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.
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.