Video: Damage that cribbing can cause

She is cute... but that smile is a mess!

She is cute… but that smile is a mess!

When a horse cribs, it grabs hold of an object with its mouth, particularly the top teeth, and pulls. The horse also appears to be swallowing/expelling air and the motion includes a grunting type sound. Cribbing is not the same thing as chewing wood. Many horses chew on wood but cribbing is characterized by the pulling motion and the audible grunting sound. It is uncertain exactly why horses crib. For years it was thought that horses were swallowing air and experiencing pleasure…now it is believed that the horse may be experiencing discomfort and is cribbing to relieve the pain. As you can see there are a wide range of thoughts on the subject.

Many other factors may play a part in cribbing such as stress, stalling, restricted access to food, lack of minerals or limited interaction with other horses…but there are horses who crib without any of these factors.

Although experts can’t agree on the causes there are some side effects that are easy to observe. Some of the negative things associated with cribbing include: increased chance of colic, weight loss, and damage to the teeth. Cribbing is also the only vice I am aware of that is required to be disclosed when selling a horse at auction.

Check out this video of a horse that came through a rescue situation. The owner is unsure of the horses age because the damage to the teeth is extensive and the most common method of determining a horses age is by looking at their teeth…which is useless in this case. The horse is in good weight because it is fed soaked pellets for easy chewing. If caught early cribbing often be managed with a cribbing collar but this horse was well past that point when she entered the rescue.




  1. Vicki Haddock on February 14, 2015 at 1:14 am

    I have a 17 yo who cribbs or windsucks as we call it. I purchased him as a 5yo with a parrot mouth and windsucker with many other great skills. My questions at the time, did he prefer to eat or windsuck. He prefers to eat. I am lucky as I have found that the windsucking is a great barometer to measure how our activity has gone. At the end if he rushes over to a tree and windsucks frantically- not good. If he wanders over has a go, looks around and does it again – Great day. If we are at an event and he trying to windsuck on everything, then I know he is stressed and I can work with him until he blows out. He has also been in the paddock over the years with varying young horses and none have taken it up. In fact I watched one young horse go to the tree after he had left and sniffed it and looked around like he couldn’t understand what the attraction was. I believe now having seen this in action, if a number of horses develop the habit on one site, I would probably review the site and management. My horse is wonderful. Where I live it is too hot and humid for a collar anyway – too much rubbing. As a person in a wheelchair, he is amazing in his cooperation with me and how he takes care of me. We accept each other’s limitations and work with what we have.

  2. Tona Lednum on February 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    I had a gelding that cribbed. He was the best trail horse I ever. So easy to ride and never scared of anything, crossed water, logs, holes just a wonderful horse but I had to change things around here because he was very destructive on board fence. I added a hot wire on top, took care of that. Then he started cribbing on my hay hut, which is plastic type material. He made 2 splits in it so I had to add small wire on the bottom lip of the windows so he couldnt get hold of it. The wire just stuck up about 3 inches so didnt interfere with the other horses eating. They can be managed but you do have to work at it or use a cribbing collar, which I didnt like using. T. Lednum

    Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2015 01:29:57 +0000 To:

  3. Lahle Ehrlich on February 13, 2015 at 9:46 am

    I adopted a shelter horse last Dec. She had worn her top teeth to the gums cribbing before I got her. She had been starved and locked in a stall 24/7 for months with another horse so I assume that is when/why she started cribbing.

    She had an impaction colic two weeks after we adopted her but I do not think it had anything to do with her cribbing.

    She is cribbing at least 50% less than what I saw her doing at the shelter, but I think she will never stop. I have opted to not use a collar because I have never heard a single story that they really stop a horse from cribbing, only lets them suck less air. When she is kept busy she’s fine — but she will crib immediately after a treat or between bites of food or if bored.

    At the shelter whenever I would visit her she would crib almost nonstop but she was stressed and had nothing to do there. She cannot graze but she can eat hay and soaked pellets and we had no trouble getting weight back on her. I love her so much and she’s the kindest, sweetest mare ever so I can live with the cribbing as long as it does not cause her any other health problems.

