric discomfort. A comprehensive health screening should be conducted to identify any underlying conditions which might be contributing to discomfort.
Dextromethorphan spray has been shown to effectively decrease cribbing in some horses by inhibiting dopamine receptors and limiting endorphin release associated with this behavior.
4. Change Your Stall Environment
Cribbling horses could be suffering from digestive distress. A veterinarian can determine whether ulcers are present, and recommend treatment options; increasing turn-out and forage intake as well as decreasing predictors such as feed delivery times can also help them relax and stop cribbing. Masterson Method bodywork techniques may also be effective at relaxing horses and stopping cribbing altogether.
Though cribbing cannot always be prevented, ensuring all current welfare issues are taken care of can help your horse live a happier and healthier life. Consult with your veterinarian on making changes to diet, stall environment and management practices which could alleviate his distress.
5. Change Your Stall Design
Cribbing can have serious repercussions for horses’ health. When horses crib, they bite down on stationary surfaces such as stall doors or water troughs before arching their neck to inhale air through its throat with an audible grunting sound – this action damages walls, saddles, stalls, as well as leading to excessive tooth wear and damage.
Reducing concentrate consumption, increasing forage and grazing time, and offering various activities such as stall toys can all help to decrease cribbing. Specialty trough gates designed specifically to prevent this behavior such as mesh, grill or crosshatch designs may be useful tools to combat it; additionally swooped door latches with anti-weave gates may provide further assistance.
6. Change Your Stall Layout
Cribbing horses may be showing abnormal behaviors to adjust to subpar environmental conditions, such as limited turnout or an absence of outlets for their natural behaviors to be expressed. Cribbing may also be indicative of digestive issues and an attempt at relieving stress by the horse itself.
Stall partitions should be left open so horses can see, smell and interact with each other within the barn – this will reduce feelings of confinement that lead to excessive stall walking and weaving.
Rubber cribbing boards or stall toys may help reduce cribbing behavior by increasing turnout and providing forage with lower concentration levels, among other strategies.
7. Change Your Stall Lighting
Once a horse develops a habit of cribbing, it can be extremely challenging to break this behavior. Cribbing can damage fence rails, stall and feeder ledges and posts as well as cause excessive wear on his incisors – not to mention increase nervousness, depress his overall body condition score and increase risk for colic due to digestive issues.
Reducing or eliminating grain from a cribber’s diet and offering more roughage and forage may reduce boredom and cribbing episodes. Chewable toys or slow-feed troughs may also help.
8. Change Your Stall Door
Cribbing can be detrimental to fence rails, stall doors and feeder ledges as well as to a horse’s physical wellbeing. Prolonged cribbing can wear down incisors over time while overdeveloping neck muscles in some horses as they prefer cribbing over eating.
Veterinarians can assist horse owners in diagnosing and addressing any discomfort that might be contributing to their horse’s behavioral problems. Feed containing ingredients to reduce or prevent ulcers could prove useful as could products designed to encourage healthy digestive tract microbiomes.
9. Change Your Stall Rug
Horses crib as it gives them something constructive to do with their hands and an important aspect of their natural behavior. Though sometimes destructive (to fences, stall doors and walls), this activity doesn’t appear dangerous for them.
Cribbing can be an annoying horse behavior and owners want to eliminate it as soon as possible, yet there’s no guaranteed way. Limiting time spent in the stall and increasing turnout could help. A healthy diet and stress reduction might also aid, while supplements that support digestive health may decrease cribbing in certain horses.
10. Change Your Stall Lighting
Cribbing behavior among domesticated horses may be linked to stomach ulcers and can be caused by confinement, low roughage diets, high-concentrate diets, limited access to grazing areas or stress.
Horses who crib should undergo a comprehensive health screening and gastroscope examination in order to rule out any potential medical causes for their behavior. There may also be medication such as dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) that may help reduce cribbing; however, this should only be used as a last resort option.