Cribbing in Horses
We all have bad habits from biting our nails to picking our teeth. Horses can develop bad habits too and one of the most notorious is cribbing. When a horse puts their teeth on a stationary object like the edge of their stall or a fence plank and sucks in air, it is called cribbing. Traditionally cribbing was thought to be a horse gulping in air because it produced some kind of euphoric feeling. The solution was to give the horse more exercise to alleviate boredom or make them wear a tight metal collar that prevented them from sucking in air. Horse owners wanted to stop the vice because horses cannot vomit or burp and the ingested air in the GI tract could lead to colic.
New research has taught us that the horse is not swallowing air at all, but allowing it to pass up and out of their GI tract, allowing themselves to burp. Cribbing does not lead to stress, GI distress, lack of appetite or colic, but those conditions can create a cribber! Preventing your horse from cribbing can actually make their GI distress worse.
If your horse is cribbing take a good look at their diet to make sure that it is easily digestible and make sure their living environment is relatively stress free. Correcting the underlying problems will lead to a reduction in cribbing behavior and make your horse much happier and healthier.