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This is a discussion on Wind-Sucking within the Horse Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Horses category

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    12-17-2012, 03:23 PM

There is an older mare here that I have noticed wind-sucking for hours on end in her gravel lot and stall. The mare stands parked out (hind feet out, not like a laminitic stance), and the owners are confused as to why she is suddenly unable to keep weight on.

Would you say she probably has ulcers? If so, do you think the wind-sucking caused this? She gets ridden once or twice a week as a low-key trail horse, and is turned out all night on a few acres of grass, as well as being fed 14% crude protein Triple Crown Senior Pellets and rice bran once a day with hay.

As she isn't my horse, I am cautious to say anything and bite the hand that employs me... however, I am concerned for the mare's well being and the owners pocket book, as well as the other horses who may pick up this vice. What would you do in this situation?

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    12-18-2012, 08:56 PM
She is probably "filling" herself up with air and not wanting to eat. If this is a sudden thing I would probably have the vet look at her.
    12-18-2012, 11:17 PM
I recently googled wind sucking to find out what it was and read nothing good about it at all..
Vet's wont give a clean bill of health sale on these horses that do it.
There is no known cause that I have found in researching this just that it becomes an obsessive thing to do because it gives the horses a quick high, and they want to do it all the time.
    12-19-2012, 12:20 AM
Re: not eating -- She eats plenty. She just wind sucks for hours on end and has a very strange stance. She drinks plenty and eats enough, and still is thin-ish with added rice bran.

I am fairly certain her wind sucking has caused ulcers; I just don't know what to do about it since she isn't mine. I worry for her health (including her teeth!), the fence posts and stall walls she's slowly destroying, the other horses who might pick up this potentially fatal habit, and the owner's wallet.

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    12-19-2012, 12:27 AM
Have they had her checked for COPD?
Sounds like it could be the cause with her being stalled ?constantly?, her funny stance, and loosing weight. Just an alternative guess.

How much turn out does she get? Are there other boarding options?

She might improve if this is a recent development and if you guys can get her in a herd atmosphere with 24/7 pasture.

Again these are guesses and what I would try! Good luck!
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    12-19-2012, 12:32 AM
Reread, saw she goes out at night, sorry.
But still get her checked for COPD, they can flare up almost the instant they are brought in.
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    12-19-2012, 09:08 AM
She is stalled for about 15 minutes in the morning to eat but otherwise is out in a large gravel lot with two other mares until they are turned out on a few acres of grass at night.

A gelding here has COPD; I don't think she has it. She is wind-sucking (cribbing). :)
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    12-20-2012, 10:02 AM
From what I've learnt on my degree, wind sucking is most often caused by stress, like other stereotypical behaviours (vices). People are swaying away from calling them vices now, as it is becoming recognised that it is not something the horse "decides" to do, but is like a compulsion? Management seems to play a big role, and it appears that majority forage feeding and reducing concentrate meal feedings can help prevent it.

Ulcers have been connected to wind sucking, but as far as I know, it hasn't been fully discovered which is the cause and which is the effect yet. It's been found that the act of doing the ST behaviour (wind sucking in this case) releases endorphins into the horses brain, essentially making them feel good, like a high, and if we stop them doing it for a period of time through using wind sucking collars or the like, they're actually likely to "compensate", and increase the wind sucking after it's been removed.

Oh yeah, and it's very debatable as to whether or not horses can "learn" an ST behaviour from other horses, but as far as I know, the scientific community is leaning away from that opinion, and are of the belief that horses can't actually learn a habit, but it's more likely to be caused by similar management routines etc.

That's a bit of a ramble, but if you have any more specific questions, fire away
    12-20-2012, 11:00 AM
You say she is stalled for eating, her grain ration, I assume? Does she have hay in her drylot? If not, I'd make sure there is hay, enough for all horses, and all horses should have easy access, means one more pile of hay than horses, or a feeder where nobody can chase anybody away.
I've seen my share of windsuckers, and ALL of them came from a stable situation, with limited hay and turnout and big grain rations. The majority improved at least, or stopped all together when living out, having grass/hay 24/7 and a healthy social structure.
    12-20-2012, 12:41 PM
There is hay in the lot. They eat it ridiculously fast no matter how much is there, and the pastures are really lush, so they are kept on the lot all day. My question is: how would you approach the owner about informing them of your concern for the horse's management and possible ulcers? She is an older horse and I think it was assumed by their vet that she is "just old" hence not keeping weight... however, I see her wind sucking just about all day long, literally. How would you share with an owner who is also your employer that you think the issue is potentially much more simple than "she is just old"...?
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