horse presses his top teeth against a solid object, arches his neck, and
swallows air in a rocking motion. A grunting or gulping noise emerges. This is
cribbing. Its true cause is unknown but genetics along with stressful
circumstances appear to be the underlying problems. Cribbing is such a
seriously addictive habit that many horses will actually prefer it to eating
and will slowly waste away.
weaning can lead to this negative behavior later in adult horses and while
there’s nothing you can do to change the past, you can take measures to reduce
the physical discomfort and mental strains that contribute to cribbing.
Cribbing collars are tormenting. They may discourage the behavior but they do
not relieve the urge. Managing your horse’s conditions will help lessen the
behavior. Here are some suggestions:
- Provide freedom to graze and roam. This
will have a remarkable effect on stopping this habit. If this is not feasible,
give him as much outdoor space as possible.
- Keep hay in front of your horse. This one
simple change will calm your horse’s demeanor.
- Do not isolate your horse. Isolation
increases a horse’s stress. And be assured: Non-cribbers will not “catch” the
cribbing habit by seeing another horse do it.
- Consider ulcers. Stress, forage
restriction, and stalling can lead to ulcers. Cribbing is often a
result. Basic nutritional management to cure ulcers includes free-choice hay,
water consumption, avoiding starchy feeds (such as oats and corn) and sweet
feeds, and restoring microbial populations through probiotic use.
Dr. Juliet Getty has
taught and consulted on equine nutrition for more than 20 years. Her website, /redirect.php?location=www.gettyequinenutrition.com,
offers a library of helpful articles, a forum on nutrition, and a calendar of
appearances, teleconferences and interviews. Dr. Getty’s comprehensive
reference book, Feed Your Horse Like A Horse: Optimizing your horse’s
nutrition for a lifetime of vibrant health, is available in hardcover and
CD-ROM through her website or at Amazon.com. Dr. Getty offers a free
(and popular) monthly e-newsletter, “Forage for Thought”; sign up through the