IN THIS ISSUE
How to solve the cribbing mystery
No, cribbing isn't contageous
A summer read for horse lovers
VIEW AS A WEB PAGE
Longeing in Balance
1, 2 and 3
Buy the Kindle version at Amazon
LIVING WITH A CRIBBER
Nothing in the horse community seems to be so universally disliked as a cribber.
Many boarding barns refuse to accept cribbers, or require them to wear a collar. They destroy fences, their teeth, and, sometimes, even themselves when they colic from sucking air (which is currently considered a myth, but more about that in a bit.) Cribbers are often devalued in price. Horses who might otherwise be talented, intelligent and delightful individuals, are crossed off the ‘yes’ list, because prospective buyers don’t want to deal with the vice.
I was on that “oh no, NEVER” list myself until I purchased an unbroke pasture horse, then realized when I tried to switch him to stall board that he was a notorious cribber. But, by that time we were VERY fond of each other, so I set about the daunting – okay, nearly impossible – task of helping this lovely horse to rid himself of this nasty habit.
PHASE 1: Panic
Owning a cribber, much like living with an alcoholic, has several phases, the first being disappointment and anger. Why does he crib? What can I do to stop him? Will my barn manager ask me to leave? Will he have to be choked to death by one of those ugly collars? Who will EVER buy this animal, with this disgusting habit? After getting myself worked up into a full-blown panic attack, I had to step back and look at the problem realistically. Cribbing is a vice, but it’s not the end of the world.
HORSES DON'T TEACH OTHER HORSES
It’s always nice when actual, intentional research proves right something I already believe to be true.
Here’s the headline that caught my eye online recently: “Cribbing Not a Learned Behavior, Researchers Say.” The article was published in The Horse a couple of years ago and it confirms a belief that still isn’t shared by many horsewomen and -men, namely that cribbers are born, not created.
What convinced me that horses who crib don’t learn the behavior from their stablemates? Watching ignored and bored horses at a self-care boarding stable live next to cribbers without developing the habit themselves. Hearing an experienced breeder tell about a foal who started cribbing before he was weaned when neither his dam nor any other horse on the property cribbed. Working with cribbers/windsuckers whose way of being in the world showed other unique behaviors – a tendency to dissociate, a short attention span, the tendency to become overstimulated or over-react.
DESERT HORSE RECOMMENDS:
The saying “it’s a small world” certainly pertains to the portion of the world’s population that devotes at least some waking hours to riding, caring for or even dreaming of horses. Anywhere you go you might reasonably expect to run across someone who owns, used to own, always wanted, begged for or borrows a horse.
I recently listed some items for sale on Craigslist, and that’s how I met former rider and ongoing Thoroughbred enthusiast Sondra Newman. You know how these conversations start: she came to look at my sale items and in casual conversation I said something about the horse depicted on her bag. She asked whether I had horses and how many and, as if by magic, a new acquaintance between two horse lovers took off.
I learned that she used to ride with a trainer I knew and liked in the local hunter/jumper world. And that she and her journalist husband (journalism was my first career) were horseracing fans who had made a point to visit tracks in their travels. And that she wrote a novel inspired by a Thoroughbred she spied at an Arizona track.
When she came back to pick up the items she had purchased, she kindly brought me a copy of her book, Silver Dreams.