Crib biting in horses - interesting facts on the subject!

Let me tell you one thing in advance: It's not a pretty scene, but in the end it's not the end of the world either! It is not a real horse disease due to health problems! Let's rather call it a crib biting strategy on the part of the animal to various stress influences. More about this later!


According to expert statistics, approximately one to eight percent of all horses actually break down. If it can be avoided, all the better. But beware: advertised crib biting straps are not necessarily the right remedy to help affected animals. Interesting? We think so!

What happens during crib biting in the first place?

There are two forms of crib biting in horses. The first is the attachment crib biting. The animal opens its throat by tensing its neck muscles and draws air into the oesophagus. Many of these horses use a horizontal object (e.g. the feeding trough, stall doors or wooden fences) for this purpose. They put their front teeth on it. This makes this mechanism easier for them. The typical crib biting sound (a burping sound) is then produced.

The second variation is the free crib biting. For this, the horse skilfully pulls its head and neck towards the chest and then snaps back again. Accordingly, free-crib biters do not need an "auxiliary" object. Therefore, not all horses are the same.

The effect of the horse crib biting seems to be addiction-like for the animal. Their body secretes its own substances that calm the horse. There is said to be evidence that even the heart rate drops when the animal indulges in its equine sickness (in goose feet!).

In the past, it was suspected that crib biting made the horse sick. It was said to cause gas accumulation in the stomach and intestines. It was also said that a horse that is crib biting has colic more often. Thanks to veterinary research, this has been disproved. Only the incisors are affected in the case of attachment crib biters. Wear is often visible. Likewise, the neck muscles can be much more pronounced. However, these are not really impairments for the animal.

What causes a horse to crib biting?


Crib biting in horses does not happen by chance. Of course it has causes. These must be eliminated, if possible, in order to provide the horse with relief! In some cases this can help. The first point is the housing conditions. You know that your horse is a running and herding animal. This wonderful creature simply needs certain conditions to be happy and, of course, to stay psychologically healthy. Enough free(!) outdoor space in the fresh air, physical contact with his peers, enough roughage and your care/love!


Ask yourself if you want to spend 20 hours a day in a box with bars? You might be exercised for 1 hour a day, get rationed food and then be allowed 3 hours a day of free time with the paddock. Is that enough for a creature that (naturally!) spends up to 16 hours a day looking for food and covers a distance of about 40 km with its fellow species?


The next site for why horses might do crib biting is a pre-existing equine disease. Studies in England found that many crib biters already suffered from diseases of the stomach and intestinal tract (ulcers...). Often caused by too much concentrated feed, too little roughage.

Other triggers can be too much pressure to perform, dubious training methods and drastic negative experiences (weaning, for example). By the way: the imitation of crib biting has not been confirmed!

As a final point, it must also be mentioned that crib biting in horses is definitely hereditary. So again, not as a horse disease in the health sense, but really already through genetic predispositions in advance. According to this, the horse can also break down, even though it has enjoyed good husbandry conditions, gentle training and a kind owner. Therefore, the whole story should not be lumped together!

What can be done against crib biting?


Crib biting horse therapy - three terms that many horse lovers wish they knew. First and foremost, it is important to consider whether the animal is living in a species-appropriate manner, whether the amount of roughage is appropriate and where possible stress situations could be present for the horse. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the horse will continue to chew even with optimised husbandry. Here, it is important to provide the Hotti with all-round occupation. In the form of toys, hay bags and of course with lots of horse buddies. This may help to minimise the horse's tendency to do crib biting.

Trying to control the horse's crib biting with a therapeutic chop strap usually means even more stress for the horse and borders on cruelty to animals. The "horse disease" is only suppressed even more. The horse no longer crib bites constantly - but now has to cope with its addiction psychologically. Not recommended!

Resulting, short answer to : What helps against crib biting ?

The affected animals simply need an understanding owner who pays attention to their basic needs and ultimately takes them as they are!