Cribbing can damage fence rails and stall ledges as well as exert an unhealthy load on a horse’s incisor teeth, so prevention is the key to controlling this horse behavior.
Cribbing may be caused by various issues, including digestive irritation (ulcers), boredom, too much concentrate or sweet feed, housing in stalls without enough socialization, or housing alone in isolation stalls without enough stimulation from outside social connections. Herding and turnout time may help mitigate some horses’ behaviors that lead to cribbing.
Why Do Horses Crib?
Horses who crib may find the behavior pleasurable. Cribbing may also serve as a form of chewing, damaging surfaces where the horse cribs. Cribbing should not be confused with wood chewing which serves the purpose of increasing long stem forage intake; horses predisposed to crib may include those weaned too early, kept in stalls, and fed concentrate feeds.
Cribbing can cause significant physical harm, but horses that crib also frequently develop overdeveloped neck muscles that interfere with carrying themselves under saddle and may affect how their bit fits them.
Crab-biting behavior in horses can be difficult to suppress without providing alternative outlets for stress release. Studies have revealed that blocking this ability without providing other methods could increase risk of colic in some horses.
Physical prevention methods include using cribbing collars or straps, removing surfaces that might tempt horses to crib on, and applying unpleasant tasting substances to surfaces they might use as bedding. A better approach may be meeting each horse’s species-appropriate needs: be sure that their diet contains minimal sugars and concentrates; provide plenty of opportunities for socialization and grazing – this will reduce boredom or overexcitement that leads to cribbing episodes.
Cribbing can put tremendous strain on a horse’s mouth, throat and jaws, leading to abnormal wear on its incisor teeth and even dental emergencies. Furthermore, it may result in frenulum formation – which restricts airflow and is uncomfortable for the horse – as well as hinder swallowing functions which could contribute to digestive issues or lead to weight loss in some horses. Cribbing may even prevent eating altogether leading to poor health or weight loss for some individuals who crib.
Researchers remain uncertain of why some horses crib, though environmental influences could play a part. For instance, horses housed all day in their stall may feel bored and become more likely to crib due to no turnout or social interactions with other horses. A diet high in concentrates and low forage could also increase their likelihood of cribbing.
Cribbing should be recognized by owners as a serious problem for horses, with horses that frequently crib causing significant damage and noise while chewing away at their surroundings and creating lots of noise with their teeth grinding. They are also more prone to specific colic issues like epiploic foramen entrapment – wherein part of their small intestine slips through an opening in their abdomen, connecting their omental bursa with their peritoneal cavity – due to chewing at an inappropriate time and place.
Cribbing may not be entirely predictable, but researchers do agree it is not contagious. Horses kept together who don’t crib don’t learn from each other to crib. Cribbing may act as a means of stress or frustration management and it may release endorphins that help decrease heart rates and cortisol levels, though its exact purpose remains unknown.
One theory suggests that horses with gastric ulcers may crib to ease pain and discomfort associated with their condition. Unfortunately, however, a study using an antacid medication showed no impact on this behavior.
Cribbing can cause more than pain; it can also result in wear-and-tear on a horse’s teeth and damage to their incisors, and lead to reduced food consumption, leading to weight loss and poor body condition.
Cribbing can be difficult to solve once it begins; once established, its roots run deep. Once this behavior begins it’s difficult for horses to break it; therefore it is best to prevent horses from developing the habit in the first place by offering ample turnout space, social interaction opportunities with other horses and decreasing amounts of concentrated or sweet feed diets that contain concentrates or sweet feed. These factors all may help.
Cribbing can often become an involuntary habit that’s difficult to break once established, making the best defense to stop its progression even harder than initially expected.
Cribbing in horses is a complex issue involving several different factors including genetics, management and environment. Horses who crib may be more prone to colic and dental issues; additionally cribbing can damage barns, trees and fences as well as lead to stress for both owner and horse alike. An addicted horse may even sacrifice eating altogether in favor of cribbing which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition; deterrent measures like hog rings may not always work effectively either.
Studies indicate that certain stereotypies are natural components of domesticated horse behavior. Therefore, it’s crucial that owners understand what causes these behaviors and how to counter them.
Key elements for horse care include providing them with enough pasture time, social interaction and a nutritious diet. Weaning foals on time and allowing them to graze as often as possible with pairs or small groups helps minimize the risk of cribbing; providing low-sugar hay as well as avoiding sugary treats are also necessary to keeping horses’ teeth in excellent condition. It is wise to have their dental health regularly assessed.