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I need help with my hunter who cribs

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  • I need help with my hunter who cribs

    My horse is a 4 year old OTTB that cribs like it is no one's business. I have owned him since he was 3 and he has been cribbing since the moment I got him. He is a beautiful grey, quiet as can be, super friendly around others, and flats and jumps with no issues. His only vice is his cribbing.

    We have moved his field so that he is in a field surrounded by electric wiring, but he walks right through it as if he were a cow and escapes. We have turned the voltage up so high it has left marks on him, yet he still walks through it and escapes the field as though he can't feel it. If we put him out where the fencing is wood, he destroys it.

    Another issue is he is somewhat skinny due to the amount of cribbing he is doing. If we put him outside with a muzzle, we fear that he will continue to lose weight instead of gain it.

    We have even adjusted his feed, given him a slow feeding hay net, two salt licks, and a ball; none of which seem to please him like the cribbing does. He's been on supplements to see if that would alleviate some of the cribbing as well which also did not work. He wears a collar all of the time but he cribs through that as well (he's been through four of them). He doesn't try to take the collar's off, he just ignores them.

    This horse is the calmest and most fearless horse I've ever seen in my life and I don't want to lose him due to the property damage he is inflicting on my barn. Please leave advice below!!!

  • #2
    I have had a few cribbers over the years. After my last one, I vowed to never have one again. I think it gave me more anxiety watching the horse crib and destroy the fence posts than the anxiety the horse was already suffering with. In my experience, the worst thing to do is to try and restrict them from cribbing as they are normally doing it for a reason. The problem is to try and figure out why. In my experience, it is often from gastric ulcers. Have you had your horse scoped and checked for ulcers? Also, does he have other friends out in his field?
    Home of Welsh Cob stallion Goldhills Brandysnap
    Also home to Daventry Equine Appraisals & Equine Expert Witness


    • #3
      Have you tried a Dare blocker collar? I had one who ignored all collars except the Dare version, and it also was kinder to his neck than any of the others I tried.


      • #4
        Have him scoped for ulcers.


        • #5
          I agree with checking for ulcers.

          I also agree that it is unfair/inhumane to prevent him from cribbing as he is doing it for either physical or psychological reasons and will cause him undue stress if you prevent it.

          One way to help prevent destruction of property and of his front teeth, would be to put a strand of electric up inside the top rail of his wood turn out, but then give him a rubber board on which to safely crib.

          I have also seen a horse helped by having a staple placed in a pressure point in his ear (by a vet). it is supposed to offer similar stimulus to cribbing.
          Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


          • #6
            Agreed on the ulcers, my OTTB was a gnarly cribber, nothing prevented it. A month of gastrogard later and the cribbing almost entirely stopped.


            • #7
              I will second the idea of putting a strange of electric up in the wood turn out. That will solve the walking thru the fence situation and limit his ability to destroy the fence.
              I like the idea of giving him a designated safe cribbing place.

              Like some many have said above, ulcers are a pretty common cribber thing. Worth checking into.


              • #8
                Do you have hands on help managing this young horse from a coach or mentor? Cribbers can be fully healthy, happy, and in good condition, if their lives are being correctly managed, and it is an addiction that is very difficult to force them to quit. Hot wiring a solid fence is the best plan, and giving the horse a good cribbing spot to partake of their addiction. To use only one wire, use a woven wire fence with a top electrified wire.

                Cribbing is a "crutch" that a "needy" horse who has been under stress in his life has discovered, the release of endorphins from the repetitive habit soothes him, and is addictive. The cribbing strap will only "physically" stop a cribber if they pull the air down using their throat muscles, if they use a different method (pull from the chest, or with a head toss), the strap does nothing to stop the habit. Often with a strap in place, a horse will experiment to find other ways to get the air, and find new methods to bypass the strap. The addiction does not go away just because the behaviour is physically stopped. In fact, physically removing the addiction from the addict is like removing the crutch from a cripple, you are removing what he needs to be able to operate in the world and feel happy and relaxed. Like physically removing the cigarettes from a smoker, and expecting that to make him happier. Big fail. The addiction remains. And in the overall scheme of things, it is a lesser addiction than lots of things that humans are addicted to in terms of actual damage to the individual. Similar to being a nail biter or hair chewer in a human. Not a "good" thing, but not something that makes him a bad partner in marriage. Cribbing in itself does not make him a bad horse, or not a good prospect in sport. You just have to learn to deal with it effectively. And accept that it is part of him, his "addictive personality".

