Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Create a crib-free stall: Ten tips for horse owners

Here's a weird thing -- Riley has stopped cribbing (knock on wood, knock on wood!). Now, I'm not recommending six months of stall rest in a stall devoid of cribbing surfaces as a cure for cribbing, but...

 In my case, that and a jar of Cribox just may have worked. The crib-free stall? Well, you may or may not be in a barn that has such a stall, but here are a few stall design/modification tips for owners in the same boat....
  1. Start with a stall that is made up of flat surfaces -- no protruding or graspable surfaces. If you have cribbable surfaces...
    • Crib caps can be placed over stall walls and some other stall surfaces (expensive solution, I didn't try).
    • Aluminum strips can also help but cribbers are good a grasping and ripping things off (ask me how I know). 
    • Irish Spring soap and Dawn soap work; reapply as necessary. Cribox works too, but it's more expensive.
    • If those things don't work,   bring out the big guns -- Raplast. A coat of that will keep them away, but it has to be re-applied periodically, and it is like handling mace.
  2. Got dutch doors? Think about getting one of those v-neck door guards.
  3. Remove feed buckets attached to the wall and salt block holders, if necessary.
  4. Smear Cribox on the rim of the water buckets. Cribox is great stuff -- the odor is distinctive but not absolutely awful.  It did not deter Riley from drinking, but watch your horse carefully if you think the smell might prevent your horse from drinking. 
  5. Do what you can to get your horse a nice, big, open stall. I attribute Riley's reformed ways largely to the barn's open stall design that includes grates between stalls for socializing. Riley's stall is a pleasure to work in, with super lighting and air-flow too.
  6. Arrange for access to lots of hay (I had to pay for  extra, but it was worth it).
  7. Hang a Jolly ball that is very inflated (horse can crib on partially deflated ball).
Okay, here are two non-stall-related tips...
  1. Do what you can to get your horse into a pasture with electrified fencing. If you have the stall  set up to prevent cribbing, your horse has to go cold-turkey. 
  2. What's left? Cross ties. See this blog entry for one approach to discouraging cribbing on cross ties.
Here's to hoping Riley stays "on the wagon."


  1. Nice that Riley has stopped! Hope he stays stopped.

    It seems like all that removing cribbing surfaces would do is create an air gulper. I've never had a cribber myself, but I've been at a stable with cribbers, and one of their owners tried some sort of stuff you paint on the wood, and the horse started arching her neck and gulping air without biting anything. She would even gulp out in the pasture.

  2. If you have a horse that is determined to crib, it will, no matter what.

    I have a mare (20 y.o. Tb, ex-racehorse) that cribs and she has hay and pasture access 24/7, as well as electric fences. She will crib on anything she can find, even when I think I've gotten rid of anything "crib-able." Fence posts (she'll reach over the electric tape), the edge of the water tank, the edge of the hay feeder, etc. It gets to a point where it's not longer an effect of boredom, it's an addiction. The ONLY thing that stops her is a cribbing collar, and unfortunately it has to be cranked up pretty tight to be effective.

  3. That's great! I have a cribber and it drives me crazy. He has always had 6-7 hours of turnout everyday in the winter and 15-17 hours in the summer. He didn't start till he was 4. I have taken everything down that I can, but we have pipe fencing around the runs attached to his stall. He will crib on that. I think I will try the soap idea. Besides more hay did you change anything in Riley's diet?

  4. Tried almost everything with my cribber and I have finally surrendered. Some theories are that ulcers cause cribbing. Could be a change of diet and change of stress level made a difference for Riley.

    Either way, may the new behavior continue on!!

  5. I have an 8 year old ottb who cribs like a mad man, on anything and everything. He has ulcers so I cut his grain completely out and provide him with loads of hay and beet pulp. The change in diet has helped with the cribbing, as well as the ulcers, the cribbing is not so constant now, but the urge is still there. Good luck to all with this problem and remember to have the dentist out regularly, his cribbing has wracked havoc with his teeth!

  6. Unfortunately, we can't all house our horses in a "natural" environment, but the evidence points towards a strong link between diet and stable management and horse behavior, especially "vices". Anytime I hear "stall" I think, "as close to unnatural as you can get for a horse". But reading the other comments suggests that even horses given pasture time 24/7 are cribbing! Once learned as a "stall vice" do they continue out of habit on pasture?? Also, do these horses on pasture have other herdmates out there with them? TheHorse.com ran an article on this about a year ago Article number 13977 "Link Between Equine Diet and Behavior Explored"

  7. The horse I'm thinking of was a Western Pleasure Quarter horse who was also the most ring-sour creature I've ever seen, and had a whole host of other vices, including biting, cow-kicking, etc. She had been basically kept indoors with no sunshine because "it would dull her coat," stuffed full of sweet feed until she was fat as a little piglet, and then jogged in endless little circles with her nose touching the ground until she hated everyone and everything. This was in the middle of the peanut roller epidemic. She was basically a nice looking horse but the whole attitude behind Western Pleasure at the time spoiled horses. (Which seems kind of counter-productive to me - shouldn't the ideal of a Pleasure horse be a horse that's pleasant?)

    Anyway, she learned to crib in a stall, but once she had the habit she would do it anywhere. Even a collar didn't really work - unless you cranked it to the point where it was pretty cruel, she would just crib anyway, and her owner didn't like the marks it left on her neck hair. Regarding other pasture mates - the worst thing about a cribber is they teach other horses to crib. Yep, she had other horses with her, and she would stand around in groups with them showing them her trick, like a bad kid handing out cigarettes in junior high school.

  8. For exceptional cribbers Raplast is like candy. Works briefly, then aimply becomes a condiment.
    A hot-wire paddock (and only hot-wire)and water barrel no taller than 18 inches will work. The shade must have round poles to hold it up with no horizontal supports.
    No trees.
    No buckets.
    No feeders except a low trough.
    And, as Allie said, the determined horse will simply learn to suck wind.
    If you want to know the lengths we went to try to stop cribbing, email mail me and we'll try to arrange to speak on the phone.

  9. I have tried everything under the sun and my horse will crib on anything he can, including the back of another horse if it will let him. Bet most have never heard of that one. He is out 24/7 and has few if any places he can crib on, but he is always looking for something. He would rather crib than eat.

  10. One of the main risk factors for developing stereotypic behaviours (i.e., repetitive behaviours that seemingly have no function) such as cribbing, is lack of social contact and access to pasture. Stereotypic behaviours are often developed to compensate for the lack of other important behaviours and can become a habit once developed.

    To read more about the importance of social behaviour in horses read my blog at:

  11. Very good tips for horse owners. But I will also add that your horses need to be taken care of. You need to think about their overall health by taking an insurance for them, which could save you a great deal of money in case they are sick. Find out more here horse insurance

  12. I think as close to unnatural as you can get for a horse.But reading the other comments suggests that even Horse feeder


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