Fitting Cribbing Collars
How do you properly fit a cribbing collar, and how tight is too tight?
There is a horse in my barn that is a cribber. He cribs worse than any horse I've had this experience with (never owned cribber)... to the extent that when he came to my farm, he his top front teeth were barely visible beyond his gum line. Ouch, to say the least. If he doesn't have a collar on (only "preventive" we've found to work with him), he will get a mouthful of grain, crib, chew, crib, chew... inevitably loosing most of his food, or he stands at fence posts outside cribbing and ignores the grass/hay).
The owner has brought out several separate cribbing collars. The first was a Miracle Collar, which worked when it was fitted snuggly (two fingers under the straps) while the horse's head was in resting position. The second is the "Dare Collar", which has a 3x5 block positioned under the throatlatch. I fitted this "single strap" collar to "two finger" snug in resting position as well. This horse wears his collar inside and out, and it is only taken off when the owner is handling/riding.
The dilemma? The owner and I have discussed how tight this collar should be several times... I have routinely "tightened" the collar to a "two finger" gap while his head is at/around whither height. He has not EVER had wear/rub marks or sores from it. He still cribs occassionally (but not incessantly). Owner then comes out (couple times monthly, at most), puts the horse in crossties (with horses head UP because of cross-tie position), and THEN tries to undo the collar, which results in a tight fit/difficult removal. I explain to the owner to remove the collar before putting horse in crossties, as it is likely uncomfortable, and the owner insists that I've ratcheted the thing down too tightly, regardless of crossties or not. The horse has yet to demonstrate discomfort unless he tries to crib (discomfort exhibited by attempt - thinking for a second - doing something else) - or, unless the owner puts him in cross ties with the collar on.
I don't know what to do. It seems pointless to have cribbing collar and not actually use it to make the horse STOP cribbing. I KNOW they are uncomfortable when the horse tries to crib (or hold his head in a position resembling that which the collar is intended to prevent, which may or may not be a typical "play, excited, etc." position, depending on the horse). It is certainly debatable how humane they are (which is worse? cribbing, which correlates strongly to colic and other health issues, or preventing the cribbing?)
This horse has already caused hundreds of dollars of damage to stalls (owner has willingly paid for damage repair above and beyond reasonable wear and tear). When the owner comes out, she returns him to his stall either sans collar or with a collar loose enough that the horse cribs on anything in reach.
One thing is for sure - I will NEVER purchase a horse that cribs, no matter the severity.
So - again, how tight are these collars supposed to be? It seems like it would be slightly variable depending on the severity of the horse's desire to crib... I have a feeling there will be lots of contradicting answers here, but... worth a try. I should also note: owner and I definitely don't argue about it. We discuss the why/how of what we each do, then kind of shrug our shoulders and move on because I guess neither of us has a "definite"... her vet told her if the horse doesn't pass out or get sores, it isn't too tight (so, I guess I've been going by that, lol).
Cribbing collars should never actually be tight, as it can hinder the horse's breathing and cause enough pain for the horse to not let you take it off (heard of it more than once) and it ha to be cut off either under sedation or someone literally sitting on the horse's withers and leaning up with two/three other handlers trying to hold the horse somewhat stationary.
If it's too loose, it does nothing though..Most people I know who use them have them at 2-3 fingers (sideways, not flat against the horse) between. They've been about as effective as I think they can be, so I'd go with that, personally.
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I'm not really sure how to explain how tight it should be since it varies so much depending on how the head/neck are positioned and the persistence of the particular horse (I've heard some horses won't attempt cribbing if anything is wrapped around their neck where the collar would go... mine is not that easily fooled, unfortunately)
When I first put a Miracle Collar on my horse, he stood there in shock (I might be anthropomorphising a bit) and wouldn't lift his neck up. I felt terrible and was sure I was going to get an emergency call from my BO that night saying something was wrong. The next day, I found him at his favorite spot, cribbing. So, I asked my vet to check the fit for me, and she tightened it about 4 or 5 more holes :shock: From what I've gathered, if the horse is still able to crib, it's not tight enough- of course, it should still be loose when the horse's head is lowered. If it's snug when the horse's head is lowered, but he's still managing to crib, then that collar probably just isn't going to work for him. I'm not sure how tight is so tight that it would hinder breathing, but I suspect that it's not an issue unless it's tight with the head down.
I've since switched to the Dare collar for a variety of reasons, but the same principle applies. I always ask my horse to lower his head when putting it on or off- it's going to be tight when his head is up because that's how it works.
Perhaps you could work with the owner to figure out which hole is the loosest that will stop his cribbing and mark it so that it's effective no matter who is putting it on?
I'm also wondering if she's had him checked over for ulcers or other causes of pain. I've never met a horse that cribbed his teeth down to nubs (though I've certainly heard of it happening), but I can't imagine he would be doing it that much if there weren't an underlying problem :-|
Research is now moving in the direction that the horse is relieving gas pains in the stomach. It was once thought a horse was incapable of burping but that cribbing may be his way of burping. I'd talk to a vet about the possibility of ulcers and a program of ulcer medication.
I haven't seen any published research that supports that theory (though I do like to keep up on the latest research, so if you can link to any articles, I'd love to read up on it). From my own observation I've noticed that my horse is very gassy when he's been allowed to crib, but isn't when he's had the collar on. I'm fairly certain he had a mild gas colic at least once when I was there to observe before I got a cribbing collar for him.
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