Equine Vices cont

When one looks at the motivation behind the behaviours the causes are usually always the same; confinement of the horse. Horses evolved as free roaming animals favoring open space where they could move around covering vast areas. Many vices are caused by today’s intensive management and housing of horses in stables for long periods of time. Very often owners with the best intensions cause vices in their horses simply by trying to hard to pamper and care for the horse. Most horses if they have a choice would prefer being outside of the stable for the majority of the day and night, where they are free to move around and socialize with the herd.

Lets start with one of the most common vices, cribbing or wind sucking. It is also one of the most incurable vices as well as one of the most detrimental to the horse’s wellbeing. Cribbing is when the horse bites onto an object (usually start with stable door) flexes its neck while pulling back with its teeth and swallows air. Sometimes you can hear a low-pitched growling type noise while they are swallowing air. It is thought that this behaviour causes a release of endorphins, which gives the horse a wonderful feeling of euphoria, much like the runners high long distance runners experience. So the horse keeps on looking for the feel good state and the wind sucking keeps reinforcing itself this is the reason it is almost impossible to stop it once a horse has learnt it.

Unfortunately it is also a behaviour that one horse quickly learns from another, so it is advisable not to stable your horse next to a wind sucker as they quickly mimic the behaviour. Chronic windsuckers are prone to weigh
t loss, tooth wear, colic and a general state of debilitating health issues.
The main cause of this problem behaviour is boredom, confinement and not enough roughage. Treatment is difficult and may reduce the behaviour but very rarely will it completely stop the behaviour. Special collars can be put on when the horse is stabled or even in the camp if the horse continues to wind suck when out. Unpleasant tasting pastes and special deterrent products can be painted on the surfaces where the horse wind sucks most. The most beneficial management plan is to leave the horse out in the pasture with lots of stimulation and roughage. This is defiantly one vice where prevention is better than cure.
Understand that it is like an addiction to your horse so punishment will only make the situation worse and is definitely not the cure. This horse needs to be kept happy and stimulated with lots of activity in his day and night and as much good quality roughage feed as possible at all times, he cannot wind suck if his mouth is too busy chewing and his head is too busy thinking about things going on around him.

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