Where would you draw the line on issues for a broodmare prospect?

I’ve been looking at a mare with nice conformation and movement. She has some “scratch and dent” issues, which don’t really bother me. What does is that A) she’s a cribber. I know a lot of people don’t mind this, but I’m hesitant because there’s still so much disagreement over the possibility of teaching it to the foal (or possibly even another horse in the barn). Plus there’s the whole wearing teeth down issue to worry about.

B) The issue I’m most concerned about- the mare has had sarcoids removed twice, first by cryo and then by laser. This is a plain 'ole bay mare with no white.

So would either of these issues make you reconsider? Or is there anything else besides these that would make you hard pass?

I wouldn’t be opposed to a cribber if the cribbing could for sure be controlled with a crib strap. Otherwise, odds are quite good that other horses will develop cribbing including the foal. IME, the foal is more likely than not to learn the good and bad habits of the dam which can be a difficult factor to breeding.

Sarcoids are caused by a virus but there is a genetic component to the susceptibility of sarcoids with horses. They can be a big issue if they occur where the tack sits and/or near the eyes or mouth. They can be very difficult to treat.

That said, if the intended foal were for the intent of selling, I think you would be up for some real challenges as cribbers are harder to sell and sarcoids can make a potential riding horse unridable (if for example, they are where the saddle sits or if they affect the eye, etc). They can cause a horse to “fail” a PPE.

If you are breeding for a competition/riding horse for yourself, you are also at risk for potential issues with your competition and riding career due to the potential issues with sarcoids.

Breeding is a big risk as it is, so when you add in these factors it really makes the situation challenging.

Personally, the more I’ve learned about breeding, the more I’ve learned that the absolute best quality mare is ideal. If you have doubts and aren’t totally crazy about the idea of having a carbon copy of said mare, it is usually best to pass.

I feel for you because I have had to pass on mares for various reasons myself but I will say that when you find the perfect mare, it makes breeding that much more rewarding and magical.


I’m afraid I’m one who would pass. There are a lot of good mares out there though fewer GREAT mares. Still, my goal would be to breed two (stallion and mare) that would have a high probability of producing something the general horse owning public would want. While some would put up with either issue, having two negatives would be enough for me to look for another worthy prospect.

I always picked mares based on conformation, pedigree, and trainability. My mares had to perform and if unable to, well then, they weren’t in my broodmare band. They were all kid tested and mother approved (I bred Welsh Cobs). Still, I strongly believed in culling which I prefer to be in a position where I didn’t have to; so, problems such as cribbing and sarcoids simply didn’t make it to my ranch. I remember when there was ‘gossip’ about a stallion in ‘my breed’ who had ‘produced’ offspring that would crib. That ‘issue’ deterred a few from breeding to him. With the economy the way it is I definitely would be looking to build my broodmare band based on ‘solid’ healthy stock that was free from any stereotypy.


Any hesitation on your part, and you raised two issues, I would pass.


Cribbing isn’t a learned behavior, but the temperament that tends to make a horse more likely to begin cribbing (nervous/anxious) can obviously be both genetic and learned. A confirmed cribber (i.e. one that is bad enough that basic management - 24/7 turnout and free choice forage - doesn’t resolve the problem) would be a deal breaker for me.

No horse is perfect, but there are major and minor faults. In my world, cribbing is a major fault and not something I’d care to perpetuate. Not everyone feels that way, of course, but a broodmare that cribs will narrow the potential market for her foals. And then there’s the increased colic risk to worry about.


There is no doubt in my mind that we will learn that the predisposition to cribbing is heritable. Studies have shown that is likely true, but it’s one of those areas where there are still a lot of questions.

My views in this area have changed over time. Cribbing is now a hard pass for me in breeding animals. I’m not one of those people who hates cribbers, I even own one (a homebred, neither parent cribbed). But it’s such a controversial vice among horse people that I don’t want to perpetuate it.

The sarcoids wouldn’t phase me unless the mare is riddled with them to the point they limit her use.


