Management Practices Could Help Reduce Cribbing

An analysis of cribbing research provides information about the behavior and suggests preventative measures.
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A recently published analysis of nearly 20 years of research on cribbing will provide horse owners with valuable information about the behavior and ideas for management practices that could reduce the frequency of this undesirable equine habit.

“Owners of cribbers seem genuinely interested in the behavior and are eager to learn about how they may better manage their horses,” said Carissa Wickens, assistant professor and equine Extension specialist at the University of Delaware. Wickens conducted the cribbing research analysis as a part of her doctoral program at Michigan State University (MSU), which she completed in 2009.

Cribbing is a behavior in which horses anchor their top teeth onto some fixed object, such as a fence or stall wall, pull backward, contract their neck muscles, and take air into their esophagus, resulting in an audible grunt.

The behavior is known as a stereotypy–a repetitive behavior without any apparent reason or purpose. Viewed by many horse owners as problematic, cribbing can lead to dental problems, weight loss, and poor conditions in horses exhibiting the behavior. Estimates put 4.5% of U.S. horses, or as many as 414,000, as cribbers

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