When you love and own horses, there's nothing sweeter than looking out of a window in your home and seeing your horses graze in their paddock surrounded by wood fencing. Unless, of course, you notice chunks of wood missing from the railings of your wood fencing.
Cribbing is a behavior of horses that can destroy fencing. Here's what you need to know about cribbing, why horses do it, what you need to know about health concerns, and what you can do to save your wood fence.
What is cribbing?
Cribbing is when a horse grabs onto a solid piece of wood, such as a rail of fencing or the part of a barn door, with their teeth. The affects of cribbing are quite noticeable on wood, such as scalloped edges on rails of wood fencing or along the sides of a barn door.
When cribbing, the horse arches his neck and pulls on the wood while sucking air into his stomach. There are several reasons why horses crib, including nutritional deficiencies, boredom, nervousness, and frustration. Sometimes, horses start cribbing after watching other horses do it.
Why do horses do it?
Once the behavior starts, it can be difficult to get the horse to stop doing it. The reason for this is because, when horses suck air into their stomach while cribbing, it's believed that they get a head rush. This feeling of a head rush can be addictive, particularly for horses that are bored and frustrated. Therefore, the addictive nature of cribbing makes it a difficult habit to break.
What are the health risks?
While the appearance of your wood fencing is probably a concern, your biggest concern is likely the health of your horses. Obviously, horses that chew on wood end up getting splinters of wood and wood chips in their mouths and digestive tracks. Since a horse's digestive system isn't able to easily digest wood, cribbing can lead to colic, internal hernias, teeth problems, and weight loss. Horses that crib extensively can develop thicker neck muscles.
How can you stop your horse from cribbing?
First, it's important to determine why your horse is using the wood fencing as a pacifier. Since nutritional deficiencies is one of the reasons for horses to crib, have your horse evaluated by an equine veterinarian to see if there is a vitamin deficiency that may be helped with dietary supplements. If your horse passes their health assessment with flying colors, consider asking a trainer to evaluate your horse to see if there is a problem with boredom, nervousness, frustration, or excessive energy. If so, the trainer may be able to offer suggestions on how to curb the cribbing behavior.
What can be done to save your wood fencing?
Since cribbing is an addictive habit that is difficult to break horses from doing, it's a good idea to take a few prevention measures to save your wood fencing. Go ahead and replace any boards and railings that have been damaged from cribbing. Be sure that the new boards and railings are secured with screws instead of nails. The reason for this is because horses are strong enough to pull nails out of fencing.
Cover boards and rails with a protective, rounded metal edging, particularly in areas where your horse has been cribbing. Alternatively, coat the wood fencing with a specialized paint that has been specifically designed to deter horses from cribbing. You can find this type of anti-cribbing paint at your local farm supply store or through a fencing contractor. If these steps do not deter your horse, consider running an electric fence wire directly on top of the fence.
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