For me, it would depend a lot on how much you like the mare. Neither flaw she has is a terminal flaw IMO. If her conformation, disposition, and performance record (her own and close relatives) are stellar, the minor flaws wouldn’t be an issue for me.
I agree that cribbing is not a learned behavior. But the sensitive personality, sensitive to stress and the need to find an “addiction” to release endorphines to make an individual “feel better” can be inherited. It can also be an indicator of a high drive to “achieve” and “excel” at the job at hand, whatever that job may be. High work ethic. A higher percentage of top level equine athletes in the most demanding and injury prone sport disciplines may be cribbers. They tend to be more psychologically “sensitive”, and “worry” about things, and “think” about their work or stresses. If what you are trying to breed is a “trouble free child’s pony”, probably this sort of character isn’t what you are looking for. But if you are attempting to breed a high level competitive athlete, the potential for an addiction to endorphines when put under stressful conditions may tag along with this personality, whether you like it or not. What any horse sees as “stress” may be very varied, and sometimes not well understood by the humans in control of the situation. The classics are: pain, illness, living conditions, training and riding issues. I had one who started cribbing when turned out in a field instead of being in training at the track, so… there can be various sources of stress for a horse.
All that being a cribber tells you is that at some point in this mare’s life, she was under some sort of stress, for some reason that you may or may not be able to identify, and turned to an addiction to make herself feel better under the circumstances. She needed that. She has a sensitive and addictive personality.
So it’s a matter of choice for you, of what is important. And what your plans are for the foal you intend to breed. A “sensitive” horse with an intense personality and high work ethic isn’t for everybody. If your plan is to keep the foal for your own use as a high level athlete, or sell it for profit to someone else. Not everyone can accept owning a cribber. Personally, I don’t mind them… I wish they didn’t, but if they do, it’s an extension of their personality. I put it on a par with marrying someone who chews his fingernails… not a great asset, but if he’s a great guy in every other respect, it’s not really that much of a detraction for me. Not nearly as bad as smoking cigarettes or many other addictions that humans give themselves under pressure.


I had a Thoroughbred mare who cribbed. None of her foals did, nor did any other horses on my farm crib. I had a boarder’s TB gelding who cribbed. None of the horses who were turned out with him, or were around him, ever picked up the habit.

The mare was always a broodmare for me and was out 24/7 with her herd, coming in for grain, bad weather, etc. One day I saw her walk across the pasture, thought she was going to a different area to eat, no she went over to crib on the other fence. I had her for quite a few years, she had no issues due to cribbing.

I didn’t have collars on either of the cribbers, as I personally do not like them or think they are any good.


If you already owned this mare, she has proven herself in competition, and/or had already produced Horses who had proven themselves in competition and did not end up being cribbers, I would say sure.

But personally, I can’t see buying her when there are other horses that are at least just as nice and don’t crib. I always look at the possible worst case scenarios… If this horse is injured and needs to be confined, the cribbing will likely go off the rails. If she hast to be confined with her foal…just yuck. I personally would not want to take the chance on it being a learned behavior or an inherited behavior.

I cannot speak to the sarcoid issue since I have no knowledge of its inheritability. The cribbing would be enough for me.


Just my own experience:
I had a TB broodmare who was a cribber. None of the five foals she had for me ever cribbed, nor did any of the other mares (and foals) she was turned out with. I’m now racing one of her colts and I have a daughter as a broodmare. Still no sign of cribbing. I had purchased the mare at the end of her race career and wondered if she’d picked up the vice at the track, but none her offspring have become cribbers in the same circumstance.


Agree with a few others. It depends on how much you like this mare. The best you can say for her is that she has nice conformation and moment but is also a plain 'ole bay mare with no white and scratch n dent issues That is not gushing. I assume scratch n dent issues mean she will mean she won’t fly off your bargain shelf as a sport horse if she doesn’t work out for you as a broodmare. She also has hx of sarcoids that required aggressive management in the past that might reoccur. Plus she cribs it is important to you that her foals do not.

No way to evaluate her specific potential as brood mare overall. But I would not recommend her for your program, whatever it is. I just don’t think you like this mare enough, period.


It’s interesting to see how many people would pass on a mare that cribs, but unknowingly will breed to a stallion that does.

