Rescue Journal

Emotional Distress

Carol  ·  Jul. 11, 2019

One of the biggest challenges to Skye finding a home was his chronic and irredeemable cribbing (this is besides his older age and significant arthritis issues.)
Cribbing is a really destructive and unhealthy habit of horses grabbing onto any wood surface, chomping down hard and ripping the wood off with their teeth. It wrecks fences, gates, and wooden barn stalls, it is also really bad for their gut and their teeth.
Horses crib for various reasons including pain, boredom and anxiety. It is a coping mechanism for horses in some kind of emotional or physical distress.
Skye was in pain when he arrived, he was also an emotional mess.
Dealing with his pain issues was easy, it was a matter of giving him appropriate pain meds.
And in the end eradicating his emotional distress was easy too...Skye needed access to friends.
He doesn't really care if it is horses or donkeys, he just doesn't like to be alone.

In meeting this emotional need for him, we noticed a marked decrease in his cribbing. Now that he is in the barn at night with the other horses or free with them out in the field, he has pretty much completely stopped cribbing. Except when Rudy died. When the truck arrived to pick up Rudy's body, Skye went straight to a fence and started cribbing. He was distressed at Rudy's passing and went back to his old stress deducing strategy. It lasted for a few hours and once he settled himself out again he was done with the cribbing.

It is important to me to speak to the issues of horses cribbing. There are anti-cribbing collars available and muzzles for horses, we can put metal bars on the windows and metal strips on the tops of fences and gates to protect the sills and wood from ongoing damage...but none of that actually solves the problem. Something is causing the horse physical or emotional pain. Maybe it is boredom, grief or loneliness, maybe it is anxiety and feeling unsafe, maybe it is ulcer or arthritic pain. Emotional pain is as distressful as physical pain..sometimes it is even more.

I wonder how much more distress it causes them to wear the collar or muzzle, to put metal everywhere to prevent them from engaging in this coping mechanism? It makes me sad. A horse stands before us and tells us he is unhappy and our solution is to stick some kind of uncomfortable and unnatural apparatus on his face or neck to manage the symptom but not address the problem.
There are many in the horse world who may disagree with me, and i will admit I could be totally wrong. But Skye was suffering physically and emotionally, we allievated his most pressing problems and he cribs no longer.



<3 Hes such a beautiful horse and really deserves to be at Saints. Thank you Mo & Janette for your horse expertise and not being able to say no to this guy!! He is so lucky you guys found him.