10-19-2012, 10:41 PM
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The current research into cribbing suggests its a combination of genetics and environment, especially during foal hood and weaning. Studies have shown a high correlation between providing grain to foals and weanlings and the development of cribbing. TBs are over represented in cribbing studies because they are routinely creep fed when foals and are weaned onto a grain diet.
It is believed that cribbing increases the amount of saliva going to the stomach which buffers it against acid damage from gastric juices. It is also believed that horses which crib experience a dopamine release when they crib which is addictive so they crib more.
Whatever the underlying cause, cribbing is a sign that the horse has had its welfare compromised in the past. Of all the "vices" it is the most resistant to extinction and many horses will continue to crib even when they have constant access to pasture or are fed a high fibre diet.
Cribbing collars have serious welfare issues in themselves- they can lead to sores and fascial bruising because they have to be done up so tight, and if they prevent the horse from cribbing- which is a coping behaviour, without the causes being addressed then the horse is likely to be more stressed than if allowed to crib. A recent study found that when horses were prevented from cribbing and fed a grain diet for 24 hours, their rates of cribbing tripled once they could crib again.
The current research suggests that cribbing does not increase the likelihood of colic, however it is possible that cribbers are more stressed in a unsuitable environment and thus more prone to colic.
The most humane approach to managing cribbing is:
24 hour access to a high fibre diet- so if the horse is stabled or yarded it should ad lib grass or meadow hay
Minimising grain or concentrate feeding
As much turn out as possible- preferably 24/7
There are some antacid feed supplements that have been shown to reduce cribbing by buffering stomach acid
Ensuring the horse doesn't have a gastric ulcer- feeding Ulcerguard or similar (under vet advice) can prevent this.
Collars should only be used for short periods if the horse is losing weight due to time spent cribbing. Removing things the horse can crib on can also help, through electric fencing for example, however, like the collars this should be done in conjunction with providing ad lib fibre.
Cribbing is an active coping strategy for dealing with a sub-optimal environment. Many so called "cures" only address the symptoms, without also improving the horse's environment. In which case they can often make things worse for the horse.
It took me many years, trying many different solutions and a lot of research to come to the conclusion that the kindest thing I could do with my cribber, was to let her do it. She died of old age after 28 years of being attached to a fence post for a large part of every day.
Good luck with your horse