In conjunction with Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, “Ask Your Veterinarian” is a regular feature in the PR Special newsletter distributed online and at Thoroughbred sales. Veterinarians at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital answer your questions about sales and healthcare of Thoroughbred auction yearlings, weanlings, 2-year-olds and breeding stock. Email us at [email protected] have a question for a veterinarian.
QUESTION: Horses who crib are marked as such in the sales program. How much should that put a potential buyer off?
DR. TOM RIDDLE: Cribbing is an undesirable behavior in horses which means that a horse has a habit of grasping a solid object such as a fence board and in many cases “sucking” air.
At the yearling sales buyers are primarily interested in the horse's race potential, which is very rarely affected by cribbing. Because of this, most yearling buyers do not penalize the yearling's sale price for cribbing. I don't think consignors are very concerned about their yearling being labeled a cribber, but they try to identify and report individuals that crib to the sales companies because they know buyers can return purchases that are found to crib.
In a few instances, cribbing may be associated with health problems such as colic or poor body condition. These medical conditions, while rare in cribbers, are more commonly seen in older adult horses and are usually not seen at the racetrack. I have seen a few cribbers that I would label chronic colickers, with the colic usually thought to be caused by increased “gas.” Another problem that has been reported in broodmares that crib is contamination of the reproductive tract, which probably happens when the mare cribs causing her to also aspirate air into her vagina.
Cribbing is of somewhat more concern for broodmares or breeding stallions because cribbing can be very hard on fences. Because of the concern for both the poor appearance of fences and the actual harm to the integrity of the wood caused by cribbers, some farm managers don't like to have cribbers on their farm. With Thoroughbred breeding stock, this is usually not a reason to turn down a horse, but if there are two very similar mares or horses available, prospective buyers may opt for the non-cribber.
The cause of cribbing is controversial and thoughts range from “nerves” to gastric ulcers. Once a horse has developed the habit, treatment is almost never successful. In some cases cribbers greatly decrease this abnormal behavior or stop cribbing when they are turned out, but the only way to find this out is to try it, and this usually isn't possible until the horse is already on your farm.
Dr. Thomas Riddle received his veterinary degree from the University of Georgia in 1978 and came to Central Kentucky to intern with Dr. Don Witherspoon at Spendthrift Farm. He joined Dr. Bill Rood's ambulatory practice in 1982, and in 1985 the two purchased the land on which Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital now sits. The hospital now includes three campuses and is owned by 23 shareholders.
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