Category Archives: Horse Management

Cribbing/Windsucking – case study in minimising the behaviour through management. Part 2: Plan of action & Results

By Wiola Grabowska

PART 2 of LEO’S CRIBBING STORY (and how I decreased it without using cribbing collars) 

leo over the door 2

If you haven’t read the Part 1 in which I explained the background of Leo’s cribbing and my ways of investigating the causes in his case, please see the post linked here: PART 1: CRIBBING/WINDSUCKING CASE STUDY

Plan of action

Agrobs musli leo
Alpengrun Musli

First thing I decided to do was to take control of his diet. “You are what you eat” and all that 😉
After talking to many people as well as having a good read around of tens of Forums and hundreds of opinions I settled for a German feed brand called Agrobs and went for 2 products from their range: Alpengrun Musli and Alpengrun Mash Gut Restorer.
I also learnt (from the earlier mentioned Conference) that there was a study done on several cribbing horses where horses received 9 feeds daily and their behaviour stopped. I couldn’t possibly replicate that but could feed Leo one additional feed which took his meal numbers to 3 a day.

Second action was to give him turnout company. For that I had to wait a long time as I wanted a relatively stable group for him with lower risk of injuries by being out with big, playful athletic horses . Once the yard was in a position to do so, we created a group of 4 small horses/ponies and Leo seemed immediately happier.

leo in the field with friends

The pain/discomfort aspect is something I’d been working on all the time but at the beginning of the year I booked him for an assessment with a very well respected spinal/horseback vet specialist, Rob Jackson and continued his groundwork focusing on restoring healthy biomechanics to the best of my current knowledge and abilities. One method I noticed to have a fairly significant influence on him is the Tellington Touch Method but I will perhaps talk more about it another time.

Last but not least, I removed his shoes…now, I know some of you will say this might have nothing to do with his cribbing but I know shoes can cause low level, chronic feet dysfunction (discomfort/pain) as well as affect blood circulation in the feet. Whether the blood flow in the legs has anything to do with blood flow in the gut I couldn’t say for sure but since the body works as one unit surely we can’t say no for definite?


As of April 2018 Leo’s cribbing reduced to a point that I only see him do it when I create a situation in which he is most likely to crib in i.e. give him a particular treat (sweeter treats make him want to crib more) or take him to some spots where he used to crib a lot. Other yard members don’t see him crib either.

On the basis of my observation of him, I’d say his cribbing has now decreased by 99%.
In the last 6 weeks I noted 2 singular cribbing episodes: one on his stable door for a couple of “gulps” and one by the leg wash area on a post he used to crib on incessantly. None lasted longer than a couple of minutes in comparison to 15-25 minutes I observed before making changes to his management.

He might still return to crib more in some situations and perhaps he does it at night where I can’t see it but I am very happy with this result as my main concern was a danger of colic or other serious health implications that some cribbing horses are reported to succumb to.

Hope this information will help some of you 🙂 Thank you for reading and until next time!


Cribbing/Windsucking – case study in minimising the behaviour through management. Part 1: Identifying the complex causes

By Wiola Grabowska

Leo over the door
Guess which one of the horses shown is most likely to windsuck/cribbite? 😉 Apparently, “busiest”, most inquisitive and naturally active horses are more likely to develop vices due to confinement…

CASE STUDY:  LEOPOLD THE LAST, 11 yrs old gelding, TB x New Forrest 

Cribbing is considered an undesirable behaviour where a horse grabs hold of an object with his incisors and burps loudly engaging variety of neck muscles. Some sources suggest the horse sucks in/swallows air in the process, some believe the air is pushed out from the stomach in the act of cribbing.
Where no physical object is required for the horse to rest his teeth into, the behaviour is termed ‘windsucking’.

There is no confirmed treatment or cure for Cribbing/Windsucking and the act alone is poorly researched and understood.

It is believed that stress, social isolation, stabling, boredom/frustration, pain, commercial feeds and gastric dysfunction like ulceration can all be the culprit. Some believe the behaviour can be copied between stable mates out of boredom.

Leo’s Cribbing History

Leo as a foal

I learnt from Leo’s breeder that he started cribbing as a foal post weaning and they thought he copied the behaviour from a cribbing Thoroughbred kept next door.
He came to me with two types of cribbing collars. One is known as a “magic collar” and is fully leather and the other one is a metal and leather one. Both are designed to be fastened around the throat area and are thought to make the sucking action impossible. I have not used either of them on Leo as I am personally convinced by the research/studies and veterinary advice which suggests that limiting the behaviour via the collars can be more stressful to the horse and cause more harm than the action of cribbing itself.

In the early days I used Cribbox on his stable door and his paddock fencing. It was very effective in that it repelled him from cribbing on any surface I put the substance on. However, he soon found little bits I missed or he would crib madly the second he was away from covered areas. The damn thing would also stick to everything – his rugs, coat and my clothing.
I decided against buying the second tube once first one ran out and started researching everything I could find on cribbing.


