Friday, September 24, 2010

The Cribbing Strap Dilemma

Valie sporting his fleece covered cribbing strap in Winter 2010
 KGA in Mendon, Massachusetts

" much as I love my boy, I never loved the fact that he came to me as "a dedicated cribber".  As a matter of fact, he was so dedicated to cribbing that the very moment you took his halter off or you had the reins around his neck and bridle in hand ready for him to take the bit, he would reach for the nearest solid object to get his "cribbing fix" and........practically take you with him!  Moreover, he would even crib between every bite of his food and it was no wonder that he couldn't pick up weight.  He drew crowds of people at dinner time and there they stood while he chomped on a few bites of food and then turned his attention to wind sucking so hard, between each morsel of grain, that it sounded like a "fog horn" was going off in the barn!"

Now, I've just described a horse, my horse, without a cribbing strap around his neck; but, as luck would have it, as soon as the strap went on, he completely respected it and never tried to crib while it was around that huggable neck of his.  So, then it began, the trials and tribulations of making certain that the strap never cut into his neck and if it ever did, the countless topical solutions that I gently rubbed on the minor abrasions, then it was the endless fleece purchases, the on-going trips to my washing machine to clean said fleeces and finally, every time I had to be away for business or pleasure, I had to be certain that the barn manager would remember to check it (and yes, I always offered to or paid for this service!).

The changes were slight at first, he began to gain weight and I then discovered that when I took his cribbing strap off to bridle him, he no longer tried to bull dozer me over in a mad attempt to grab onto anything that he deemed "cribbable".  Yup, it was magic! 

During this time period (the first year of our partnership), I was happy to report that he was now a well mannered guy and frankly, since he never tried to crib when that strap was on, I took his crib-free lifestyle for granted, so much so that when we arrievd at our last boarding barn, I had forgotten to ask the barn owner/manager if they would allow a cribber, even if said cribbing was controlled by a strap!  As it turned out, the barn owner was none-too-pleased with me but when she saw that he respected the cribbing strap, she soon forgot about his "issue" too!

So, fast forward to 2010, we left KGA to return to our first barn, Legacy Stables, in Mendon, Massachusetts.  I immediately noticed that he settled in very quickly, then we all noticed that he gained even more weight, seemed to be more relaxed than ever and he stopped doing his little stall-walking dance when people stood around his stall.  The other change was that he became even more affectionate, he actually looked excited when I arrived at the barn and, he even let me massage his ears (something that he never let me do unless he was tranquilized)!  Then, several weeks ago, after an early evening grooming session, I removed his halter and then decided to take the strap off to replace the fleeces, turned my back for a moment to replace the dirty with the clean when I suddenly realized he wasn't cribbing.  I stopped what I was doing and did a slow-motion turn around as if I was afraid that I would wake from a dream!  But, there he stood, calmly looking at me as if to say, "Mom, what's with you, why do you look so shocked!".  However, the truth was that I was shocked, shocked and mesmerized to see that he never even came close to thinking about cribbing!  In other words, this dedicated cribber of mine had relegated his bad habit to the trash can.  Was it a fluke, was I in the "Twilight Zone" and/or would this all be but a dream tomorrow?  I chose to leave the strap off and in the next half hour prior to leaving the barn, he continued to stand quietly with that quizzical look on his face and then after I threw him a flake of hay, he began enjoying his evening treat without alternating between food and cribbing!

The next day he was turned out without the strap and I was informed by the barn staff that he didn't crib out there on the fence, he came back in and still no cribbing, I arrived a day later and still no cribbing.  My limited research into this particular subject says that it's highly unlikely a cribber ever stops but my guy stopped.  So, many questions remain but the biggest question is whether or not he will ever crib again?  For now, the answer is, only time will tell and........I promise to keep you updated on this "Miracle in Massachusetts"!"

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