Cribbing is not a disease, but rather an inappropriate behavioral pattern in horses.  When a horse cribs, they grasp an object with their upper front teeth, pull back, arch their neck, and appear to draw air into their esophagus while making a characteristic grunt, then release the air. This in turn triggers a calming, pain-killing endorphin release.

Windsucking is a vice similar to cribbing, but some people get the two behaviors confused.  The noise the horse makes is the same, but when a horse is windsucking, he doesn’t grab on to an object with his teeth before sucking air into his throat.

Once a horse picks up on this behavior, it is very hard to stop it.  Cribbing is considered to be an abnormal compulsive behavior or stereotypy seen in some horses and is often labeled a stable vice.  Most often horses crib on fence boards, stall doors, and feed tubs. Over time, this vice can cause tooth damage, requiring more frequent dental work.

Cribbing is not a habit seen in wild horses, so it is commonly thought that the habit of cribbing has a lot to do with the horse’s living conditions.

Causes of cribbing habits:

  1. Boredom
  2. Temperament
  3. Stress
  4. Diet
  5. Genetics
  6. Lack of socialization with other horses
  7. Lack of exercise
  8. Too much confinement
  9. Gastrointestinal issues

The best way to help cribbing is avoid confining a horse for long periods of time.  Turn out your horses more often to give them more freedom and to be able to burn off excess energy.  You could also feed more roughage instead of grain, but the most important thing is to have them on a properly balanced diet.

Reduce stress by allowing your horse to interact with other horses. This is an important part of your horse’s enrichment.

Regular exercise and riding in different environments can help keep them stimulated. You can even give you horse more toys and enrichment in their living space. Finding new ways to add mental and physical stimulation to your horse’s daily routine is said to be the best management practice.

For cribbers, Benefab by Sore No-More has two wonderful products to assist with reducing stress and promoting relaxation: the Therapeutic Poll Pad and Rejuvenate SmartScrim.

The Therapeutic Poll Pad features fabric that emits far infrared rays, keeping muscles supple and relaxed. Our SmartScrim features over 80 magnets targeting key acupressure points for further stimulation of those areas. Check out this relief story about Cookie who drastically decreased cribbing with her Poll Pad and SmartScrim:

“After meeting Kat at the Equine Affaire and hearing about her products we gave them a try and absolutely fell in love with the results we have witnessed. We feel the horses that we tried the Therapeutic SmartScrim and Therapeutic Poll Pad on are more relaxed and happier not only in their stalls but also in sessions. Cookie has decreased her cribbing by about 80% and even waits for her Poll Pad before going to her stall in the morning.” – Pam, Natural Freedom Wellness Center

Watch our Cribbing Vlog: