Cribbing | TSLN.com

Cribbing

Photo by Heather Smith ThomasA gate that was damaged by a cribbing horse. Once a horse starts this behavior, it is very difficult to make it stop. Always provide your horse with plenty of exercise - both for the body and the mind - to prevent such behavior

Many horses are kept in an unnatural environment, confined in stalls or small pens. Most of them adapt, but some resort to stereotypic behavior such as cribbing, weaving or stall walking.

Bonnie Beaver, DVM, Diplomate ACVB (Board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Behavioralists), Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, says that when dealing with cribbing, prevention is significantly more important than with a lot of other behavioral problems. It is much harder to stop cribbing than it is to prevent it in the first place.

“People tend to keep horses in stalls or very confined, and forget that horses have certain needs (such as freedom to move about, graze, etc.),” says Beaver. “Horsemen often feed extremely high quality food, creating a higher energy level, yet at the same time are asking these horses to stand still in a stall. When a horse has that much energy, he’s going to do something to get rid of it. For some, it means walking in circles, for some it means weaving, and for some it means cribbing.”

Beaver says some horses, as they become nervous, are much more mouth oriented than others. Some will lick, but many of them will bite on whatever is handy. As they do this and the more they do it, the more they are programming their brain to do it.

“Once the brain is programmed to do this, the horses want to continue doing it, even in cases where you can get them out of the stall,” she explains. “If you just turn them loose in a pasture, some of them may stop cribbing, but if you stress them again, that’s the first thing they do. They revert back to it, since the brain is now programmed to do it.”

Beaver adds some horses, especially if they’ve progressed to the point of becoming a windsucker, will go out in the pasture and put their mouth on a fence plank (or any other solid surface) and stand there and suck air.

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If a horse must be confined, the horseman should find ways to enrich the environment, so the horse won’t start an unwanted behavior.

“First of all, the horse needs lots of daily exercise because this will help get rid of his extra energy,” says Beaver. “The owner may need to consider a change in the horse’s diet so it’s not quite so high in energy.”

Instead of alfalfa hay, a horse owner may be able to get timothy, coastal or some other type of grass hay that’s available in your region. The horse doesn’t need a high energy feed to have a shiny coat and he doesn’t necessarily need grain.

Many horses are kept in an unnatural environment, confined in stalls or small pens. Most of them adapt, but some resort to stereotypic behavior such as cribbing, weaving or stall walking.

Bonnie Beaver, DVM, Diplomate ACVB (Board certified specialist in the American College of Veterinary Behavioralists), Professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, says that when dealing with cribbing, prevention is significantly more important than with a lot of other behavioral problems. It is much harder to stop cribbing than it is to prevent it in the first place.

“People tend to keep horses in stalls or very confined, and forget that horses have certain needs (such as freedom to move about, graze, etc.),” says Beaver. “Horsemen often feed extremely high quality food, creating a higher energy level, yet at the same time are asking these horses to stand still in a stall. When a horse has that much energy, he’s going to do something to get rid of it. For some, it means walking in circles, for some it means weaving, and for some it means cribbing.”

Beaver says some horses, as they become nervous, are much more mouth oriented than others. Some will lick, but many of them will bite on whatever is handy. As they do this and the more they do it, the more they are programming their brain to do it.

“Once the brain is programmed to do this, the horses want to continue doing it, even in cases where you can get them out of the stall,” she explains. “If you just turn them loose in a pasture, some of them may stop cribbing, but if you stress them again, that’s the first thing they do. They revert back to it, since the brain is now programmed to do it.”

Beaver adds some horses, especially if they’ve progressed to the point of becoming a windsucker, will go out in the pasture and put their mouth on a fence plank (or any other solid surface) and stand there and suck air.

If a horse must be confined, the horseman should find ways to enrich the environment, so the horse won’t start an unwanted behavior.

“First of all, the horse needs lots of daily exercise because this will help get rid of his extra energy,” says Beaver. “The owner may need to consider a change in the horse’s diet so it’s not quite so high in energy.”

Instead of alfalfa hay, a horse owner may be able to get timothy, coastal or some other type of grass hay that’s available in your region. The horse doesn’t need a high energy feed to have a shiny coat and he doesn’t necessarily need grain.