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Rethinking Windsucking in Horses: Is It Really a Problem or Just a Quirk?

As a seasoned horse professional, I've begun to question many of the prevalent notions in the equine world. Much of what is accepted as conventional wisdom seems to be commercially driven, particularly regarding certain feeds and supplements. My experience visiting numerous horse owners has revealed that many horses possess unique quirks and habits. Often, these behaviors are left unaddressed, with owners focusing instead on their horse's preferences for specific rub spots or their curiosity about my work.

Recently, I've encountered several clients who noted on their booking forms that their horse is a windsucker or a cribber. I've had personal experience with two windsuckers—one has passed away, and the other is still with me. My recent visits to clients with windsuckers have been enlightening; they didn't invest in commercial solutions like collars, which can often cause more harm than good. I tried a windsucking collar on my horse, but it only made him miserable. The collar had to be so tight to be effective that it became a potential risk to his breathing, leading me to conclude that windsucking was not as problematic as the collar itself. Moreover, I've witnessed well-cared-for horses succumb to colic without being windsuckers.

Delving deeper into this issue, I liken windsucking to nail-biting in humans. What harm does biting nails do? While it may result in less-than-perfect nails, it isn't catastrophic. My research into windsucking revealed some surprising insights. A veterinary research paper I found couldn't conclusively link windsucking with a higher incidence of colic. Most of the information available was from social media or vendors selling "cures," which made me skeptical. Could these vendors be creating fear to drive sales?

It seems that the desire to stop windsucking is driven more by human concerns than by genuine harm to the horse. The reasons include:

  • The desire to control the horse

  • The odd sound and appearance of the behavior

  • A lack of understanding

  • Damage to fences and posts

  • A sense of personal failure as a horse owner

From my perspective as a windsucker owner, there are practical steps to manage the behavior:

  • Damaged Teeth: Ensure regular dental check-ups.

  • Neck Muscle Tightness: Provide regular maintenance from a bodyworker.

  • Boredom: Keep the horse engaged with work, even if it's in-hand activities, and provide stable stimulation.

Ultimately, the question arises: Are we trying to stop windsucking for the horse's benefit or our own? The answer might reveal more about our need for control and our perceptions as horse owners than about the actual well-being of the horse.

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