Archive for Cribbing

Former Cribber Can Eat an Apple and not Crib

Sans halter browsing the plants.

It’s been 11 years since I took in my first senior horse, Chaco, who cribbed 24/7.  At the time, I didn’t know if it was possible to “cure” cribbing.  Yet, instinctively I knew that his living environment and diet had something to do with why he cribbed.

In the past few years, his cribbing has ceased completely.  I don’t remember the last time he cribbed.  I also have never fed him treats of any kind, not even apples or carrots because they could trigger him to crib instantaneously.

Recently, one afternoon I let him out loose on the property, and when I went to bring him in, I found him hanging out under a tree.  It was a little out of the ordinary, so I went to see what he was up to.  To my surprise, he was helping himself to crab apples that had fallen on the ground.  They were quite small and bite size, and he could easily pick one up, and it would disappear into his mouth effortlessly.

I was so thrilled that he was healthy enough to handle eating an apple he found, and it didn’t cause him to crib.

Yes, it is possible to “cure” a cribbing horse.  Adjust the diet and living environment to more closely mimic the wild and the cribbing will disappear.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a special moment, years later when the one thing that could get him to crib instantly no longer has any power.

While I have no intention of feeding him apples, I’m thrilled that he has found his own treats on occasion, and he can simply enjoy them.  It’s a wonderful day!

Cribbing Article from Horse Journal

This is the most comprehensive article I’ve ever read on the subject on why some horses crib and what can be done.  The Horse Journal ceased publications in 2014, so I’ve posted the article here in hopes that it can help others who have horses that crib.

This is my favorite quote from the article, “If you want the recipe to produce a cribber, it’s:  early weaning, a high concentrate/low forage diet, infrequent feedings, social isolation, and a stall environment.”

 

Sample Diet

“Nutrition plays a role in every equine health condition, and the horse’s diet can either support or hinder healing and inflammation.”  – Dr. Doug Herthel, founder of Platinum Performance

My first senior horse, Chaco, came to me cribbing constantly and underweight. He had a history of difficulty keeping weight on.  I knew a good diet was critical to having a chance at the cribbing going away and him being able to maintain his weight.

My first horse the day I picked him up. 26 years old.

My first horse the day I picked him up. 26 years old.

Here’s his daily diet before I owned him:

1. 3 scoops of soaked beat pulp
2. 1 scoop of soaked alfalfa cubes
3. A few scoops of senior horse feed
4. Local western Washington hay
5. Some pasture turnout in summer

Here’s his daily diet I switched him to when I got him:

1. 20 lbs. timothy/orchard grass mix hay (from eastern Washington)
2. 2 lbs. eastern Washington alfalfa hay
3. 24/7 pasture turnout
4. Mineral supplement
5. Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation during the non-growing season

 

100_0612

Six years in to his new diet. Age 32.

 

*I got rid of the local western Washington hay. It had a poor nutritional profile.

*I got rid of the senior horse feed. It was grain based. Not only did grain cause Chaco to crib, but grain is related to numerous health disorders in horses.

*I got rid of the beat pulp. While beat pulp can be a source of fiber, I wanted to see if just feeding him high quality hay would take care of his nutritional needs.  (It did).

*I added a powdered mineral supplement to balance the nutritional profile of the hay.

*I supplemented omega 3 fatty acids in the non-growing season.  During the growing season, grass has omega 3 fatty acids. If the horse doesn’t have grass, then supplement the omega 3 fatty acids.  Sunflower seeds, ground flax seed, flax oil or hemp oil all have omega 3 fatty acids.

Today, his constant cribbing has stopped.  He can maintain his weight on hay and pasture alone.  And an added bonus is his silky soft coat. It is so soft and luxurious I can’t get enough of it. What’s the secret? The diet.

Are you having health problems with your own horse?  Take a close look at the diet. Good nutrition will only support your horse’s overall health.

 

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #5

After our first trip to eastern Washington the previous summer, my horse, Chaco and I visited the same place again a year later.  This time I had learned a new way to trim his feet that did not cause him pain.  I was looking forward to two weeks of no cribbing.

A few days into our trip he started cribbing.   I hadn’t trimmed his feet, so I knew that wasn’t the cause, but two days earlier we had opened the gate to another field.  I asked the owner, what was growing in that field.  The answer was some clover.  I later learned that clover can be high in starch (so can grain), and that causes him to crib.

That same summer the local vet had a record number of founders in horses.  For whatever reason with the weather and the plants, horses were foundering and my horse was cribbing.

Clue #5 – Starch causes Chaco to crib.

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #5

The following summer my horse, Chaco, and I, took another trip to the same place in eastern Washington.  (See earlier post for the first part of this story).   This time I had learned a new way to trim his feet that did not cause him pain.  I was looking forward to two weeks of no cribbing.

