A Cribbing FAQ - Learn About Horses That Crib or Windsuck

The causes of cribbing and how to control it

Horse crib biting on fence
Image Credit:Ken Gillespie Photography/ First Light /Getty Images

Whether called cribbing, crib biting, wind sucking, or aerophagia, this is a destructive habit in horses caused by boredom and stress and possibly stomach acidity that can lead to equine ulcers. Once the habit is learned there is no sure remedy for breaking it despite what you may read on websites selling herbs and gear. If you have a cribber, it’s certainly worth trying different things to try and control the habit, but at best, ‘curing’ a cribber is hit and miss. You probably won’t be able to stop a horse from cribbing in every situation. And, even if you do control it well, and then sell the horse, it many start cribbing gain in its new home. So, if you’re selling a cribber, you must tell the new owner that the horse has this vice. And, it’s important to remember that because a horse cribs it’s misbehaving. Like any addict, a cribber needs help controlling itself.

Foals can learn to crib from their mothers and young horses may learn it from others. Before you buy a horse, pony, donkey or mule that cribs make sure you are willing to deal with the damage to fences, trees, and stables and cope with the possible health risks that may come with cribbing.

What Is Cribbing?

What exactly is cribbing, and what does a horse do while it cribs? Here' is an explanation of what you will see when a horse cribs.

Why Do Horses Crib?

Interestingly, cribbing is not a habit seen in wild horses. The thinking is, that cribbing has a lot to do with how we keep domestic horses. Boredom, temperament, stress, diet, and genetics may play a part in developing the vice. Some people believe it’s a learned behavior, but that may or may not be true.

How Can Cribbing Be Harmful?

There is no doubt that cribbing can have a negative impact on a horse's health. Learn how cribbing can be detrimental to your horse's well-being.

How Do I Cope With a Horse That Cribs?

There is no 100% sure way to stop cribbing, beyond surgery, but there are ways to cope. Here are some suggestions that have been tried by many people who have cribbers.

If you are planning to buy a horse, you will probably want to avoid a cribber. If a horse is a cribber, it may actually be illegal to sell a horse and not disclose it is as cribber beforehand. Even if it is not illegal where you are, it is certainly unethical. Asking if the horse has any vices should be on your list of questions for the owner of any horse you are considering buying. If you do buy a cribber, be prepared to deal with the habit for the time you own the horse. Without drastic measures, such a surgery, a cribber will continue being a cribber for its entire life. By trying enough different methods of control, however, you may be able to manage the habit so that it’s not destructive to the horse’s home or itself.