Horse Cribbing

What causes horse cribbing, and should you stop it?

What an odd thing to watch a horse do… he grabs hold of the rail or the trough with his teeth and does this funny sucking, gulping thing over and over, and all the while he has this strange calm look about him.

For years it was thought that horse cribbing was a nasty habit – something that was caused by boredom. The common belief was that cribbing horses needed to be stopped – and the methods employed for stopping it were electric shocks or a metal collar that prevented the horse from distending his windpipe. Thankfully, today we know better.

Research has shown that cribbing (also known as windsucking) is not about a horse sucking or gulping air – which is what it sounds like. What they are actually doing is expelling air out – in other words, they’re burping. Cribbing is how they relieve upper digestive discomfort.

Once you understand that a horse is trying to relieve indigestion, you will – we hope – think very differently about putting that cribbing collar on the horse.

The Natural Horsemanship Approach to Cribbing Horses

If your horse is prevented from cribbing – in other words, he can’t burp – whatever gastric discomfort he’s in to begin with is likely to get worse if he can’t relieve it in the natural way he knows how.

The Parelli Natural Horsemanship approach is to understand the cause of the behavior and work with it naturally at the causal level. Seek to find out what’s causing your horse’s gastric distress to begin with and fix that problem instead of punishing or preventing the horse from doing what he needs to do in order to feel better.

What Causes Horse Cribbing?

Cribbing is an early warning sign of digestive distress so it would be no surprise if the horse’s condition is poor. It’s usually only a matter of time before something like colic will eventuate. When people say horse cribbing results in colic, weight loss, etc…. maybe it’s the other way around.

Horse cribbing is often the result of things like mineral deficiencies, a weak digestive system, and/or feeds that are hard to digest. Therefore, we recommend feeding your horses a simple diet, supplemented with Parelli Essentials, a unique formula that grooms the digestive system for optimum function. We also feed our horses minerals in a liquid, colloidal, bio-available form, kelp (which we wet down) and / or Parelli Vitals mineral complex.


Digestive distress is also often a sign of stress, which tends to shut down the digestive system. The Parelli method of horse training focuses on helping horses become more confident, less stressed and more relaxed in their surroundings. This helps with digestion, behavior problems and their general wellness and well being, which is of course, what horse lovers want for all their horses.

Is Horse Cribbing “Contagious”?

Horses don’t learn cribbing behavior from each other. If it seems to “spread” through a group, it’s probably because they live in the same stressful circumstances and / or have the same minerally-deficient feeding regimen.


Please try not to be annoyed by cribbing horses. It’s just a sign of digestive distress and it’s up to us human to do whatever it takes to take care of that underlying cause. Love your horses, seek to understand them, feed them well, give them appropriate supplements, take a natural horse training approach that encourages them to feel safe, relaxed and confident… and your horse cribbing problems will naturally disappear.

Visit Parelli Savvy Club for more educational articles and videos designed to inspire, empower and educate horse owners of all levels.