I started from searching for videos online for cribbing and wind sucking horses and comparing their behaviour, management and cribbing patterns to Leo’s.
There isn’t much freely available information on this subject out there but there was enough for me to play with.

One interesting viewpoint was shared with me by a friend of mine who attended this year’s Horses Inside Out Conference. Amongst other topics, the subject of cribbing and ulcers was brought up and cribbing was discussed as a behaviour present in very intelligent and ultra sensitive horses. It was also mentioned that one very well known 4* Event riders favours cribbers as his competition horses! I must say it was possibly the only time I ever heard cribbing considered a positive!

At first I couldn’t quite work out Leo’s pattern as he seemed to crib a lot at seemingly random times and situations. Before and after feeding, before and after receiving a treat, whilst being groomed and tacked up, in his paddock in regular intervals between grazing, morning, midday, afternoon, evening, basically anytime I saw him he was on/off latched onto something.

In order to start somewhere I grouped all his cribbing “times” into 3 possible “causes” : 

1. Gastric issues (any times around food or ‘stress’ and I included being ridden in that category too)
2. Pain/Discomfort (I included grooming time here on the assumptions that having to submit to touch/grooming could cause some stress)
3. Social – he was in individual paddock (able to touch other horses) and stabled for large parts of the 24h (out in the day, in at night or out at night, in during the day depending on time of year)

Having these categories I started making daily notes assigning cribbing moments to each category and after 6 months of this I ended up with most episodes around categories 1 and 3.

PART 2: Plan of Actions and Results coming up 🙂 


Reading list:

The art of mucking out…a.k.a. Noble Outfitters Wave Fork review

We have art, science and fun elements to riding and it seems someone now managed to transfer those into a field of mucking out forks!


There is no escape from manure shovelling if you own horses or work with them but we discovered that adding a bit of colour, a bit of softness to the handle and somehow increasing the size of the fork without adding weight to it you can indeed create a tool that (quite literally) brightens up the routine task.

Retailing at £39.95 and sold by Noble Outfitters, the Wave Fork has won over all the Aspire testers.

Some are wondering if different colour variations perform equally well as the ones they tested. I doubt this is the case but I should not underestimate the power of the colour therapy. Perhaps a morning muck out is that much better with bright orange or purple resin tines, that bend but don’t break 🙂

Very easy to put together when it arrives and with 5 years guarantee, the two forks that we have been testing were used extensively for the last month and a half and are going strong!

We concluded that the Wave Fork is very much worth recommending to all fellow shovelers! 😉 



NoOut8 NoOut9 NoOut10


If you own the Noble Outfitters Wave Fork do let us know how you find it. And what colours you went for 😉

We also had some fun “developing the product further” – how about tines that light up in the dark? Or with sensors that just muck out for you?


Starting a young horse – an untold story of hoof proprioception?

Proprioception (/ˌproʊpri.ɵˈsɛpʃən/ PRO-pree-o-SEP-shən), from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own”, “individual,” and capio, capere, to take or grasp, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. More:

Here’s how it might go: 

A horse grows up on a farm, free to roam, eat and play.

At 3 years of age or so he is sat on, bridled, worked with a little and turned away for some months to continue growing and maturing.

At 4 years of age or so, he is entering “the real world” – he is starting his schooling. Only in short sessions at first to condition his bones and muscles and to mentally prepare him for more and more concentration required.

He goes out hacking to see the world and…

Oh – he gets “footy” on the roads, on stones, on rough bridle paths etc so he needs a shiny set of shoes. Yes, now he is “all grown up” and ready to be “a real horse”…

How about…

foot sense

If you have children you may have come across the above – it’s called a Foot Sense workshop and it is aimed at introducing children’s feet to various surfaces…More about it here:

It would be rather interesting if there were “hoof proprioception” workshops for young horses/horses starting their ridden training, wouldn’t it? 

How about, if every young horse producer allowed for hoof proprioception to develop slowly in the same way as we allow for musculoskeletal system of a young horse to adjust to rider’s weight and the pressures of training?

How about, if every young horse’s diet was considered a big game changer when it comes to hoof health and “footiness” was not assumed to be caused only by surfaces as such?

How about, if every young horse was not considered fit to have their training increased in intensity until their feet can cope with demands of that training?

How about, we think about hooves in a similar way we think about muscles, bones, nervous system? How about, if a horse feels the stoney ground differently to a soft sand and rubber surface and shortens the steps accordingly, doesn’t by default mean that his feet are ill but rather that they are simply healthy (feel well) and still weak? Like the rest of his untrained body?

Would that possibly mean that the statement that “most horses need shoes when they start their training” didn’t have to be true? 