A few days into our trip he started cribbing.   I hadn’t trimmed his feet, so I knew that wasn’t the cause, but two days earlier we had opened the gate to another field.  I asked the owner, what was growing in that field.  The answer was some clover.  I later learned that clover can be high in starch (so can grain), and that causes him to crib.

That same summer the local vet had a record number of founders in horses.  For whatever reason with the weather and the plants, horses were foundering and my horse was cribbing.

Clue #5 – Starch causes Chaco to crib.

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #4

My first summer of horse ownership, I took my horse, Chaco, to eastern Washington for vacation.  His home for those two weeks was a 45-acre sagebrush hillside and 90 degree heat with his pasture mate.  The first morning we were there I took him for a walk just as the sun came up at 6:30 a.m.  I let him out to the end of the 15-foot lead rope, and he picked up a trot and threw his front legs out in joy.  His eyes and ears were alert, and his expression exuded curiosity.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

It was great to see him so happy.  I had owned him for almost a year, and all my hard work of changing his environment, his diet and exercise was paying off.  He still cribbed, although it was less than when he first came.  In eastern Washington several days went by when I realized he hadn’t cribbed.  Eleven days into our vacation he still hadn’t cribbed at all.  In the several years I had known him, that had never happened.  I was secretly excited that maybe cribbing could become a thing of the past.  Then the eleventh day came, and I trimmed his feet.  That night, I could hear him crib all night long.

The next morning I knew my trim had caused him pain, and he cribbed to relieve it.  Nothing else had changed in his diet or environment.  When I saw him walk, he was now tender-footed.  I put two and two together and reality stared me in the face:  he cribs to relieve pain.

Clue #4 – Pain causes Chaco to crib.

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #3

Pleasantly surprised at Chaco’s reduction in cribbing after starting his exercise program, I made it part of my own routine.  One sunny afternoon after I had just finished working with him, he was completely relaxed hanging out with me at the fence line of the round corral.  A young girl saw us and asked me if she could give Chaco a treat.  Sure, why not.  The girl held her hand out to Chaco with a piece of carrot and broccoli in it.  No sooner had the carrot touched his lips (he hadn’t even swallowed yet) that it was rolling back out of his mouth as he purchased his teeth on the fence rail and began to crib.

I was stunned.  We had just had a nice time exercising.  He was relaxed.  He had no need to crib.  Then the touch of a carrot triggered that need.

Clue #3:  Carrots (and I later found out apples) cause Chaco to crib.

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #2

The year and a half before Chaco retired from therapy work with at-risk youth, he cribbed constantly.  There was never a moment when I saw him and he wasn’t cribbing.  He seemed to be in his own world.  There was talk of retiring him.  Eager to help him, I suggested an exercise program for him might help.  I offered to do it, so several times a week I came early to pull him out of his paddock, let him roll in the corral and then do some ground work, followed by riding.

About two weeks into this new routine, I arrived one day and saw him in his paddock not cribbing.  I was shocked.  I didn’t recall ever seeing him not cribbing.  The only thing that had changed in his routine was the addition of an exercise program.

Clue #2:  Exercise reduced the amount of cribbing Chaco did.

Curing the Cribbing Horse – Clue #1

What would become my work of rehabbing senior horses began by accident with a bay gelding in his twenties who cribbed constantly at the farm where I worked.  I first met him when he arrived there at 18 years old to do therapy work with at-risk youth.  He came as a cribber, and his name was Chaco.  The farm tried putting tobasco sauce on the railing on which he cribbed.  They tried putting a cribbing strap around his neck.  None of it slowed him down or stopped him from cribbing.  Over the eight years he worked as a therapy horse, his cribbing gradually increased until he was cribbing every moment of every day.

The year before his retirement I worked as the barn manager at the farm.  Everyone wanted to try and figure out a way to get him to stop cribbing.  I agreed, but another question was forming in my mind: “What drives him to crib?”  If we could answer that question, then we could resolve his need to crib.

Because he usually spent more time cribbing than eating, he had trouble maintaining his weight. Therefore, he was fed senior horse grain daily along with hay. As the barn manager, I fed the farm animals several times a week and began to notice that he started cribbing after eating for about 10 minutes.

So one day I did an experiment.  I led him out into the large fenced yard, put his grain bucket in the middle of it, and let him eat.  Sure enough, after about 10 minutes he left his grain bucket and walked 15 feet away to find a place to crib at a hitching rail.

Another person at the farm that morning saw what I saw.  We were both putting two and two together.

She asked, “Did he just leave his grain bucket to go crib?”

“Yes,” I replied.

This marked the beginning of a several year journey of unwinding the mystery of why he cribbed, but one thing was for sure:  within 10 minutes of eating grain he had a need to crib that was stronger than his need to eat.

Clue #1: Grain causes Chaco to crib.

If you have a horse that cribs, the most comprehensive article I’ve ever read on the subject is in The Horse Journal.  http://seniorhorserehab.com/cribbing-article-from-horse-journal/ While I don’t agree with the use of a cribbing strap there is excellent information on ways to manage cribbing.