Wind-sucking highs!

Horses which gulp in air ­experience an oxygen and endorphin “rush” which can be addictive.
Issue date 18 May 2007

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The terrible behavioural problem of wind-sucking is often confused with crib-biting. Wind-sucking is when your horse stands in his stable, gulps large quantities of air and then swallows. Crib-­biting usually is the precursor to wind-sucking. To begin with, the horse needs to grab on to something to gulp in the air, but then does it anyway without anything to bite on to. Wind-suckers have pot-bellies, their coats are dull and harsh and they are generally prone to weight loss. In addition, once a considerable amount of weight has been lost it is very difficult for the horse to put it back on again. A wind-sucker also has a greater chance of getting gas colic.
Endorphins are released during wind-sucking. These hormones make your horse feel good – in fact, he experiences a high when he wind-sucks. The most obvious cause of this horrible habit is boredom, although sometimes a copycat effect is to blame. Horses follow the example of others; a mare teaches her foal and a stablemate teaches its neighbour. The best cure here is prevention. Because wind-suckers are very difficult to treat, if not impossible, it is essential to prevent your horse discovering this “natural high”. This means that your horse should never become bored. Most stable vices arise because of bad stable management.
A horse is a very sociable creature and needs constant stimulation. If you have to leave your horse alone for long periods, make sure it has a companion that it can see and at best, touch. Studies in England have found that a mirror can be placed in the stable to make your horse feel it is not alone. It is very important that the ­mirror is not facing a doorway and that it is shatter­proof, as not all horses are able to cope with a horse that does not talk back. If you have bought a horse that wind-sucks and there is no way of returning it, you could try using a flute bit. This bit is a straight tube with a number of holes in it. The ends of the tube are open and when the horse tries to gulp in the air, it escapes out of the open ends. The bit can be left on when the horse is not eating. Collars and buckets also have a small ­success rate. If possible, use electric-fence tape on all latchable surfaces and a strong aloe paste on other surfaces. – Kim Dyson
Contact Kim Dyson on 082 888 6511. |fw