On Mythbuster Monday, we tackle a variety of equestrian myths to either bust or confirm. Today’s discussion: Do horses crib to get high?
It’s Mythbuster Monday, where Horse Nation dives into different equestrian myths and provides research-based evidence to either bust or confirm those myths. Today’s topic: Do horses crib to get high? What creates the high? Why does it make them feel good? Read further to find out!
Myth: Horses crib to get high
Myth or Fact: Both
Cribbing is a repetitive behavior exhibited by some horses. The horse grabs ahold of a solid surface with their front teeth and pull back . This contracts the neck muscles and releases a grunting sound. Studies show that the main causes of cribbing are boredom, stress and habit.
Horses who crib can exhibit weight loss, overall poor condition, abnormal muscling in the neck and excessive wear to their teeth. They are also at higher risk for colic, gastric ulcers and temporohyoid osteoarthritis.
Cribbing interrupts a horse’s daily routine and can occupy several hours of a horse’s day. It decreases a horse’s value as it is an undesirable stable vice. The vice may also cause difficulty in finding a boarding facility due to the possibility that the horse may cause damage to trees, fences, walls and other surfaces.
But, do horses crib to get high?
According to an article by Horse Racing Sense, horses crib to release dopamine and endorphins. When endorphins are released it activates the horse’s opiate receptors which gives them a high feeling while increased dopamine levels aids the horse in increased pleasure, motivation and learning. This ultimately allows the horse to experience anxiety reduction and increased pleasure.
While some horses do crib to feel the high from the release of dopamine and endorphins, other horses crib for various other reasons. One reason is to increase the flow of saliva to buffer stomach ulcers. This may be due to the horse not receiving enough turn out or getting all its calories from concentrated feed.
If the behavior is not addressed in a timely manner, the horse will begin to make a correlation between the behavior and the high feeling they get. Instead of utilizing this behavior for their initial reason for starting, they become addicted to the release of hormones and high, which creates health problems later down the road.
An article by Dressage Today states that early studies on cribbing showed results that horses cribbed because they were bored. Another reason was because they were hungry. They sucked in the air in attempt to fill their stomachs to create a full feeling. Their point of view was that horses do not crib to get high but rather to stimulate the Vagus Nerve to decrease stomach acidity.
The Spruce Pets, a veterinarian reviewed site, posted an article about cribbing that states that horses do not crib to get high, but due to genetic predisposition, boredom or stress.
Our sister site, Eventing Nation, posted this article, which states that horses cribbing to get high is outdated information. Their article discusses how new studies suggest horses crib from stress relief rather than to get high.
After diving into the research, there is evidence that shows some horses crib to release endorphins and dopamine — or to get high — while other horses use it for other means. Cribbing most likely begins due to stressors or boredom then can become a habit when the horse correlates the high feeling with the behavior. Newer research suggests that some horses may be genetically predisposed to the habit.
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