Acknowledging the cribbing habit

Progressing with Timmy after releasing trauma and frustration and finding trust in the conversation..

We have released the trauma and processed.

We have worked with the Tiger that was released and made peace with the frustration that emerged amongst other things.

On the 4th July 2022 I decided to start to try and engage with Timmy at a different level regarding his cribbing. I know giving him his minerals in a bucket triggers the cribbing reaction so we started there to see if we could be more peaceful with eating, or find out what the feeling is regarding eating that triggers the cribbing.

You will notice in the video the cribbing habit after eating. He is okay to be gently taken off the post and responds nicely as long as I don’t go too much into the present moment. The present moment is a place of stillness and peace where we do not acknowledge feelings or thoughts. We just be in the moment. Timmy can’t be there yet. He can’t be still after eating from a bucket. You will notice his reaction if he can’t crib is to move about, and move me with him. At this stage I am just regarding what he is doing. I am listening to him and allowing him to do what he needs to do, except crib.

The next day (5th July 2022) we did the same thing except this time we walked around the track. I walked with the herd as they went for a wander after their morning buckets. Timmy uses most of the wooden posts along the track for cribbing at various times. Today I gently stopped him at each post and asked him to do something else, it didn’t matter what. Again I was just listening and learning.

You will notice in this video that he is doing a lot of licking of his lips with his tongue. It is like an acknowledgement that I want to discuss his cribbing. Also I do not go into the present moment from the perspective of being still. I am present with Timmy all the time. My focus is on what is happening in each moment, but mostly it is about listening to him by acknowledging all the little reactions. You will see me interrupt the cribbing often by matching his thinking levels. That is I move quickly and my thinking levels increase to match his . Cribbing may look relaxed but it is not. It is highly reactive. I give him lots of praise when he is doing well. Good thing. I noticed I tend to say ‘No’ when I bring my thinking levels up to respond and match him when he does crib. Something to change.

Today (6th July 2022) we start to see some different behaviours, in particular licking the ground. When cribbers with ulcers or digestive issues, including being prone to colic, crib, the cribbing is the place that lets them mask/forget/hide from discomfort / pain etc. So giving them help such as herbs, aromatherapy, clay, etc will only help to a point.

The behaviour needs to change to enable the help to be acknowledged by the body and mind. The change in behaviour from cribbing to licking is telling me that although he had ignored clay as a help before, he was now ready to try something, so he has been offered clay and marshmallow, and took lots of both. He has come to a place of recognising alternatives. If you remember the previous day he was licking his lips a lot. It was the first sign of a conversation about to happen. This was the next level of that particular conversation.

On 7th July 2022 we did the process again. I gave the herd their buckets and then worked a little with Timmy at his post, blocking the cribbing gently and asking him to find alternatives. (The ultimate goal I suppose is that the alternative will be a feeling of peace of mind but we are not there yet).

8th July 2022. Again we started from the beginning, no expectations. Fed the buckets and gently blocked the cribbing reaction. We ended up in the wooden shelter where something new came to light. Sometimes we have to start to understand that it may not be possible to go cold turkey. Maybe replacing the cribbing with a different release for a while would be an option.

Querida and Risada were grooming each other. Timmy went to groom Risada moved away. Risada’s reaction is because Timmy’s grooming often turns into cribbing, which the other herd members do not like for obvious reasons. It hurts. But the horses were telling me to try grooming as an alternative. It helped. It is soothing. Timmy started to release with a lot of yawns. This could be releasing a frustration around grooming. But Timmy struggles to groom the other horses in return. How do you teach a horse to groom another horse when his mouth automatically tries to crib? We will just see where it leads I think.

Today (9th July 2022) we tried a slightly different approach. This time I asked Timmy to be peaceful with me before feeding the buckets to the herd. I went into the present moment with him, very still and non-thinking). His first reaction was to go to his cribbing post. I blocked the cribbing again watching for reactions.

He got a bit itchy so I gave him some scratches and then asked him to be peaceful again. Then he had to move. He got this feeling of ‘well what do I do instead’ (just me interpreting a little feeling of being lost that I was getting from him). I said ‘Right now be peaceful’. He came down to what the Trust technique describes as a level 2 thinking level. Slow blinking and relaxed. I thanked him and then went and gave them their buckets. We then went through the eating /cribbing process again. Me blocking the cribbing while he was eating his bucket. He moved away from the post very quickly looking for alternatives to cribbing. I added a bit of a groom in. He went and checked out the other buckets . All the while we are keeping the thinking levels at around a five or six. Relaxed and learning. The reward for finding peace and a place where we can learn before having the bucket was rewarded with releasing with some lovely yawns. Later on when I left Timmy as I was walking away I got a feeling of abandonment from him. He was sharing something new.

We started the session in the same way today (10th July 2022) with establishing a place of shared peace of mind prior to feeding the buckets. At first we got peaceful in the barn. If you remember from the trauma session, walking over the barn threshold was when he shared with me the trauma that triggered the original cribbing behaviour. This time Chocolate and I helped him acknowledge that again and he walked across the threshold and relaxed.

Yes, I hear you say. Why is this special? He walks across the threshold every day. I know. But there is something in the way it is walked across that brings up something in him. Probably something to do with me leading him in, which I did this time, and the time he showed me the trauma. It is amazing what can trigger a feeling. It is the same way that you might smell something and it may trigger a memory or feeling of somewhere nice. The opposite also happens. Timmy stopped at the threshold but this time I sensed he was just looking at the picture. There was no feeling of terror or fear but he needed to release the image. This he did by yawning. The Chocolate came over and helped him walk across the threshold. I did not change what I was doing. Intuitively I must have known that I needed to stay where I was.

As an aside you can see the clay on his nose where he was licking it. I left some in a mud like consistency in a bucket for them to lick which he obviously enjoyed.

Interestingly, later on in this session, I felt that feeling of abandonment again. Being tied up and left. It’s possible this happened to Timmy. I couldn’t tell you why but I am aware of procedures and processes that have been used to desensitise horses to being tied up on their own. It would explain a little incident that happened a few weeks back. I was trying to get a muzzle on Risada but Timmy kept interrupting, so I popped a head collar on him and tied him to a post nearby. He wasn’t alone or abandoned but it triggered something and he pulled back and panicked. This shows how far we have come in our conversations, how much he is now able to show me and not feel he will get into trouble. A few years back I used to tie him up loosely to saddle him, moving between him and the tack room to get tack etc, and I had never seen a reaction like this before. He wasn’t trusting me then to tell me anything. He was hiding his feelings. Now he speaks out. It may take me a while to understand what he is saying, but I know I can now, and so does he. He is sharing his feelings more and more.

The abandonment feeling was all in his guts, and we acknowledged that for a while. The feeling. I could sense how it made him want to crib. I shared a feeling of peace and slowly the feeling melted.

This is the first seven days of a process of patient persistence, asking Timmy to change a habit of a lifetime by sharing what triggers the habit. There is a lot more to come. See you soon…

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