An Old Horse Starts Cribbing

A reader’s 17-year-old horse started trying to crib recently, which she’s never seen him do before. Why would he start now? An equine behaviorist offers insight.
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old horse cribbing
In some cases horses can carry on behaviors such as cribbing for a long time without anyone noticing, likely because horses can—and many do—behave very differently when people are present. | Photo: iStock

Q.One morning I decided to braid my 17-year-old Thoroughbred eventer in the wash stall instead of the aisle. While I was braiding he started trying to crib. In the 14 years that I have had him, I have never seen him crib! Why would he start now? I guess braiding is just too stressful for him!

—Shawna, Georgetown, Kentucky

A.You are right, it does seem odd to see your horse trying to crib when you have never seen him do it before. Without a detailed description, I would wonder if it was, in fact, cribbing. If your horse truly was trying to crib, I would guess that he had cribbed at some time before this event. I agree that braiding the mane in the wash stall in and of itself should not be stressful, and if it were so stressful I would expect him to show other behavioral indications of discomfort with the situation before or along with the cribbing attempts

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Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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