Cribbing on a Tree
Horses will crib on anything
Holistic therapies can ease this “behavioral” vice
When a horse grabs hold of a solid object with his incisors, arches his neck and sucks in air, he is cribbing. Cribbing is generally believed to be a way to relieve boredom, most commonly displayed by horses who are stabled for long periods. Cribbing is also considered to be an addictive behavior.
By physical design horses are unable to burp or vomit. Researchers believe that cribbing horses, instead of sucking in air, are expelling air out in an effort to "burp" to relieve digestive discomfort. Cribbing is also linked with colic episodes and stomach ulcers.
If cribbing is an early warning sign of digestive discomfort, how we respond is crucial. We need to look at what our horse is eating and the frequency. Is he getting proper nutrition? What are the pH levels in the digestive tract? Does the horse have ulcers?
If we cannot find answers within the digestive tract, we can evaluate the entire body, starting with the head and the teeth. Maureen Rogers is an equine craniosacral therapist who has done extensive research on the cranium and how a horse's wellness is directly linked to his head. She found that horses with temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD), tightness or dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), display unwanted behaviors such as cribbing and head shaking, have low performance levels, improper gaits, headaches, and improper wear of their teeth.
Holistic methods that can be used to address TMD, and help in relieving stress, trauma, and pain include Craniosacral therapy, Reiki, and Essential Oils.
A 13-year-old Thoroughbred gelding, retired racehorse, has a long health history with ulcers, cribbing, cracked hoof walls, hoof abscesses, diarrhea, severe colic with surgery, sixth C-vertebra fracture, ataxia, skin issues and an enormous amount of allergies. This horse was in very poor condition and almost died two weeks prior to his first craniosacral therapy session. He was seen once a week for five weeks. Treatment focused on his enormous cranial compressions, especially around the bones/tissue involved in mastication and the frontal bone. Essential oils were also used (Peppermint, Fennel, Lavender, Lemon) in the early treatment sessions. The horse cribs mostly at night, which is difficult to monitor, but the owner has noticed a decrease in his cribbing after this series of treatments. As the horse continues to improve the treatment plan is evolving to his specific needs.
An 11-year-old Quarter Horse mare has hoof issues, cribs, is extremely lame (a one-legged horse) and, due to her lameness compensation, has major back pain. She also had severe nasal bone compression and frontal bone compression, suspected ulcers, and is stabled in a stall with uneven mats which knock her hips out of place. Treatment focused on cranial trauma to the frontal bone, occipital bone and especially the nasal bone, all of which are connected to the TMJ via fascia and sutures. She has been treated over nine months and is still being treated. Her cribbing has now been reduced to only in between feedings.
A 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare cribs so much her incisors are completely worn down and she has trouble maintaining weight. She was moved from a stall environment to 24/7 pasture turnout. She received natural dentistry where her jaw was realigned (releasing a tight TMJ), Reiki and Craniosacral treatments. After receiving a handful of treatments over the course of a couple of months, her cribbing has dramatically reduced, her entire body posture has changed and she is maintaining a healthy weight.
Cribbing was once thought to be a vice, or bad behavior by a horse. However, we are starting to realize cribbing may just be an outward sign of discomfort. Instead of reaching for the cribbing collar, take the time to investigate further and do a complete body scan/evaluation of your horse to determine what is really going on and why your horse might be exhibiting "bad behavior." Nine times out of ten the "bad behavior" will be a result of the horse attempting to alleviate pain in his/her body.
As horses remind us over and over again, everything within the body is interconnected. We can start our wellness plans with the head and teeth of the horse and work our way throughout the body to ensure everything is functioning properly as nature intended.
Kim Baker is an Animal Communicator, certified Reiki Master Teacher and Equine Craniosacral Therapist. Kim stands out in her field because she works with the whole horse (mind, body, & spirit) as an individual. Kim's passion is helping people and animals improve their relationship bond. Learn more at www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com
More information about Maureen Rogers can be found at www.equinecraniosacral.com