How do you handle cribbing horses?
Wood chewing and another wood-related vice called “cribbing” are frustrating problems for horse owners. Equines with these bad habits can both injure themselves and turn your barn into a mess of splinters. Horses who chew fencing, stall doors or the like can ingest particles of wood that can become lodged in their tongues or other parts of the digestive tract, causing problems such as colic. Both wood chewers and cribbers can easily damage their teeth, too.
Horses who crib or chew wood usually do so because of boredom, stress or, possibly, a nutritional deficiency. However, the first thing you need to determine is whether your horse is actually cribbing or just chewing wood.
The term “cribbing” is frequently misused to refer to a horse who chews wood. However, a true cribber flexes his neck and sucks in air when he grabs the wood. Once you’ve seen one, you’ll never mix up the two again. Here’s a link to a great video of one: Cribbing horse on YouTube. It is claimed that the process of cribbing releases good-feeling endorphins. Of course, that just perpetuates the problem! Cribbing is frequently from stress or boredom, and the jury is out as to whether it’s “contagious” or not (you know, “monkey see, monkey do”). For that reason, however, some stables will not board cribbers. If your horse is simply a wood chewer, you simply may need to sign a contract stating you’ll pay for repairs.
An equine cribber will still damage his teeth—and sometimes develop an ugly neck if it goes on for a long time—but the damage to the barn tends to be mostly teeth marks. A horse who actually chews wood will easily destroy your barn, fence posts and even trees.
A true cribber needs to wear a cribbing collar all the time. There are a variety of choices, but the best we’ve used is the Weaver Leather Miracle Collar View the Miracle Collar . You can get covers for it, too, to help reduce rubs from the constant wear. Keep it clean, as that will also help reduce rubs.
If your horse is more of a wood chewer, the problem could still be due to stress or boredom, but we think it may also be nutritional deficiency. Some of our wood-chewing horses have been stopped simply by adding Farnam’s Quitt! Click here to learn more about Farnam’s Quitt!. This daily supplement supplies vitamins, minerals and nutrients that might be lacking in your horse’s diet and causing the desire to chew wood. (Since cribbing is different from wood chewing, Quitt! might not work for true equine cribbers.)
Nasty-tasting wood-covering commercial products can be applied to fence posts and boards to stop horses who chew wood, but you may also have luck just rubbing soap on the areas. We like Dawn Dishwashing Detergent for that. If it’s not enough, you can choose a commercial product, which probably contains capsaicin (red pepper).
Maximizing turnout and feeding the horse more hay can help, depending upon the situation, but it’s worth a try. You need to weigh the benefits against the possibility of weight gain. If your horse can’t be on grass and turnout is limited to a dry lot, you may find him chewing on the fence posts. Exercise, too, can help. The earlier you start these management changes, the more likely they are to work. Once you’ve got confirmed equine beaver, a horse who loves to chew wood, you’ve got a battle on your hands.