By Heather Smith Thomas
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Additional resources for Care & Management of Horses: A Practical Guide for the Horse Owner
Swallowing air is called aerophagia or “wind sucking,” but the latter term is confusing as it’s also used to describe mares that suck air into the vagina when trotting or galloping. Cribbing is a stereotypic behavior, a repetitive action that an animal develops in response to stress. The action stimulates endorphins in the body, which help relieve the stress. In the 1980s a team of researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts discovered why horses crib and why the habit is so persistent.
Stress of confinement and unnatural conditions, stress from emotional and physical aspects of athletic careers — all the stresses that go with trying to adapt to human management — can create ulcers in horses. Ulcers, once thought to be mainly a problem in confined foals, also plague adult horses. Racehorses and other performance horses have an especially high incidence. Research reported at the 1998 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention in Maryland showed that gastric ulcers affect up to 90 percent of performance horses and that many of the factors associated with intensive training and conditioning contribute to ulcer formation.
Constant moving of horses in and out of a group also increases risk of introducing disease. The ironic thing about our way of managing horses is the ones we think most highly of (favorites, valuable show or racehorses) are usually the most intensely managed, living in the most unnatural conditions, which puts them more at risk for problems. qx 5/21/04 8:23 AM Page 47 P ro b l e m s o f D o m e s t i c a t i o n tial quickly but lacking room to exercise. Often these pushed and pampered youngsters develop skeletal problems, growing up less hardy and athletic than they would if allowed to mature more naturally and slowly on low-energy, highfiber feeds with room to run.