Cribbing Part III: Prevention

Many people use a cribbing collar to prevent their horse from cribbing.
Many people use a cribbing collar to prevent their horse from cribbing.

In the previous two installments on cribbing I’ve covered presumed causes and potential health problems. This installment will address ways to prevent horses that already crib from cribbing.

Increased turnout: often horses that have more turnout are more interested in being outside than in cribbing. My cribber lives outside 24/7 and he cribs much less. Having a companion (another horse or even a goat) helps as does having toys (like a large ball) in the pasture.

Feed more hay or grass: Adding more forage to a horse’s diet keeps them busy and keeps their guts happy. Horses evolved eating almost continuously so nibbling on hay or grass all day prevents stomach acids from building up and causing ulcers.

More/regular work: Horses in work seem to crib less than those who are standing around. I’ve noticed that after he’s been worked my horse is much less likely to crib.

Make it difficult to crib: Horses have a hard time cribbing on objects below knee level. Feeding them from pans on the ground and covering stall doors with metal strips makes cribbing less attractive. Running a strand of electric on top of wood fencing also helps.  I’ve tried the spray on anti-crib products and — other than the fact that I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth for hours — they had no effect. Remember that cribbers aren’t necessarily chewers and they might not get the nasty flavor in their mouths.

Ignore it: The simplest solution is to do nothing. People who have a horse that cribs only occasionally simply ignore it. There is someone at my barn who does that. Her horse is turned out 24/7 with plenty of hay and his cribbing has not yet caused a problem.

Freedom wearing a Miracle Collar
Freedom wearing a Miracle Collar

Use a cribbing collar: Many people who have cribbers use cribbing collars to prevent their horses from cribbing. The collars fit tightly around a horse’s throat latch and make it uncomfortable for the horse to crib. “Nutcracker” type collars have a shaped metal piece on the bottom; “French” collars are usually just leather straps; and “Miracle Collars” have a strap that goes in front of the ears as well as around the throat latch. Some people say they have had success using an old stirrup leather or even just a piece of baling twine around their horse’s neck. From my experience with Freedom, the Miracle Collar rubbed, the stirrup leather once got tightened too much and it was hell to get off. I finally tried a leather and felt “neck sweat”. It’s tight enough to discourage cribbing, never rubs and is easy to get on and off.

Cribbing rings inserted into the gums make cribbing uncomfortable.
Cribbing rings inserted into the gums make cribbing uncomfortable.

Have cribbing rings inserted: This is a fairly new procedure that has shown positive results. However, it’s not to be lightly undertaken. The rings stop a horse from cribbing by causing pain when they come into contact with the cribbing surface. Most vets install the rings into the gum. Some install them into the bone. Cribbing rings generally are left in for 2-3 months and while some horses don’t crib again, other revert back to cribbing quickly.

While many vets say there are no side effects others fear that inserting the rings can cause damage to the gingival surrounding the maxillary incisors, which has the potential to cause persistent pain and periodontal disease.

Perform surgery: The Modified Forssells procedure is performed under general anesthesia and involves “clipping” the muscles involved in the act of cribbing along with a protion of the spinal accessory nerve. About 60% of horses who have the surgery stop cribbing with a higher success rate associated with horses that have either just started cribbing or that only crib mildly.

Use a Shock Collar: Yes, they make an electric shock collar for horses that is similar to those used on dogs. As far as I can tell there are two kinds: one where a human activates the switch like a dog training collar; one where the horse receives a shock when it bends its neck as if it was going to crib, more like a barking collar. I’ve used electric collars on my dogs in the past. It was extremely effective at getting one dog to stop chasing horses. It took only one zap. It was also a godsend for a dog that would bark when left alone.

However, my initial impression is that it’s a bad idea for horses. If cribbing is caused by stress, I’m not sure that zapping the horse when it tries to crib is a great idea. Also, if something goes wrong, you have a 1200 lb animal that is trying to get away from the collar, not just a dog. I read a few posts on the Chronicle of the Horse Forum that relay some bad experiences:

“Someone sent us an automatic anti-cribbing shock color to test. Horse still cribbed, but when he saw me he raised his head and arched his neck and ZZzzzAAAP! The Zap caused him to run around in a very collected frame which kept zapping him. I couldn’t get near the horse for 2 months until the battery wore down.”

“a friend of mine put one of these collars on her good horse and it shorted out and was non stop shocking her horse. it was a miracle that they managed to get it off without anyone being killed. . .he was throwing himself around his stall in a panic.”

Personally, I take a middle ground approach. My horse lives outside 24/7, gets plenty of hay and wears a neck sweat as a cribbing strap. He still cribs occasionally, but not too much. He has (knock on wood) shown no signs of colic and has no problems holding his weight. Sure, I wish he didn’t crib. I also wish my kids didn’t crack their knuckles. But I guess I can live with both behaviors.

Additional articles:
“Cribbing Rings” Give Stall Walls and Fences a Break


Horse Shock Collar

9 thoughts on “Cribbing Part III: Prevention

  1. I am considering buying a 6 yr old thoroughbred who cribs. I am told that he wears a collar which prevents it. I was wondering, if horses can hang out or graze comfortable with a collar on? Does wearing the collar make them unhappy all the time or just when trying to crib? He is a really nice horse for a great price. At first I dismissed him because of the cribbing, but I am reconsidering. Am I crazy? Lori

    1. A Cribbing collar should not bother a horse when he’s not cribbing. Mine wears one most of the time and he doesn’t seem to be bothered by it at all. Now that I own a cribber I’d have to say that it hasn’t been a big deal. Of course, my horse cribs fairly mildly and has never shown any ill effects from it. I wouldn’t give up on the horse but I might ask the seller how much he cribs and whether he’s had any history of colic. Good luck!

  2. I have a mare that her cribbing drives me nuts because I can see her front the kitchen window. Today I looked out and she was stretching her neck and head to the sky and fell over backwards. She had the collar on and it is very hot here. She got up and staggered and fell over again. I ran out took the collar off for a while. Let her have lunch without the collar on and she is back to cribbing! Then she goes out to the pen and rolls from to much air in her gut. So my question is does the french collar cause nerve damage to the poll to cause them to blank out? What else can I do to stop this insaneness or not worry about the collar.

    1. my horse fell over backwards twice while wearing a cribbing collar. I just hot wired the heck out of his stall and paddock after that. Takes diligence but that’s the best I could do.

  3. INTERESTING COMMENTS. I believe I would try a shock collar as long as I was there in case
    something went wrong. I probably will do this as soon as Snickers is finished with our training in
    a few weeks.

  4. hello my names ryan my girlfriend has a ex race horse 16.2 fresh out of racing all he wants to do is windsuck/crib bite we have a collar but cant keep it on constantley causes skin problems because of rubbing could any body tell me how i can overcome this problem ie. install sumthing on stable door tried liquids painted on he loves it soo any ideas please email me thanks very much obliged ..ryanx

  5. Could you please tell me more about the neck sweat that you used as a cribbing collar. Was it effective?

    1. Sadly, although it helped somewhat, it wasn’t enough to keep Freedom from cribbing. I don’t remember where I bought it, but I think I did a search for neck sweats. The best part about the neck sweat was that it didn’t rub. I have to put a fleece cover on his current cribbing strap to keep him comfortable.

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