Cribbing, also known as wind sucking or aerophagia, is a destructive habit in horses usually caused by boredom and stress and possibly stomach acidity. Once a horse gets addicted to this habit, there is no surefire remedy for breaking it. You know a horse is cribbing when it grasps any solid object, or even its own foreleg with its front teeth, arches its neck, and then gulps to force air into its throat. According to research, a horse receives a hit of endorphins when it cribs, and gets hooked to the habit. Cribbing can be compared to similar to obsessive-compulsive disorders in humans. While wild horses rarely crib, domestic horses kept in small-enclosed spaces for long periods of time and not allowed graze naturally are more likely to form such habits such as cribbing.
It is almost impossible to completely stop a horse from cribbing. No one remedy or combination of remedies has proved to be fully effective in stopping this disorder. A remedy can only minimize damage done to your horse’s health.
A very effective way of preventing a horse from cribbing is allowing it to live in the most natural environment possible. Free access to pasture grass or plentiful hay will satisfy the horse’s normal instinct to graze. It will remove a lot of stress and boredom from the horse and it will begin to feel more at ease.
One of the many products available in the market to stop a horse from cribbing consists of straps that are placed around the horse’s throat area, and are known as “cribbing straps”. These straps neither hurt the horse, nor do interfere with eating or breathing. The straps put pressure on the horse’s throat when it starts cribbing. This pressure annoys some horses who decide to stop cribbing. Even then, many horses tolerate this pressure and do not stop cribbing.
So, you can also try non-toxic sprays or clear paints that are applied to the surfaces that the horse uses to crib. As they taste horrible, when the horse puts its mouth on that surface to crib, he is repulsed by the taste and stop cribbing. The disadvantage of this method is that you will have to re-apply it to the surfaces quite often, as it may wear off.. Moreover, it will only stop the horse from cribbing only in the areas that you apply it. Take the horse to another stall or area and it will start cribbing again.
You can try to stop your horse from cribbing by teaching it that it is unpleasant. But, it is better said than done. To train a horse to stop cribbing is almost impossible.
You can also apply the following methods: calming herbal mixtures, low acid feeds developed for horses, aromatherapy, flower essences, homeopathic treatment, alteration of the throat muscles by surgery, hanging toys such as balls and jugs on strings for the horse to mouth, mineral supplements, anti-acids, chiropractic treatments, or electric fencing either on its own or over wooden fences. Drastic and cruel steps like electric shock collars are avoided by the average horse owner and they too are not hundred percent effective.