Ask Horse Journal: 07/01

Wants To Stop Cribbing
Our new horse is a cribber. We’ve heard all kind of anecdotal stories about cribbing, but we can’t seem to get a solid answer on how to break this habit.

-L. James
New York

For most horses, once a cribber, always a cribber. It’s a habit you aren’t likely to break. When a horse cribs, he grasps the edge of the stall or other solid structure, flexes the muscles of his neck and sucks in air.

Cribbing can cause dental problems and hypertrophy of the neck muscle. Although it was once believed responsible for poor digestion, colic and flatulence, research done in England in 1995 showed that the air taken into the throat during cribbing doesn’t make its way into the intestinal tract.

The habit usually develops due to boredom. However, it is can also be learned. A few horses stumble on the idea when chewing on wood or playing with buckets. Cribbing is pleasurable. Cribbers have higher levels of beta-endorphins, the body’s own narcotic, than non-cribbers. That’s why some cribbers just can’t wait to grab something and begin to crib.

The best bet for dealing with a cribber is to keep a cribbing collar on him whenever he’s in an area where he can crib. We recommend you try the Weaver Miracle Collar, which we’ve found effective and comfortable (contact your local tack store or Weaver Leather, 800/932-8371). If he gets rubs, you can purchase fleece covers to go with it or wrap it yourself with a soft, clean material. Remember, you’ll need to keep the collar and the fleece clean, as dirt and sweat can also cause rubs.


Selenium and Thyroid
Since I have a 27-year-old gelding with diagnosed hypoactive thyroid and who is currently on long-term thyroid supplementation, I try to be alert to any mention of supplements you suggest for low thyroid. I caught the mention of vitamin E and selenium being in the May 2001 Feeding Analysis and wondered why you said the reader might want to add vitamin E and selenium if the mare runs into any trouble with low thyroid function. Am I missing something’

-Laurie Gage

The reference to thyroid problems there was referring specifically to the selenium. T4, the inactive form of thyroid hormone, is converted to the active T3 form by the liver in a chemical reaction that requires selenium.


Hybrid Saddle
I have a 14.2-hand Arabian mare, and I’m considering using her for competitive trail riding. I would like to buy an endurance or what I refer to as a hybrid saddle. I prefer riding my mare Western just for that little extra security, but I have no use for the horn. The Australian saddles caught my eye, because of the deeper seat and no horn, and from what I’ve been told they fit Arabs well. My understanding is English saddles don’t distribute the rider’s weight over a large enough area, and in a Western saddle the rider sits too far back.

Ideally, I would like the comfort of the Western saddle, the smaller bulk of an English saddle, and something lighter than my roping saddle. Last, but not least, something that doesn’t cost more than my horse or is custom made. As my taste in saddles seems to be something that is half English/Western, I can’t be alone with this problem. Any suggestions’

-Karen Bockus

Your preference for added security and increased weight-bearing surface makes good sense for your competitive trail-riding endeavors. We won’t generalize about the fit of the different styles of saddles because there are many variations within each style. However, you’re not alone in your preferences. Endurance saddles have the advantage of being designed for distance riding: They are generally lightweight and include numerous attachment dees (for breastplate, crupper, and the equipment you will be carrying on the trail).

The most important criteria in the selection of your new saddle is fit. A so-so fit that works for short pleasure trail rides won’t be good enough for the miles of training and the stress of competition you’re undertaking. We suggest you attend some distance rides — as a competitor, a spectator, or to gain experience as a volunteer in a friend’s pit crew — to take advantage of the gathering of many different horses, riders, and saddles. Look for horses with backs shaped like your horse’s, and talk with the riders to find out what brands of saddles they are using and why.

After the competition, you may get to try out some of the saddles that interest you. When you’ve narrowed down the search, try to borrow (from friend, manufacturer or retailer) that brand of saddle and put some miles on it to check the fit. While at competitions, ask about used saddles for sale. You may be able to get a good price on a saddle that is broken in but proved not to fit the horse or rider it was purchased for.


Ear Gnats
My mare’s ears have been eaten up by gnats. It was gross, with blood, pus and long wet ear hair — what a mess. My friend told me to go to the drug store and get Campho-Phenique. It will heal the ears and keep the bugs away as well. What do you think about this’

-M. Brown
New Jersey

This sounds like a winning idea. The camphor would repel insects and at the same time this ointment has a soothing/numbing and antiseptic effect. You will need to clip any long hairs around the sores and be careful when applying as it would be irritating to the eyes. The horse may jump at the first sensation, too.


B Vitamins
I’ve read that horses under stress (moving to a new barn, vaccines, etc.) need to receive B vitamins, but that they are not typically found in sweet feeds. What B complex supplement would you suggest that doesn’t contain iron and wouldn’t confict with my current sweet feed’

-A. Hanshaw-Reed

There aren’t many plain B-vitamin equine supplements out there as most supplements now are focusing on “blood building.” What you want is a low-iron/low-mineral product, such as B-Plex from Horse Tech ( or 800/831-3309).


Got A Piglet’
We all know it takes more exercise and fewer calories for our horse to lose weight. While that means it’s not quick, we do think it’s fairly easy. More exercise means more than the current level. Turnout doesn’t count. But even an extra 15 to 20 minutes of trotting per day, longeing or under saddle, will work.

Bed on sawdust or shavings. Straw has a lot of calories. Limit grass to about an hour daily. Stop all grain. Feed one-half to three-quarters of the present level of hay, one flake at a time spread out over the day, if possible.

Substitute 1.5 to two pounds of a protein-and-mineral supplement for the grain, as this will cover the deficits in essential amino acids and minerals caused by the decreased intake. This is important for the overall health, muscle mass, attitude and appearance of your horse. We like TDI 30 or Triple Crown 30. Start feeding it gradually, at 4 oz. twice a day and allow at least two weeks to move up to the full amount. Pacify your horse with carrots. If you don’t cheat, this program will work.

Caution: Be careful with cutting back calories in ponies. Serious metabolic problems can result from too drastic a cut in calories (see Feeding Ponies, April 2000). Change beddings and stop any grain. Most ponies shouldn’t get grain anyway. Keep hay the same, and increase exercise. If two weeks don’t show results, conservatively cut back hay by about 25% and increase exercise time. Feed the protein/mineral supplement in an amount appropriate for weight. A pony about half horse size would get one-half to three-quarters of a pound.


Stuff That Scoop
If you have a jar full of a supplement and no apparent room for the long-handled scoo p that came with it, insert the scoop handle first, down into the powder, instead of just laying it on top.


Help In The Laundry
Polo Wrap Tangling. Polo wraps can be a pain. They come out of the washing machine a tangled mess, and they seem to unravel willy-nilly in storage. Mesh laundry bags are the answer. You can neatly pack four polos in one to take to a show or storage. And the bags are great for laundry, too. But use one bag per wrap in the washer, so they get cleaner. You may pick them up at your dollar store.

Laundering Boots. Those lightweight, soft, moldable leg boots with hook-and-loop or Velcro closures are a joy to use and a nightmare to launder. Sweat and dirt sink deep into the material from the inner lining and the straps attach to anything and everything in the washer. To solve the sticky-strap problem, turn the boots inside out and attach the strips for their entire length onto the outside surface of the boot, burying them inside. Use Ivory Snow or Dreft when washing these boots to avoid perfume or soap residues on the boot. Line dry in the sun, inside out, for additional antibacterial benefit. Once dry, brush out all loose dirt and hair. For heavily soiled areas, moisten and rub with a mild hand soap (Ivory, glycerine soap, Neutrogena) before laundering.

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