                Ulcers and cribbing go together because they both effect horses who are sensitive to stress. If your cribber is thin, ulcers may be present. It is worth looking into that possibility. Once the ulcers are addressed and healed, he will still be a cribber (probably) but healthier and carry good weight. On the other hand, horses who are sensitive can be great athletes, because they often "care" about little things, because they are sensitive. The cribbing "tips their hand" that they ARE that sort of horse, a sensitive horse. An "insensitive" horse may feel less stress, but may care less about his job too. Being sensitive can mean that they care about doing their job to the best of their ability, that they will try harder to win, to do the best job they can, whatever their job may be. It can mean that they have a HUGE work ethic, similar to a "Type A" personality in a human, an "overachiever". A desire for world domination, a will to win. This is a trait that we breed FOR when we breed high level sport and race horses. It's not the horse's fault that we have developed this character trait, it is what WE select for in breeding stock for competitive horses. Not all crib of course, but some do.

                Being an OTTB means that he has been put in situations that ARE stressful. Race training has many stresses for horses. Sore shins, injuries, viral respiratory infections, stabled living conditions, a poorly educated rider, these are often found at racetracks, plus of course, the stress of the competition itself. (Many of these stresses are often also found in show horse barns too). Some horses thrive on competition, some suffer from the stress and are looking for a crutch to make them feel better. Horses who love and thrive on racing can start to crib when they are retired and removed from the track, the stress of retirement. Racehorses often start to crib when their shins get tender with training. It's classic. Ulcers also are classic in racehorses under stress. Remove the stress and the addiction remains.

                Step 1) accept that your horse is a cribber. Step 2) understand why he is a cribber. Step 3) make him a healthy cribber, assess his health issues that are making him be under optimum weight. Step 4) give him a good spot to partake of his addiction and protect your fences, fences that keep him contained in his paddock or field. Step 5) give him buddies to hang out with and play with to satisfy his herd instinct (they won't "learn" to crib from him, unless they also are also sensitive horses under stress and looking for a crutch to help them through their stressful life). Step 6) enjoy your overachiever, high work ethic horse in competition.

                Good luck with your cribber! I have had cribbers throughout the 5 decades of my horse ownership and riding, and many of them have been very successful athletes. I'm riding one now, a home grown TB, never raced, never race trained. Started to crib the day she was weaned, stabled with all her weanling friends, none of which cribbed or learned to crib. She's sensitive. And a huge overachiever, so smart, so engaged in her work. I am humbled daily by her incredibly complex mind. I just sit up there and press the buttons, and she looks after everything else. She makes me smile.


                • #9
                  My almost-16 yr old OTTB gelding has been a fiendish cribber forever. Wrecker of stall door, fence rails, and anything else he could get his mouth on. I used the Miracle Collar, which made him sore, then settled on the DARE collar (98% effective) and a LO
                  T of HOT electric fencing.

                  And then I changed his nutrition to help grow better feet.
                  And then he stopped cribbing.

                  Five months have passed - no collar, no special fencing, NO CRIBBING, on anything, at any time - and I really still can't believe it. But I just asked a friend with a similar horse to try what I'm doing to see if it works for her gelding, too. Maybe it'll work for you:

                  Cool Stance + Timothy grass hay pellets + 1 cup ground flax + 2tbs loose white salt + 4oz California Trace Plus... mixed with enough water to be just firmer than pudding.
                  Timothy hay, free choice.

                  I used to feed Triple Crown Senior or Complete, depending on time of year, plus flax, with OTA, straight alfalfa or straight orchard hay. And my horses all have at least 12 hours out/day, often 24/7 except for meals, on good fescue pasture. So the new diet added some things, but I think more significantly took some things away.

