Horse Cribbing and Wood Chewing

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Is It Cribbing or Wood Chewing?

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

Dear Cherry,  

     Do you have any  home remedies for cribbing potions?  

Kay from BC Canada

Dear Kay,  

     Because you used the word "potions" in your question, I think you are asking me about "wood chewing" rather than cribbing.  Here's the difference between cribbing and wood chewing:  

Cribbing is when a horse grabs the edge of a fence rail, stall ledge or post top with his incisors, and arches his neck. Although cribbing and windsucking (gulping air) are often used synonymously, they are thought to be separate behaviors. "Unlike formerly thought, McGreevy (McGreevy, P.D., Radiographic and endoscopic study of horses performing an oral based stereotypy. Equine Vet Journal 27:92-95.) determined that windsucking (aerophagia) does not occur during cribbing." (from Horse Behavior, 2nd edition, George Waring). It has been suggested that when a horse cribs, his body releases endorphins, natural "drugs" which stimulate the pleasure center of his brain so cribbing becomes an addictive habit. Generally cribbing is considered "incurable" because the horse receives a "reward" ("pleasure drug") every time he cribs. Cribbers are usually hard keepers (they would rather crib than eat) and can be prone to colic. It is necessary to use consistent, specific means to deal with a cribbing horse - cribbing collars and possibly surgery or the long term use of pharmaceuticals. 

Wood chewing is when a horse gnaws wood fences, feeders, stall walls, or posts.  This is destructive to facilities and the horse can suffer colic from eating wood splinters.  Some horses really turn into beavers!  Wood chewing is common in foals as they test their first incisors and also when their temporary incisors begin to be replaced at 2 1/2 years of age.  To keep wood chewing from developing into a life long habit and to prevent a horse from "discovering" cribbing, provide the horse a well-balanced ration with minerals and plenty of long-stem hay for roughage, especially during cold, wet weather.  Horses who are satiated with roughage are much less likely to chew wood.  Be sure the horse gets plenty of exercise, with time out on pasture if possible.  

     Protect all wood that the horse comes in contact with.  You can do this by covering the wood with sturdy metal edging or use electric fence to keep the horse away from the fence rails altogether.    

     And yes, you can and should treat wood with various "potions" to make wood less palatable.  An effective commercial product is Dyco-Sote, available in dark brown and clear.  Even confirmed beavers leave wood treated with Dyco-Sote alone.  To deter first-time nibblers, you can try rubbing a strongly scented bar of soap (like Irish Spring) over the area.  If you try the commonly recommended home remedy of oil and chili sauce, be careful because if you or your horse get the substance in your eyes or nose, it WILL burn!  And believe it or not, some horses chew MORE after chili oil has been applied to wood!!   

Cherry Hill

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