Updated: Apr 17
Yup you know what I'm talking about! The horse that loves chewing the wood or really anything it can get its teeth on! Your stall doors or fences look like a mangled mess and your going to have to spill some cash to get them repaired or replaced! And your probably trying to get them to stop with most likely a cribbing collar. But do you think that is the answer? Do you know the root cause of the issue?
Watch below or skip ahead and read all about cribbing and to get answers on how to truly help a horse stop cribbing!
What is cribbing?
Cribbing is when a horse puts their top incisors on something, like a board, bucket, or door, they then arch their neck and suck in air. It will sound like they are gulping or burping. There are some, like my horse, who can crib without using their teeth on an object. Instead they suck in air which causes a head rush that is pleasurable to them.
Now of course this does not sound pleasurable to you! But I want you to think of something you do as a habit. You know nail biting, twisting your hair or chewing on a pencil. Do you know what they all have in common?
Yup they are all likely to occur when you're stressed! So let's bring it all together now!
Horses crib because they are stressed! Either mentally or physically!
It is not a bad habit just to annoy you and ruin your wood! It is stress manifesting into a physical habit.
Okay but what stresses?
All horses have instinctual needs that should be met! If they are not that is when they become stressed!
All horses need a herd and should be able to touch and play with each other. They are very social animals and are not meant to live on their own! When you do not give a horse companions they become stressed, depressed and more reactive.
Horses need room to roam! Scientists have found feral and wild herds have traveled up to 100 miles in a day! That is a lot! We need to give our own horses enough room to roam, run and play. When we stall our horses for long periods of time they become stressed because they cannot move much. The best way I can put it is like they are getting claustrophobic! That is very scary for a human to go through and we have no idea what goes through a horse's mind when they are stuck in a small area for long periods of time. All we know is if we see cribbing start, that means they are stressed.
Forage (hays, grasses, legumes) should be the main part of your horse's diet! They will eat 1-3% of their bodyweight a day and will continuously forage/eat for ~18 hours a day! When they do not have enough food, they become anxious and it can affect their digestive tract.
4. Your horse may be bored outside. Yup I know how can they be bored! Well if
there are no trees, scratching posts, balls, various hay piles, etc. they will get
bored. Even when they have friends, if you have them in a open dirt paddock
with not much to interact with and stimulate their mind, they will become
bored! Just think, we do not just sit in our houses doing absolutely nothing! We
watch tv, go on our phones, read a book, play games, etc.!
A final issues that does not go under instinctual needs but more physical needs is nutirents! If your horse is deficient in vitamins and minerals, this could lead to them cribbing because they are feeling crappy hence stress! However, research is still being done to figure out with vitamins and minerals could be causing this behavior.
Well how do I fix it?!
1. Strive to have your horse out 24/7 in a large area so they can roam
2. Make sure they have companions they can interact with
3. Give your horse adequate forage
4. Check with your vet to see if your horse could be deficient in vitamins and
One things you can do to lessen this behavior includes putting anti-chew spray on boards and doors or even some cayenne pepper!
Now there are anti-cribbing collars. I personally do not use them because I have seen when you get to the root cause of the issue, this behavior goes away. But it does take time and patience for it to go away.
I urge you to really think over why your horse could be cribbing and find the root cause!
And if you ever need help feel free to reach out!