"Cribbing Rings" Give Stall Walls and Fences a Break

A relatively new procedure to remedy cribbing in horses is performed by some equine practitioners. Kate Christensen, DVM, with Neuse River Veterinary Hospital in Wendell, N.C., practices the innovative procedure, which is the insertion of "cribbing rings" into the horse's gums to discourage cribbing. The new procedure is much less invasive than a myectomy (surgically removing part of the muscle that controls movement of the throat) and she says the success rate is about 80% compared to the surgery's 60%. Other devices and remedies such as anti-cribbing collars, electric shock collars, painting fences with strong-tasting concoctions, and even giving horses anti-depressants have had less-than-optimum results.


When a horse with cribbing rings attempts to crib, the rings put pressure on the gums, which is uncomfortable. The rings generally stay in the horse's gums for three to six weeks.

Christensen says she's been performing the procedure about eight months with good success. The operation is simple: small rings, like those put in a pig's nose to prevent rooting, are inserted into the horse's gums between the upper incisors. The horse is sedated and twitched, the rings clamped in with ring pliers. It takes about 10 minutes once the horse is tranquilized.

Christensen says there are no side effects to the gums or teeth. The rings do not interfere with eating or with wearing a bit. The horse will not crib as long as the rings stay in, but the down side is the rings sometimes come out in three to six weeks. If the rings come out there is no problem with repeating the procedure.

"It works best with show horses that are kept inside," Christensen said. "Pastured horses pull them out grazing."

How it works is also simple. When the horse attempts to crib, the rings put pressure on the gums, which is uncomfortable. Most horses stop trying to crib soon after the rings are put in. Christensen says that some veterinarians claim they have had horses stop cribbing all together even after the rings are removed. Christensen has not found this to be true in her experience. "This procedure has been around about two years. It is one of those things we (veterinarians) learn and pass on to each other."

Cribbing is a habit that at the very least is annoying and destructive, and in many cases it can be harmful to the horse's health. Susan Jacobi, a horse owner in Wake Forest, N.C., has a Quarter Horse mare, "Molly," who is a cribber. When Christensen told her about the procedure, Jacobi decided it was worth a try. She said Molly quit cribbing after just a couple of attempts. Even when Molly, a pastured horse, lost her rings after about eight weeks, it was some time before she began to crib again. When Molly resumed cribbing, Jacobi had the rings replaced. She has been very pleased with the results and has not observed any adverse reaction or affects from it.

Cribbing rings are not a cure, but another option for controlling the vice of cribbing.

About the Author

Donna Campbell Smith

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