Just some questions to stir your Sunday afternoon 😉

Snippets from the 11th International Society for Equitation Science Conference

Read more about the Conference here:!schedule/c1cdx


And finally, a quote that really surprised me…I would like to know more about this statement…

A little hoof health help from Equimins

There is no question about the importance of hoof health for horse’s performance so let me share this new product with you all 🙂 Who knows, some of you might find it helpful.

hoof_disinfect_gel_500g copy

New Hoof Disinfectant Gel hits the shelves

Equimins has recently added a new product, Hoof Disinfectant Gel, to its range. The gel uses the same effective formula as Hoof Disinfectant Spray, but in a different presentation.

The gel is easy to apply and ensures no run-off. The actual disinfectant is made from a variety of safe bactericidal and fungicidal oils, along with a biocide developed specifically for the type of environment hooves are exposed to. It’s incredibly safe yet highly effective, in fact, Hoof Disinfectant Gel can also be used on minor wounds.

“Our new Hoof Disinfectant Gel provides an alternative to those who prefer a gel over a spray,” says David Willey, Managing Director of Equimins. “As per the spray disinfectant, it’s very safe but very effective and can be used to help hoof infections and maintain hoof health. The benefit of the gel is that there’s no run-off and it can be applied precisely using a brush.”

Hoof Disinfectant Gel is available in 500ml tubs that have a RRP of £8.75.

For more information see, email or call 01548 531770.

Prepared by:  Rhea Freeman PR,  Tel: 07980 757910  Email:  

Practical Equine Wound Management – Free Veterinary Webinar

A shout out for an interesting and informative – – site publishing free and paid-for webinars that are well worth watching. Despite the fact that the material is directed to the vets, it’s a great one for horse owners, students learning towards BHS exams and yard managers. Search for ‘equine’ in free webinars for all horse related videos.

The one below is a very good watch (just bare in mind some pictures are graphic…)

Watch the webinar here:

VIDEO: Equine McTimoney Manipulation Therapy with Back In Line: one awesome horse gets a treatment!

BackInLine McTimoney Therapy
Sam Barrett with one of my client’s lovely horses

Posture can affect everything. Attitude, willingness to make an effort, comfort during the effort, motivation. Muscular imbalances in horses can over time lead to permanent changes in their conformation making movement difficult.

Skilful training helps enormously with imbalances and one-sidedness but there are issues that may have lingered throughout the horse’s body for years, perhaps even since birth/foal. These can make training uncomfortable and unpleasant and encourage the horse to look after himself by becoming aggressive/lazy/”naughty” etc before good schooling irons out postural issues.

When an opportunity arose to video a McTimoney Therapy session with one of my client’s horses, I jumped at a chance and you can view the result below. Merehead is an 8 year old National Hunt ex-racehorse, about 11 weeks out of a racing yard and in his early schooling days getting to know his new “job” with his new owner.

I really enjoy teaching the pair, they have a great potential and hopefully Merehead will love the eventing career he is aimed at. He is VERY careful around the ground poles 😉

Following the session above Merehead’s pelvis was visually straight (prior to treatment his left hip was lower than than the right despite standing square) and I look forward to seeing what effect this change has to his work on the left rein as has found it very uncomfortable to stretch through the right side of his body so far.

To learn more about Sam Barrett and McTimoney Manipulation Therapy please visit:

I hope you like the video, if you have had your horse treated by a McTimoney therapist please leave a comment with your experiences. I will update you all on Merehead’s progress, he has a next lesson with me on Wednesday and his next appointment with Sam is in 2 weeks time.

All the best,


Video taken with permission of Sam Barrett Back – In – Line and Meerhead’s owner 

Competing a grass-kept horse? Resources on 24/7 grass keeping for the resourceful ones :)

Kingsley winter 2

If you are struggling with covering large livery fees and wondering how you might afford the coming competition season as well as training for it, how about going back to basics scenario…There are many riders out there who have successfully competed their grass kept horses so with a little bit of grit, some horse management knowledge and good planning, there is no reason you can’t do to.

Deep down horses are quite simple creatures. All they truly care for is food, water, companionship and a place to roam about at. Years ago there would be no silica sand surfaces and even Olympic level show jumping was held on grass. If you want something badly enough, you can make it happen 🙂

I put together a little list of useful links for anyone who thinks of keeping their horses out 24/7 and/or compete them out of yard with no purpose made training facilities:

“What is with this ‘attitude’ against field kept horses?”

Keeping Your Horse on Grass (IHWT)

Horse at Grass by BEVA

Managing Land for Horses

Keeping horses out 24/7 – discussion

Eventing a grass kept horse?

The Field Kept Horse

Keeping a Horse at Grass

Management Dilemma: In our Out? 

Rockely Farm: Grass, your horse and managing risks

A little look through history: Good housekeeping – finding the right balance in management of dressage horses

Book: Managing Horses on Small Properties

Book: The Horse at Grass

Book: The Outdoor Pony

Book: Keeping a Horse at Grass