What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Cribbing or Wind-Sucking


Cribbing occurs when a horse grabs a stationary object such as a stall door or railing with its nipping teeth (incisors), arches and tenses its neck and makes a grunting or groaning sound as it pulls air into its esophagus. Wind-sucking is similar but does not require the use of a stationary object.

Both cribbing and wind-sucking are stereotypical behaviors and are common in stalled, domestic horses. A stereotypical behavior is defined as a repetitive movement or behavior with no obvious function for the animal that is caused by frustration, stress or brain dysfunction.

Cribbing and wind sucking are generally not that harmful to a horse, although cribbing does cause excessive wear and damage to the front (incisor teeth), not to mention damage to facilities, fences and equipment.

Occasionally, a horse will crib as a response to abdominal pain (colic). A sudden onset of this behavior could be a sign of an underlying condition causing pain.

Horses that crib also tend to experience colic more than non-cribbers. This may not relate to cribbing itself, but to these environmental deficiencies that favors the development of both colic and cribbing. Recently, cribbing and wind-sucking have been associated with a particular condition causing colic, small intestinal entrapment in the epiploic foramen.

  • Code Yellow

    Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment
    • You are interested in pursuing treatment for the behavior.
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.

your role


What To Do

Unfortunately, these behaviors are easier to prevent than eliminate once they become established. If your horse has started cribbing, immediately try changing their environment and management. Provide long-stem grass hay in large quantities. Provide increased and consistent exercise, and maximize contact and turnout with other horses. A cribbing collar may or may not help. Electric collars can be helpful, but disastrous if misused.

What Not To Do

Do not waste your time or money on "miracle" cribbing cures.

your vet's role

If the problem is extreme or ongoing despite your efforts contact your vet. They will likely assess your management, and perform a physical exam to rule out underlying causes. There are a variety of veterinary treatments, including medications, acupuncture, and surgery, all of which may be helpful. However, the key is trying to improve quality of life through management and environmental changes.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • When did you first notice this problem?
  • Are you seeing other signs of abdominal pain (colic)?
  • Does your horse have a history of colic?
  • What is the horse currently being fed?
  • What is the horse's turnout and exercise regimen?
  • Do the horses have adequate turnout and get adequate exercise?
  • How is the horse stabled or managed?
  • How old is the horse?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?
  • Have you changed your horse's feed or management lately?

Diagnostics Your Vet May Perform

Figuring out the cause of the problem. These are tests or procedures used by your vet to determine what’s wrong.

Very Common
more diagnostics

Related References:

McGreevy P. Equine Behavior, A Guide for Veterinarians & Equine Scientists. Edinburgh: Saunders, 2004.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP