42/ AUGUST 2020 THE RIDER Lyra and Grayson on Dealing with Cribbing Horses

By Ellen Schoeman. Lyra and Grayson stood

side by side as they designed a ‘Do not Feed Me Without Per- mission’ sign for Lyra’s young colt’s stall door. They added their signatures to the bottom of the sign, hoping the wishes of the colt’s trainer and the barn owner would now be respected. It took some time and fidgeting before Lyra admitted to Grayson that she’d caught Magnus cribbing on his feed bucket. As well as paw- ing, Lyra’s young colt had begun to develop a second unwelcome habit.

“Have you read that it may

be due to a vitamin deficiency?” Grayson asked her regarding his cribbing. “There is a chance that it is

inherited behaviour,” Lyra told him. “But I know the stallion and his family tree very well. So I feel

comfortable saying it’s not com- ing from his side.” “I don’t think we have to

take sides,” Grayson said, some- what joking, somewhat offended since he owned the mare. “Inher- ited behaviour or not, it still has to be triggered.” “Triggered?” “Boredom, perhaps? But

more likely stress. Cribbing could be a coping mechanism to relieve stress. Even humans will pick up bad habits for this reason, no mat- ter how bad it is for you. And cribbing horses are usually more prone to colic and ulcers.” “Okay, so then how do we

turn an unhealthy habit into a healthy one? Isn’t that what us humans do? We turn from smok- ing to yoga or something?” “I don’t know how easy it

will be to teach Magnus yoga…” “Grayson.” “As he is two and the be-

haviour is not yet chronic, I think the first thing we should do is rec- ognize that this could be a defi- ciency or that he is cribbing to relieve some gastric discomfort. Let’s rule out any medical reason first by having the vet do some blood work. We can talk to her about the possibility of putting Magnus on a probiotic or gastro supplement. We can also talk to her about the possibility of put- ting him on a calming supple- ment to help ease any stress he might be feeling right now. Maybe even lower his workload for the time being and increase his turnout time. Let’s see if he is cribbing outside in the paddock as well or if this is a progressing stable habit.” “Maybe I should put a crib-

bing collar on him?” “I have to warn you, Miss

Lyra. Most time cribbing is asso- ciated with exasperated feeding

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behaviour. He has just started, otherwise you would have come to me sooner, which means it is not yet a prolonged or chronic habit and may be reversible. But we will have to find what’s stressing him and find other, healthier ways to occupy him otherwise the collar will keep him from cribbing but will not stop him from feeling stressed and will be taking away his way of relieving that stress. Please, Lyra. Because he is two-years- old and because he has just started cribbing, let us do it this way first.” “Okay, Grayson,” Lyra

agreed. “You win. Let’s call the vet and then I’ll put him in the paddock with his friends and watch him for a few hours to see if he cribs outside as well.”

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