Many gross-feeding and voracious horses acquire the pernicious habit of eating their litter, but the vice is not confined to these, for horses with normal appetites in ordinary circumstances readily acquire the custom when their food-supply is unduly restricted, or when the objectionable plan of using damaged hay as litter is resorted to.
The methods of prevention are various, but, before adopting others, where damaged hay has been used its use should be discontinued, and care should always be taken to see that the food allowance is sufficient. When this is ineffectual the plan sometimes adopted is to tie the horse's head up after feeding, but a much better and equally efficacious one is the use of a muzzle. If this latter be objected to, the best remedy will be the substitution of saw-dust, peat-moss, tan, or other suitable material in place of straw as litter.
The habit of stamping or kicking at night is a great nuisance, and not infrequently difficult or impossible to rectify. All sorts and conditions of horses are subject to it, but, as might naturally be expected, heavy horses, especially coarse, hairy-legged ones, are the most common culprits. Occasionally a horse kicks on both sides, but the majority kick only on one side.
Pruritis, or an itching sensation about the limbs, is a common cause of stamping, and in such cases the requisite applications of anti-pruritic remedies generally give relief.
In other cases no assignable cause is recognized, and despite preventive and curative efforts the habit remains. In all such circumstances the effect of a loose-box should be tried. In this and other complaints a loose-box is frequently effectual when other measures fail.
When failure follows all other methods, it is claimed that success may be achieved by adopting the use of hobbles. The hobbles are placed on a fore- and a hind-limb of opposite sides, and fixed above the knee and hock respectively, and the connecting hobble-rope is suspended through a ring attached to the lower part of a girth. But this is only to be tried as a last resort.
Horses which tear their clothing-are generally at rest, or their work is irregular or intermittent. Those doing hard everyday work rarely practise this annoying and expensive habit. Various measures are adopted for its prevention, such as muzzling, tying the head up, using a cradle, attaching a rod from the stall-collar to the girth (fig. 585), or attaching a piece of strong leather to the head collar or head stall behind the jaw so that it projects a little beyond the lower lip.
Similar measures may be employed to prevent the tearing of bandages. Smearing the bandages with some bitter material may be tried, and is often effective.
When horses acquire this habit, there is often considerable difficulty in overcoming it. Mangers should be placed as high as can be reached when the horse is feeding, and, where possible, a loose-box should be used. Very few horses will persist in the habit when they are placed in a loose-box, in which the manger is fixed at a fair height.
Fig. 585. - Side Rod.
This habit, besides rendering the stable untidy, is occasionally responsible for a blemished or enlarged knee, with the resulting depreciation in value. The injury is caused by the horse striking a sharp edge of the manger. In these cases the position and shape of the manger require attention, and where attainable a loosebox should be tried. Crocker recommends, as a "sure cure", that a weight should be suspended by a rope over a pulley on a girth and the other end of the rope attached to a hobble placed below the fore fetlock.
Capped elbow is an enlargement on the point of the elbow caused by the horse, when lying, pressing his elbow against the heel of the shoe. The usual preventive measure is the use of a soft pad fitted round the heel of the foot (fig. 385, Vol. II., page 360), or of a large soft pad suspended against the elbow. Another and very effectual method is to place the horse in slings for a time. After this many, when again allowed to lie down, cease to press their elbow on the shoe.
Horses which kick or stamp in the stable are liable to injure the point of the hock, in which case a capped hock is the usual result. To prevent this, padded stall divisions, loose - boxes, and the employment of the ordinary preventive measures for stamping are the methods usually relied upon.
Crib-biting is a pernicious habit, the subject of which seizes the manger or any convenient fixed object, and makes a belching noise. The habit is usually associated with more or less digestive derangement. To prevent cribbing various kinds of neck-straps, etc, are in use. Whether one or another of these be used, none of the fittings should be such as the cribber can catch hold of, and no cribber should be permitted to remain in the same stable with non-cribbing horses. A cribber is easily recognized by the condition of his teeth.
Wind-Sucking is allied to crib-biting, but here the horse does not take hold of the manger. He simply arches his neck, opens his mouth, and sucks in air. Like crib-biting it is generally accompanied by indigestion, and horses addicted to it should always be stabled alone.