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Episode 167: Dr Michaela Hempen Pt 1: Modifying Stereotypic Behavior

This episode is the first of several Holiday presents we have created for you. Our guest is Dr Michaela Hempen. She will be sharing the work she’s been doing with her quarter horse mare, Blondie. Blondie is a cribber. If you aren’t familiar with that term, cribbing, or crib biting as it is also called, refers to a stereotypic behavior in which the horse closes its teeth around a surface such a fence board or a feed bucket and then arches its neck so it can suck in air.

Cribbing has been viewed as a pathology. People try to prevent horses from cribbing by putting cribbing collars on them. The collars make it uncomfortable to crib, but most horses end up cribbing anyway.

Michaela decided to look at cribbing through a different lens. With the help of Dr Jesús Rosales Ruiz she was able to show that cribbing responds to changes in the environment. It’s not something pathological in the animal. It’s a habit you can change.

In this episode Michaela describes the procedure she used to teach Blondie a new repertoire of behaviors to replace her cribbing habit.

Her work is exciting not just for owners of cribbers, but for anyone who has habits they’d like to change. That refers to their horse’s habits and even potentially to their own. So when the calendar clicks over into 2022 and you’re thinking about your New year’s resolutions, think about Blondie and the work Michaela is describing in this podcast.


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