                  I am blown away. And my horse has bloomed.
                  If you try it and it works, let me know. It was about 7 months after the change that the collar came off for good.
                  Patience pays.


                  • #10
                    I've had success with some cribbers with checking then treating for ulcers. Some just don't ever stop though, it's no longer a stress reaction but an ingrained addictive habit. Collar worked to a point but eventually not as much. I got this goop you can put on wood that seemed to help but it would be a pain to put up on an entire fence line. If he is completely healthy and happy, has plenty of grass and hay, no ulcers or pain anywhere, plenty of buddies to hang out with, then it might not be a bad idea to just give him a post or something he can crib on so he doesn't keep going through the fence. Electric shocks don't seem to have any effect on him so not sure if the electric wire over the wood fence would do much, but could be worth a try. They are frustrating for sure, some people are find with dealing with it (several upper level eventers have a ton of cribbers), I tried to but it just drove me crazy and since I board, we were destroying someone else's property too.


                    • #11
                      I have a horse who became a cribber at 5 for no reason that we could determine, and just to be perverse, when scoped, the vet said she hadn't ever seen a stomach so pink, healthy and ulcer free. Sigh... About 4 years later he took the early retirement plan due to back/neck related pain, so in hindsight I'm assuming that was the root cause of the cribbing since now he mostly declines to elevate his head higher than the natural position to crib. I used to use a Dare collar (started with a miracle collar and moved to Dare with sheepskin) but given his neck/pain issues, I stopped using it about a year before he was retired.

                      But I've always had the pastures and dry lot top board hot wired because I hate replacing fence boards for ANY reason (chewing, cribbing, playing across fence lines... just NO). He can crib his little heart out in the stall but he doesn't, because the wall is too high (it didn't use to be), the outside hay rack and his preference, the water trough in their dry lot. Every now and then he picks a spot that I'm not thrilled with, and I just douse it with a mix of cayenne+dishwashing soap and he moves on.

                      But I would totally try hot wiring the wood board pasture. A lot of horses go through the tape pastures because if they DO try it, they get zapped and panic and bolt through it. Also, tape is pretty mild compared to hot wire unless it is a high end tape. Last but not least, if he's in there alone and can see horses but not be with them, you may be unwittingly adding to his stress levels which of course means he really needs to crib more. But if he is out with his buds, has a solid visual barrier to keep him in (fencing) and he gets a hot WIRE in his mouth when he goes to crib that may be considerably more deterrent than a tape pasture.

                      If nothing else works, you may want to try turning him out with a greenguard muzzle. Lido wears one on turnout when we have good pasture because his nickname is Lardo, and I've noticed he doesn't crib in it (greenguards are much cooler, less frustrating and and probably allow a little more grass intake than the old style, but not much more). If a horse was dedicated they can crib through it, but what they CAN'T do is grab on to a board and pull, they can just set the muzzle against something and push down on the bottom and suck air. They are happy, the owners of the fencing is much happier. But since he is getting less grass you will have to really up his hay when he is in, which is not a bad thing at all. Also, they do make a cribbing (aka biting) muzzle, but it weighs a ton so I never use it (it's just a metal cage that keeps them from latching on to something, so it doesn't stop cribbing (same as greenguard) just limits the property damage.
                      Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                      • #12
                        Some horses just can’t do Hot tape only pastures. The want to leave outweighs the minor pain.
                        As others have said, look for ulcers. Then look for things that are still stressing him out. Is he in group turnout? Does he have a grass pasture? Is he getting minimum 12 hours of turnout? Is his workload too heavy? The extreme cribbing is because something is still stressful to him. It could be he just has a personality where he is always anxious, but more than likely it’s something in his environment you can change.
                        something that is great for cribbers is being on 24/7 turnout in a nice grassy pasture.
                        He will always crib a bit, but he shouldn’t be cribbing so much he isn’t eating.

                        If he yanks on the boards while cribbing, you can put him in one of these
                        but I really think it’s better to find the root cause.


