There's Usually No Quick Fix With Horses

Feb 26, 2009 - 10:00 PM

When we started to plan an article on cribbing rings (p. 40), we thought we were bringing our readers useful information on a relatively new way to deal with a very old problem. Surely if someone could come up with a simple, effective way of curing a cribber, he’d be set for life. Unfortunately, the more we learned about cribbing rings, the less it seemed to us like an appealing option.
   
A reader who’d had this procedure done on her horse suggested the topic to us. We’d never heard of cribbing rings but assigned the story, and when freelancer Heather Smith Thomas sent us the article, we were shocked at what the practice entails. Our medical editor was, frankly, appalled when I sent her the story. But there are owners out there who swear by the cribbing rings, so we decided to describe exactly what they are and what they do and let our readers come to their own conclusions. Some of the photos aren’t pretty, but we thought it was important to illustrate the technique.
   
Despite finding anonymous posters on Internet bulletin boards who raved about how the rings worked on their horses, we had a heck of a time finding a photo of a horse who had these rings in place. No one seemed willing to let us take a photo of what these rings look like once installed (even though we weren’t asking to identify the horse or owner, just show a shot of their gums). The original reader who suggested the topic said her horse had lost his rings, so I contacted a couple of veterinary clinics whose veterinarians had reportedly done the procedure.
   
At one clinic, when the receptionist answered the phone, I said I was calling about cribbing rings. After briefly placing me on hold, she came back to the phone and said, “OK, where is your horse located, and what’s a good day?” When I explained that I was calling from a magazine, looking for photos of a horse’s mouth with cribbing rings in, she said she’d get back to me. A few minutes later, she called to say that the veterinarians at that clinic had only ever performed the procedure once, and since the American Association of Equine Practitioners doesn’t condone it, they no longer offer the service and wouldn’t have any pictures. Funny, I was pretty sure they were about to set up an appointment for me a few minutes earlier.
   
I now know of several veterinarians who have learned to do the procedure, seem quite willing to be paid to do so, but won’t publicly admit it. Which tells you something about the procedure itself, as well as the veterinarians.
   
Cribbing can be quite serious for some horses, causing complications like colic and ulcer. But would it really be worth it to have these rings installed?
   
As with most aspects of horse care, solving a problem is rarely so quick or easy. From what I’ve seen of these rings, cribbing is likely to remain what it’s been for generations—an annoying vice that we have to live with and deal with as best we can. That is, unless someone comes up with something better.

Beth Rasin, Managing Editor

Category: Columns
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