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Colic in Horses May Be Related to Cribbing, WeavingBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 8, 2014

Colic, loosely defined as any type of abdominal discomfort in horses, has a number of causes. Some horses seem to develop colic every time the weather changes. Others have colic bouts whenever they travel. Still others have recurrent colic signs for no apparent reason.

Horse owners have been known to report that their cribbing horses have more colic cases than non-cribbers, but whether this showed a cause-and-effect principle at work was anyone’s guess. New research from England has provided some evidence that horses that crib or weave do have more cases of recurrent colic, but it’s still not clear whether discomfort from colic causes the stereotypies or if the abnormal behaviors lead to colic.

In the study, researchers collected information for a group of 127 horses with a history of colic. The owners were asked about management practices, whether the horses exhibited cribbing or weaving behavior, and if horses had further colic episodes within a year’s time.

Results showed that horses that cribbed were 10 times more likely than non-cribbers to have recurrent colic episodes. These episodes were also four times more likely to occur in horses that were weavers compared to those that did not show this habit. Another finding indicated that horses turned out to pasture at least 12 hours each day had only half the number of colic episodes as those that were kept in stalls.

Colic risk rises somewhat with management practices such as stalling, feeding large grain meals, and making changes in grain, hay, or meal schedules. Causes of colic are complex and not completely understood, partly because some horses seem much more prone to colic than others. While this study does not claim that cribbing or weaving can cause horses to colic, it does suggest that horses with these stereotypies should be monitored carefully for signs of recurrent colic which may occur more frequently than in the general equine population.