                        • #13
                          I really don't like to allow them to crib, if I can possibly avoid it, thanks to the experience of a horrific colic due to epiploic foramen intestinal entrapment. Cribbing puts horses at higher risk of entrapment because of the stance and the changing pressures in the abdomen when they pull back and suck. My poor little horse was in so much pain that he laid on his back, groaning, and returned to that position to try to relieve the pain if you rolled him to his side or sternum. We did surgery, removed several meters of ischemic bowel, spent two weeks in an equine ICU, and then lost the poor little guy to subsequent colic a few months later due to strangulation by adhesions formed after the initial surgery (horses are very good at developing adhesion after their bowels are handled or otherwise disturbed, some even more so than others).

                          I will do all I can to change a horse's lifestyle to make it feel like it doesn't need to crib to cope, but I will also not allow one to crib if a collar will prevent it. The Dare collar has gone on everything that comes into the barn and tries to crib after that awful experience.


                          • #14
                            Cribbing is largely a mental thing. You have to create a low stress environment beyond just treating for ulcers. Make sure that he loves his job, that your training program and pace works for him, and that he is happy with his current living arrangement.

                            A lot of horses will find a way to work around physical deterrents. I saw a horse in a pipe corral paddock hook his chin over the fence and pull against it because there was no edge that he could fit his teeth over. I've seen horses squeeze collars and still get their high. I have seen horses crib on the tiniest t-post in a wire paddock. If they want to do it, and the things that OP has already done aren't working, then I think restricting cribbing is not going to work for this horse.

                            In my experience, no amount of worrying and fussing worked. I had to kind of let my horse do him, because if a 1200lb animal wants to do something, what am I going to do about it? My horse was a described as a "ferocious cribber" by a lady as she was kicking me out of her barn because of the behavior. He used to crib through a regular collar, so I tried a miracle collar, and the first time he caught himself on the little tab on his throat he reared up, flipped over and was inconsolable. He would not let us touch the collar to get it off, so we had to call a vet and have him sedated. That was the end of collar useage for us.

                            We moved to a new barn where the owner actually didn't want me to use a collar. The barn is a very small, private facility and the owner sticks to a routine like clockwork. His turnout was reduced dramatically, which made me nervous. But ultimately the routine and quiet setting have been excellent for him. Two years after moving to our current barn, this horse quit cribbing. We weren't trying to make him stop, and I wish I could take credit for it and share a magic secret, but I think what happened was my horse felt secure enough with the people who were handling him, and the horse that he was being turned out with. He no longer had to try and maintain his spot in the pecking order (mainly because his turnout buddy doesn't care about ANYTHING) and he had a safe, but airy stall with windows on all sides. I continue to compete with him and train him, and push him to do things that are outside of his comfort zone. I have taken him overnight to clinics and shows, and there is still no cribbing in high stress environments.

                            OP, I wish you luck. Your horse is very young, and that could be a contributing factor, so be patient. My ex-cribber took a couple of years to settle and stop the behavior, and I bet at age 4, your horse hasn't had enough time to make heads or tails of his current situation. Hang in there!


                            • #15
                              There was a study once that TBs on the track had something like a 80%+ test for gastric ulcers. Since your horse is an OTTB, Id' strongly recommend putting him on gastroguard (omeprazle) and there veterinarian prescribed dosage for the full duration. Supplements won't fix it, collars won't fix it, aloe/ papaya juice won't fix it.

                              Some have had success administering Ranitidine at the prescribed dosage (by weight) but it MUST be given 8 hours apart, an hour before or 2 hours after a grain meal. And no, chucking a handful of pills in with their grain is not the way to administer Ranitidine. I don't care what other folks tell you. So that means the horse is getting the ranitidine melted in a syringe and dosed orally at 8 a.m., 4 p.m and midnight or thereabouts for aproximately a month.

                              There are other 'treatments' out there, but I prefer to go by veterinarian prescribed and medically proven studies undertaken over the course of years.

                              And hind gut won't appear on a gastric scope.


                              • #16
                                We have one that has almost stopped cribbing completely after we put him on daily omeprazole and Succeed.