Cribbing in horses: A surgical approach to treatment. Sounds like declawing

Here’s a veterinary treatment for horses which in concept and principle has similarities to cat declawing. Both these procedures shed light on the darky side of our relationship with animals.

We know what declawing is. It is the partial amputation of a cat’s toes on all forepaws to remove the claws. Cats use their claws for many reasons. All are a natural part of cat behavior but unfortunately a lot of people don’t like certain aspects of a cat’s natural behavior because it can cause damage to furniture.

Horse cribbing
Horse cribbing
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Cribbing is part of the behavior of 4.4% of domestic horses. It is a behavioral abnormality arising out of the domestication of horses. It is like a human biting his/her fingernails. This is a sign of stress. It relieves stress.

Specifically cribbing is when a horse habitually bites down on a horizontal surface with his incisor teeth and at the same time sucks air. The horse may make a grunting or gulping sound. It wears down the incisor teeth and is linked to various conditions such as stomach ulcers, gas colic, ‘strangulation lesions’ and poor performance.

In order to stop cribbing some owners get veterinarians to operate on their horses. The surgery involves removing a lot of muscles or a modified version of it in which less muscle tissue is removed but to which is added a neurectomy; the surgical removal of all or part of a nerve.

This surgery has a good success rate. The horse physically can’t do cribbing. Although, of course, the emotional state of the horse that causes him/her to crib is still there. The horse does not have the means to express it.

I’d say that this was a very cruel procedure in the same was declawing is also cruel.

Wild horses do not engage in cribbing. In my opinion, the way to stop domestic horses doing it is to remove the stresses that cause it. That appears to be considered impossible or impractical by most horse owners.

Declawing and anti-cribbing surgery are similar in concept. They are both substantial surgical interventions carried out not for the welfare of the animal or in their interests but at the request of and for the convenience of the human owner.

Both operations are unecessary. Humans could find alternative ways of dealing with these animal behavior traits. They choose not to because the alternatives are less convenient than the cruel surgery.

Source: Veterinary News. DVM360

3 thoughts on “Cribbing in horses: A surgical approach to treatment. Sounds like declawing”

  1. Cribbing & wind sucking have been recently (18 years ago) most often attributed to GERD in equines, yes they can be learned, but on investigation, the original cribber is often found to suffer from GERD.

    This surgery sounds obscene. Not simple at all.

    Cribbing can be reduced and/or eliminated once the cause, often psychological/environmental is established and changed.

  2. Horses seldom have one owner throughout their lives. Cribbers may end up in very good homes where the original source of the problem is long gone. It’s an addictive behavior. If removing all other stresses and offering a more natural lifestyle to the horse doesn’t work the surgery might be the kindest thing. I have always hated cribbing collars. Most horse owners can tell you some horror stories about them. Worse bringing a cribber into your herd is other horses can learn from them. I have had some cribbers that if a minimal procedure would have been available I would have opted for it. It can become a destructive behavior to the horses health.
    Cribbing should never be confused with chewing on fences and wood. My personal opinion is these vices are man made stress relief that can be avoided in almost all cases by keeping our horses in a natural environment with plenty of mental stimulation when stalled.


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