Causes of wood chewing in horses range from dietary insufficiencies to behavioral issues. A vice is a fault or failing on the part of the horse. Cribbing, otherwise known as crib biting or windsucking is where a horse bites onto a solid object (fence or gate) and sucks back air through the gullet. Although the jury is still out on whether cribbing causes health issues or is caused by them, there is a correlation between cribbers and gastrointestinal issues like colic, which is one of the most dreaded words a horse owner can hear. If you have a cribber, it’s certainly worth trying different things to control the habit, but some cases are incurable. Horses may chew on wood in their stable, fencing, or trees. However, this surgery requires general anaesthesia and still in some horses may not completely solve the behaviour. Root Cause What kicks off a horse's cribbing behavior may be fairly complex. This movement is coincided with an in-rush of air through the crico-pharynx into the oesophagus producing the characteristic cribbing sound or grunt. So what does cause cribbing? It is widely believed that colic from cribbing is caused by the ingestion of air which, in turn, causes gas distention in the intestinal tract. Although your horse's heaves can't be cured, and severe cases are difficult to manage, catching it early will help you manage it as well as possible, and perhaps minimize its damage to your horse's lungs. It may also be helpful to get the sugar-content of your hay analyzed. A cribbing horse will lock their front teeth to a surface, usually wood, and swallow air. It is a behavioral disorder, and like any other harmful addiction, a cribber needs help controlling itself. It is thought to usually start in confined horses due to frustration, boredom, and/or imitation, but once established, persists even when the horse is on pasture. In another article titled "Factors associated with stereotypic behavior in Iranian stabled horses," a study was conducted to research factors associated with cribbing, stall kicking, and weaving. A horse may start cribbing for a number of reasons, including boredom, anxiety, confinement, stress, pain and gastrointestinal issues. These inventions help manage cribbers, but why do horses crib to begin with? Because it’s so hard to stop cribbing completely, many horse owners find that encouraging it in specific places and discouraging it in others is the most effective option. Cribbing behaviour is easily visualised and therefore very simple to diagnose. Some horses appear to swallow air and, therefore, the term wind sucking is often used interchangeably with cribbing. Below, Mastellar discusses possible causes as well as ways horse owners can curb cribbing. While it is a bad habit, it is not dangerous. Cribbing is a compulsive behavioral disorder in which a horse habitually bites down on a horizontal surface with its incisors and sucks in air, often making a grunting or gulping noise. The definitive cause of wood chewing is lack of roughage in the diet. As the stomach environment becomes healthy, there is less propensity for horses to crib. Diet, genetics, boredom, stress, and copying another horse have all been suggested as causes of cribbing (Litva, Robinson, & Archer, 2010). There are cribbing “collars” on the market that attach around the horse’s throat. Physical Prevention . The heavily debatable reasons on why horses … By using The Spruce Pets, you accept our, Why Horses Stall Walk or Fence Walk and How to Make Them Stop, A Picture Guide to the Different Parts of a Horse, When Your Horse Won't Stand Still for Mounting, Choosing the Right Noseband for Your Horse's Bridle, Why a Horse With a Broken Leg Often Must Be Euthanized. Why do they do it? “if so, treat the horse and maintain the horse ulcer free.” Your veterinarian can create a management program best suited to your horse. Although cribbing is not completely understood yet, there could be different causes … Cribbing may also result in weight loss; some horses may prefer to crib than eat. I believe this is called cribbing or windsucking. As a result, we often refer to them as vices. Stress and boredom seem to be two of the main causes of this bad habit. Interestingly, cribbing is not a habit seen in wild horses. Cribbing does seem to give the horse a "high," and may relate to the behaviors in people known as obsessive compulsive disorder. Cribbing is characterized by a horse grabbing a horizontal object with its upper incisors and pulling against the object with an arched neck. A horse exhibiting cribbing behavior. You probably won’t be able to stop a horse from cribbing in every situation. If you want less of a hassle starting out, you will probably want to avoid buying a cribber. Eliminate cribbing surfaces. Thoroughbreds, more than warmbloods and Quarter Horses, and possibly following certain bloodlines (per a Japanese study of … About 5% of all horses are reported to be cribbers and they are most commonly horses that are kept in a stall extensively or stabled from a very young age. Cribbing can help release stress. However, this surgery requires general anesthesia and still in some horses may not completely solve the behavior. Possibly. Since horses have limited ways in which to show their stress, they each choose to crib. As the horse is cribbing, the arching of the neck causes the horse to swallow air. The term 'cribbing' (or 'crib-biting') is loosely used to cover two distinct behaviors -- namely the real thing and a separate habit, windsucking. Ken Gillespie Photography/First Light/Getty Images. 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