Some interesting news we read today in our email about cribbing horses.

Press Release August 11, 2009

More info go to Cornell University's website:

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Interesting article. Had a bit of trouble locating it, so I've added it here. :)

Marie Rosenthal August /09

Despite many horse owners' belief to the contrary, researchers concluded in a new study that cribbing does not appear to be a learned disorder. However, genetic predisposition appears to be a factor, especially among Thoroughbreds.

Julia D. Albright, MA, DVM, and her colleagues at Cornell University surveyed horse owners about cribbing. Although 49% of owners thought cribbing was a learned behavior, only 1% of cribbers actually started cribbing after exposure to another cribber.

"Cribbing seems to start at a fairly young age, and after the horse begins to display the behavior the initiating factors probably aren't contributing," Albright said. "In other words, if you have a young horse, we recommend weaning in groups in a pasture and with little creep feed. However, if you have a 10-year-old cribber, lots of pasture time probably won't make a difference."

Social isolation and being housed next to an aggressive horse might aggravate a crib-biter.

"Horses are social animals whose natural ecology is grazing at least 16 hours a day in groups. It just makes sense that to have healthy, less stressed horses, we should try to mimic this situation," she said.

"Cribbing is complicated and probably caused by many factors," said Albright. "These horses aren't 'bad,' and we should stop physically and verbally punishing, shocking, and isolating them. For the health of the cribbers (and barn), the behavior should probably be stemmed with a cribbing collar, a diet low in concentrates and high in roughage, and pasture time."

But don't call it a vice. "These horses have a true neurologic pathology, comparable to obsessive compulsive behaviors in humans," she said.

The study, "Crib-biting in U.S. horses: breed predispositions and owner perceptions of aetiology," was published in the May issue of the Equine Veterinary Journal. The abstract is available on PubMed.
I do have a cribber....I'm also 47 years old and still tend to bite on my nails!! :) we all have our vices, and we don't try to stop his by using cribbing collars or other such things. He just gets lots of hay and
roughage and pasture time....then he takes a moment every once in a while and goes for his "smoke break". He's a 16 year old TB and it's one of those things that we weren't told when we purchased him, but we live with it and he's a happy guy and the only horse out of 10 that cribs. I found the cribbing collar did not work on him at all and I suppose we could paint the top of our fence posts with some sort of bad tasting stuff, but over the past 3 years we've decided to just let him be. Other then a few worn down teeth, he's good and healthy and happy.
Thank you for posting this. I've never had a cribber (I'm fortunate), but I'll be looking at them with a lot more sympathy now.
I seem to remember reading somewhere a long while ago that horses do not tend to learn through 'copying' or modelling others' behaviours, so this fits. However it is amazing how many people think they do and get really freaked if there is a weaver or a crib-biter in the same stable block - like their horse might somehow 'catch' it.

I once heard Monty Roberts asked by a woman at a clinic what she could do to stop her horse crib-biting and basically he said 'nothing - we create them by the way we keep them' or words to that effect. She didn't like the answer - I think she thought a bit of round-penning might sort it out!
Here's something else to think about. I once bred a mare who cribbed, the owner did not keep a crib strap on the mare while she was in foal. That foal cribbed shortly after birth.
The mare was rebred and the mare wore the strap the whole time she was in the foal, the second foal never cribbed.
Same farm, lots of turn out, relaxed enviroment.
Maybe the issue is about at what stage in life horses 'copy' or learn behaviour from others... interesting.
I think genetic predisposition could be a possible explanation for that. Not all foals will inherit the cribbing trait, but a portion of them will (even from the same mare, regardless of how much cribbing she does).

It would be intresting to see what percentage of foals from mares that crib turn out to be cribbers themselves.
From what I studied in school, they seem to have learned it from their surroundings, now I hear of new research saying it is genetics.

But I think you can do so many things to help the problem as in changing the feeds or even adding new toys to distract them for doing this.

Mike Hughes a trainer from California has now developed the first of its kind - a 2-Step Training Program to teach your horse not to crib. Mike has spent 8 years studying cribbers, developing this program. He has successfully trained approximately 100 horses not to crib. Mike recently did demonstrations of his program at Can-Am. The Crib-FreeTM Training Program is available as a 2 DVD set with training aid $59.95, just the DVDs for $29.95 and the training aid is available individually as well at $34.95. Visit and use promo code 'Debi' if ordering in the U.S. In Canada Crib-FreeTM is available at .


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