Free access to concentrate feeds can decrease cribbing but result in health problems.
Cribbing in horses is an undesired behavior that causes property damage and has the potential to harm the horse's health. It is known that the frequency with which a horse engages in cribbing increases during the times that concentrate feeds are fed. A recent study indicated that providing horses free access to concentrate feeds resulted in a decrease in cribbing behavior, but allowing free access to concentrate feeds can create a myriad of health problems.
Because of this, researchers at Auburn University and Tuskegee University set out to determine whether feeding small measured amounts of feed on an hourly basis also resulted in less cribbing.
Each of the ten horses in the study received the same total amount of feed per day, but different amounts at individual feedings; either in two larger feedings or twenty-four smaller feedings. The researchers found that providing the horses with small meals each hour did not reduce cribbing behavior. This was because the frequently fed horses spent more time at the feeder, resulting in more cribbing when compared with the horses that only went to the feeder two times per day.
Combining this data with the information from the previous study, the researchers concluded that it is likely the amount of concentrates that a horse consumes rather than how often they eat that affects the frequency with which they crib.
Reference: McCall, C., P. Tyler, W. McElhenney, and T. Fenn. 2009. Effect of hourly concentrate feed delivery on crib-biting in horses. Abstract. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 29:5 427-428.