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How to Prevent a Horse from Cribbing

How to Prevent a Horse from Cribbing

Cribbing in horses is often considered to be one of the most common stable vices in horses. PetPonder gives you some pointers in case your horse is experiencing the same.
Rutuja Ghanekar
Studies suggest that an estimated 4.5 % (almost 414,000) of U.S. horses exhibit cribbing.
A common stereotype in horses, cribbing is type of behavior exhibited by a horse that involves resting its top teeth on a stationary object and sucking in air through open mouth. While sucking in the air, the horse arches its neck and makes a loud and prominent grunting sound that is similar to wind-sucking.

The exact reason for cribbing in horses is not known. Also, it has not been proven that this is a type of behavior inculcated by observing other horses. Often associated with boredom, stress, or nervousness, there are certain ways to reduce, if not completely stop cribbing in horses. The following PetPonder write-up gives you tips on how to tackle the situation and prevent existing cribbing in them.
Preventing Crib-biting in Horses
Increase Forage Time in a Pasture
The first and foremost thing you should do is to make sure your horse grazes for at least 6 - 10 hours/day, and this is not advised to be done alone, but with other horses. Let it out in a wide expanse of pasture that gives it access to maximum area of fresh grass. Here, make sure your horse does not resort to cribbing on tree barks, signboards, or posts.
Feed It Right
High-concentrate diet, also known as high-energy diet, is commonly included in a horse's daily meal. This diet includes cereal grains, molasses, and other food items that are low in fiber, but can be digested easily. Such diet plans do not help in solving crib-biting in horses.

Instead, study suggests that roughages, such as grass hays, grass straws, silage, and fresh grass serve as better alternatives in order to curb the cribbing. Thus, reducing high-concentrate feed and increasing the intake of roughages have proved to be helpful in most cases.

If providing a high-fiber diet is difficult, then consider including fat- or oil-based diet in place of a carbohydrate-based one.
Make Sure Your Horse Socializes With Other Horses
You cannot afford to let your horse get bored or frustrated since it only aggravates the cribbing and will make it all the more hard to cure it. By making your horse graze with other horses, or including group training activities, you will aid in the much-needed social atmosphere that a horse craves.

Stall confinement makes matters worse, so ensure that exercise is also a part of its daily routine.
Consider Using an Anti-cribbing Collar
Now, this is a bit of a controversial solution as its effective percentage is very low. Anti-cribbing collars contain a metal object near the place of a horse's throat. So, when the collar is fitted around its neck, the metal becomes a cause of irritation and discomfort, making it difficult to suck in air when it cribs. However, this is technique is not recommended on a permanent basis as there have been reports of increase in stress levels due to its usage.
Other Probable Effective Measures
Bedding your horse's stall with straw is one of the suggested options. Horses preferably do not consume straws; hence, they are compelled to feed on the hay in the straw bed―similar to foraging.

Foraging apparatus or toys are also available in the market; thus, feeding your horse with these apparatus is ideal and recommended for straw bedding. It is important to note here to not use forage toys if there is a possibility of the horse consuming sand and/or sand-sized particles.

There is one school of thought that believes in providing safe cribbing surfaces, such as car tires, to the horse which will aid in reduction of frustration and pain they go through. The other school of thought insists on the usage of methods, like lining the surfaces with metal, that will make it impossible to crib on, thereby, reducing the cribbing gradually.
Since research is still underway in finding a concrete solution to the problem of cribbing in horses, the aforementioned methods have had a considerable success rate. If nothing works and the cribbing gets worse, doctors suggest conducting a surgical procedure to cure the condition; this, of course, should be the last resort.

Disclaimer: This article is purely for informative and educational purposes and does not intend to replace the advice offered by a registered veterinarian.