Cribbing is a compulsive behavior, which horses sometimes
develop as a result of boredom, typically resulting from being
left in a box much of the day with nothing to do. It consists
of the horse firmly biting an object, arching its neck while
pulling on the object, and sucking in air. It is believed
that this triggers the release of chemicals (endorphins) in
the brain, giving a pleasurable sensation. Cribbing is also
known as ‘wind sucking’ or ‘crib biting’.
Cribbing is sometimes confused with wood chewing but the
two are different problems. A wood chewer simply nibbles on
the wood, which is a habit that is easily treatable. A cribber
pulls on wood (or other objects) while sucking air in order
to release brain chemicals, which effectively makes it a drug
addiction, and consequently much more difficult to cure.
Over time, cribbing will wear down and damage the horse’s
teeth. The pulling motion results in an abnormal muscle development
in the neck, making it thicker. A number of other illnesses,
such as colic, are associated with cribbing but the relationship
of these illnesses is unknown (e.g. does the colic pain promote
the habit, or does the cribbing air sucking cause the colic,
or are both colic and cribbing simply more likely in horses
which lack pasture time).
Fortunately, it is possible to treat cribbing. Since cribbing
is mainly due to boredom and lack of mental stimulation, one
needs to provide the horse with interest and activity. Giving
the horse as much pasture time as possible is very successful
in reducing the amount of cribbing. Feeding should also be
more interesting, with pasture feeding (eating grass) the
optimum solution. If this is not possible, it should be moved
to foods such as hay which have long chewing times rather
than grain or muesli (which have short eating times and thus
little stimulation). Many small feeds per day are better than
one or two large feeds. Anything else which provides variety
and stimulation, such as exercise and grooming, is also beneficial.
Unfortunately, once the habit of cribbing has been established,
removing the cause will only reduce the frequency but not
completely remove the cause. One also needs to stop the behavior
as well. This can be very difficult as the horse can crib
not only on wood, but on any item which in can hold tightly
with its teeth and pull on. There are a variety of techniques
to address this but no one technique works with all horses,
so you may need to try different techniques until you find
one that works with your horse.
One of the most common approaches is a ‘cribbing strap’,
also known as a ‘cribbing collar’, which is a strap that fits
around the neck with a mental plate on the underside to make
it uncomfortable for the horse to swell its neck to suck air.
Another device is the use of a muzzle, which allows the horse
to eat but prevents it from grasping items with its teeth.
One can also put a live (under current) fencing wire along
fence rails to prevent the horse from grabbing the rails,
or paint the rails with an unpleasant tasting paint (a number
of veterinary approved products are available). In some cases,
certain medications (in particular, anti depressants) are
helpful. Finally, if all else fails, there is a surgical solution.
One should do both activities, remove the cause of the behavior
by providing more mental stimulation for the horse and also
use one or more of the above techniques to discourage the
behavior. Addressing the cause but not the behavior is normally
only partly successful. Alternatively, stopping the behavior
(e.g. with a cribbing strap) without fixing the root cause
of intense boredom may simply result in the horse developing
alternative behavioral problems.
Author Resource:-> This http://www.wowhorses.com/horse-cribbing.html
article was written by Doug Stewart