Ways to Reduce a Cribber’s Colic Risk

Researchers’ don’t necessarily recommend preventing a horse from cribbing. Rather, they suggest maximizing a horse’s turnout time and making sure forage is available at most times.
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Ways to Reduce a Cribber
Based on the team's study results, increased stabling in the fall and haylage consumption also place horses at an increased risk for colic. | Photo: iStock
Severe and recurring cases of colic are frequently caused by a horse’s environment, diet, and genetics. Historically, researchers have proven cribbing contributes to an increased risk of colic. Now scientists in the U.K. are working to better understand the link between the two

“We do not know exactly how the behavior relates to colic except that is it is not as simple as horses just sucking in a lot of air; it is much more complex than that,” explained Ebony Escalona, BSc (Hons), BVSc, MRCVS, a researcher at the Imperial College London Faculty of Medicine, in England. Escalona and colleagues recently completed a study in which they evaluated the prevalence of and risk factors for colic in cribbers.

Ultimately, the team found that a horse that only cribs or sucks wind occasionally is less likely to have a history of colic than a horse performing this behavior many hours a day. “The more severe/frequent the signs of this behavior, the more likely they were to have a history of colic in this study,” Escalona said.

Still, Escalona said the team wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to eliminate cribbing, even if a horse cribs frequently. “We would not advocate methods to physically prevent horses performing this behavior (e.g., collars, electrifying stables, surgical procedures),” Escalona noted. “There is scientific evidence that this actually increases stress in these horses, and there are some major welfare issues with some of the methods used

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Katie Navarra has worked as a freelance writer since 2001. A lifelong horse lover, she owns and enjoys competing a dun Quarter Horse mare.

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