Cribbing Excuses and Stressful Whinnies

Cribbing ExcuseHere’s what Swiss researchers have to say about crib-biters: Let them eat wood! According to recent research, crib-biters not only have higher stress levels when they can’t crib, but they also have learning impairment. If you’re teaching your cribber a new trick, they might find it stressful or frustrating. So if they lean over to that wood fence to suck some wind, more power to them, says Sabrina Briefer-Freymond, Ph.D., of the Agroscope national research institute in Avenches. “Crib-biting horses appear more stressed than non-crib-biters during simple task learning, and crib-biting seems to help alleviate that added stress,” she says.

Stressful Whinnies Good feelings are contagious. Unfortunately, so are bad feelings. Among horses, those feelings can be spread through whinnies alone. According to Elodie Briefer, Ph.D., of Agroscope in Avenches, Switzerland, horses recognise the emotion in whinnies and will share that feeling. In her study of 18 horses, she played recordings of familiar and unfamiliar horses whinnying. Some of those whinnies came from stressed horses (recorded during a separation), and others came from happy horses (recorded when separated horses got back together). When the horses hear the stress in the familiar voice recordings, they acted stressed, with increased movement, heart rate, and whinnies themselves. “Negative whinnies can create negative emotions throughout an entire yard,” Briefer says.