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Horse Articles :: What is Cribbing?

What is a Cribbing Horse

What is Horse Cribbing and How can I get my Horse to STOP?


Do you know that CRIBBING is not only rough on barns and fences, but it also may be detrimental to a horse's health? The horse wears down his teeth and swallows air, which can lead to inappropriate digestion and colic. Cribbing can lead to serious health problems, such as poor digestion, colic, and various dental problems.

Cribbing is an obsessive-compulsive behavior when a horse chews on wood and swallows air. The cribber uses its upper teeth to grab a stationary object, such as a fence board, and then arches its neck, pulls backwards while swallowing air and grunting. Other horses crib by resting their incisors on an object without grasping it; still others rest their chin on an object and swallow air.


It's not known what causes cribbing in horses.

There appears to be an inherited susceptibility to STRESS in horses, so genetics are part of the answer. When a horse cribs, it is believed that his body releases endorphins, which stimulate the pleasure center of his brain as why it is such an addictive habit, and such a hard one to break. This may explain why horses crib when under stress, as well. A horse's INABILITY TO GRAZE can be a significant stress that is commonly thought to lead to repetitive cribbing behavior.

IMPROPER DIET AND FEEDING PRACTICES are commonly cited as factors that may lead to cribbing. Improper diet and feeding is also thought to contribute to cribbing, perhaps because it may cause a horse more stress. Another popular theory is that cribbing is due to BOREDOM, AND LACK OF EXERCISE. Horses kept stalled are more likely to become Cribbers than horses that are allowed to roam in a pasture. Semi-wild horses or horses in the wild or in the pasture naturally spend 90% of their time grazing and are less likely to crib.

Every horse handles stress differently, some better than others. It appears that susceptibility to stress in horses is INHERITED, so genetics may play a part also.


Food - Horses need to eat throughout the day and keep their minds active lest they become bored and stressed, since boredom is the most common reason why a horse will pick up the cribbing habit.

Cribbing Straps - Crib straps aren't perfect but they do succeed in suppressing many cribbers, so it's an inexpensive option that's worth a try.

Electro-Shock Collars - These collars are worn around the upper neck just like a crib strap; the strap emits an electric shock to shock the horse each time he takes hold of a fence to crib.

Electric Fencing - Stringing electric fencing along the top of any paddock and/or pasture fences is an effective way to stop them from cribbing on fences. Electric fencing is highly encouraged since it will effectively stop cribbing in its tracks on the protected locations.

Chew Stop And Related Products - Some Non-Toxic Products are now available in the market. These can be sprayed or painted on popular cribbing areas to lend a very unappetizing taste and smell, thereby discouraging a cribber from taking hold of the area. These products are typically recognized as the most humane and cost effective methods to stop your horse from cribbing.

Surgical Procedure - This procedure entails cutting some of the muscles and nerves in the ventral neck region as well as the removal of some muscle tissue.

Anti-depressant - It is an injected to the animal, which prohibits the creation of endorphins, thereby suppressing the natural high a horse gains when he cribs. This is not a practical solution since the effects are short-lived, but further research is being done on similar drugs that may have a longer lasting effect.


Once a horse starts cribbing it is difficult to get them to stop. The best thing is to try to distract and prevent it from occurring in the first place. One of the most common aids in breaking your horse from the cribbing habit are: -Allow your horse as much pasture time, in as big a pasture as possible -Spend time training and handling the horse to help prevent boredom. -Provide your horse with a companion, preferably another horse, but goats also often make good companions for horses. -Distract your horse with multiple feedings; pasture time and toys before the habit becomes ingrained. -Allow your horse access to fresh grass, or grass hay at all times.

To date we know of no proof or studies that indicate a horse learns to crib from being around a cribber, and it is likely that several factors come in to play to cause this disorder.

Finally, if your horse suddenly picks up cribbing and doesn't seem to have developed it from one of the normal causes, it would be a good idea to ask your veterinarian to check your horse and make sure there isn't a medical cause for the cribbing.

For more helpful information on cribbing please visit

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