  4. gallopayle on February 13, 2015 at 8:48 am

    The cribbing collar uses pressure and release. Our horse (given to us) came with this stereotypical behaviour that developed at weaning. When he raises his head to try and wind suck, the collar is tight. When he lowers his head to graze and relax, it is loose. He has gained weight and appears not to resent the collar. We have his mother and she does not do it, nor her other offspring. Also no other horses have learned to do this. I believe the collar prevents repeated reinforcement of unhealthy brain pathways and allows him to do other more natural behaviours like grazing and socializing. I also believe wind sucking can be started because of gastro intestinal upset.

  5. Roberta Jorio on February 13, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Is it possible to “treat” that using the same concept of horse training (applying pressure and then releasing the pressure? Just wondering

  6. Gertie on February 13, 2015 at 2:01 am

    That’s my boy. He’s 19ish. Cribbed, we think, his whole life (i got him 4 years ago) all devices were tried and none worked. he can manage to swing a cribbing collar around so he can crib. However I have learned that he cribs in only one spot in his stall when he’s feeling good and when he’s not he cribbs in many places on the stall front. He has coliced once but the vet didn’t think it was due to his cribbing (the vet on call happened to be his equine dentist) She thinks he has ulcers but not stomach ulcers to thus maybe hind gut. She steered me away from the normal ulcer treatments and testing due to the fact she didn’t believe they were in his stomach. I use his cribbing as a barromitor to tell me how he’s feeling. IF he’s feeling good he cribs less and in one spot, if he’s feeling ‘iffy’ he still cribs in one spot but it can be more often. If he’s feeling bad he’ll crib down the entire stall front. HE can still pull licorice out of my back pocket when i’m not looking even with no front teeth! 🙂 and he loves his job as a school horse. I decided not to try to fix what ‘aint broke’ at this point. *Shrugging* guess he’s just an odd duck

  7. Sharon Hill on February 12, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    My 32 year old gelding cribs. I once had a cribbing collar on him until someone in the boarding barn thought it should be tighter and it galled him so bad. I never put it back on him. I don’t think he has colicked any more or less than a non cribber. I think my horse cribs for the pleasure of it. He was depressed before I moved him to his ‘retirement’ home two years ago. He had stopped cribbing completely. When he got used to his new home and was happier than he had been in a long time, he started up again. His teeth are as good as any 32 year old horse. A vet once commented he had to wear a neck brace for a short time and it drove him absolutely nuts. To have to wear one all the time… There would have to be something more than cribbing going on for me to put a cribbing collar on a horse.

  8. Angela Walton on February 12, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I own a cribber, too. Other than dealing with the stigma & uneducated comments that come with a cribbing horse, my gelding is well managed, not stalled & has plenty of pasture grass to keep him away from fixed objects. He may grab a quick suck when he comes to the water trough, but if thats the worst thing he ever does, I can live with his “handicap”. He’s 17, has been with me since age 2 & the best horse I’ve ever owned.

  9. Erin on February 12, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I know a horse who cribs every chance he gets. He cribs through every type of collar on the market, even the “nut cracker” type that look quite uncomfortable. He will crib on your shoulder when you’re tacking up. Nothing will stop Forest! He can even find a way to do it with a muzzle on. Its no use :/

    • Jeanette on February 14, 2015 at 9:37 pm

      I had a really bad cribber. 2 years ago i put all my hay in slow feeder nets and she never cribbed again. I cannot say enough about slow feeder nets….. i love them!!

  10. Gayle Carline on February 12, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    My gelding, Snoopy, became a cribber when he was on layup after breaking his leg. I seem to recall 4-6 months of him standing in a stall, slowly losing his little horsey mind. As he came out of rehab, he cribbed pretty much all the time, so I put a cribbing collar on him. I had a disagreement with my old trainer and we ended up taking the collar off him. Fast forward, seven years later, he only cribs for a few moments after I give him a treat. Perhaps he was cribbing due to pain earlier, but cribbing after an apple or a carrot or a peppermint makes me think that he is not in pain.

  11. Kellie Dubuc on February 12, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    why do barns care if the horse is a cribber? if it only damages their teeth?

  12. Anne Hunter on February 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    I have a BIG TIME cribber, that the seller said “Oh by the way, he is a light cribber.” as I was loading him on the trailer. He is a wonderful horse otherwise. I use a cribbing collar on him, very tight and use a grazing muzzle during turn out. He cribs the very second you take the collar off. He already has some damage to his teeth and is only 12. It concerns me but there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.

  13. Hillary on February 12, 2015 at 8:32 pm

    Can you show us a photo of her teeth?

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