Cribbing is not a deal breaker for me. I had one horse that cribbed. Being out 24/7 helped. He would crib after eating grain or having a treat. That was a concern. He lived into his late 20s. Never had a colic episode. I think trying to control the microbiome would reduce the frequency of cribbing.

Sorry for going sideways.


The sarcoids might be an issue for me. I can find no research on this or a connection but we had a mare with smaller ones on the rectum. One not immediately visible eventually pressed internally on her spine. We had to put her down before the foal was weaned. It was a hard sad lesson. She was gray so I don’t know if that made them more aggressive or whether hormones did, but it was a sad mistake.

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That is because the mare raises the foal, the stallion is rarely in the picture. The mare is most responsible for shaping a foal’s behavior because of this.


Cribbing itself isn’t “learned,” so raising the foal isn’t the issue for me.

I would unknowingly breed to a stallion who does only because, well, I didn’t know. If the stallion owner tells me or I witness it, that’s enough for me to move on to a different horse.

I think I’m super forgiving of imperfections in breeding animals. But the science (and my own experience) suggests there is a genetic component, yet it’s a sneaky trait that doesn’t pass from generation to generation in a clearly Mendelian fashion. That gives me even more reason to want to avoid perpetuating it, since I won’t know until much later in life exactly who inherited it.

I say all this, and there are exceptions to everything. Sometimes the greater good of what an animal has to offer outweighs vices.

I’m completely unphased by cribbing in my personal horses. But it’s a dealbreaker for so many buyers plus there are associated health issues, at minimum the wearing of teeth.


Are you sure it was sarcoids, and not gray horse melanomas? It sounds much more like the latter

But with the genetic component of cribbing, that part doesn’t matter if it comes from the mare or stallion. It’s not a learned behavior.

I wouldn’t use a mare who was flighty and anxious all the time as just her personality/temperament, AND a cribber. In that situation, she can partially influence a foal to be more reactive, by her behavior, but also predispose him to that temperament as well, AND potentially give him the genetics for cribbing/stereotypies.

But if she’s a cribber because of past environmentally induced stresses/ulcers, and is otherwise a quiet sane mare, she’s not going to be teaching high strung behavior that could trigger cribbing in the foal

And I wouldn’t use a high strung (by nature) mare with a stallion who cribs.


Cribbing can absolutely be a learned behavior. I have a gelding that learned cribbing from another horse and know of other instances where horses learned the behavior as well. And with as much as the mare imprints her behavior on the foal, I think the risk of the foal learning the behavior is even higher than average.

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The studies done so far show no relationship to it being a learned behavior, and every relationship to it begin genetic with some trigger, whether their innate personality, high NSC diets, limited turnout, high stress work, ulcers, etc.

What gets confusing often is that the environment is conducive to triggering a stereotypie, so when it’s triggered in 1, it can be triggered in another.

The real JB boarded for almost 15 years in a barn where a cribber and a weaver were in sight for 20+ hours a day. 1-2 hours a day horses were turned out, I rode for about an hour most days a week most of the year (so about 1.5 hours out of his stall), and the other horses were either lesson horses who worked 1-2 hours a day, or boarder horses who usually worked about the same as mine.

None of the 12-15 horses at any given time who were in eyesight of the cribber or the weaver, cribbed or weaved. Not in the 30-ish years I was there, not in the 15 years my horse was there.

Cribbing Not a Learned Behavior, Researchers Say – The Horse

In case you have to be logged in to read that ^, here’s another reference
Research shows cribbing is NOT a learned behavior - EQUINE Ink

49% of owners thought cribbing was a learned behavior, only 1% of cribbers actually started cribbing after exposure to another cribber.


I think behavioral traits in the mare are learned and copied by the foal. My mare loves to jump in the trailer, if you leave the door open. Her colt also loves to climb in the trailer.

My mares one big fault is that she paws and digs at feeding time. The colt also paws at feeding time. Both of them neigh when they see me.

Honestly, I have trouble seeing what traits my foal has gotten from the stallion, other than his color. In many ways, he is just like the mare, maybe slightly more stubborn? They learn so much from the mare.

All the articles in the world will not convince me that cribbing can not be learned. I’ve experienced it. It is possible.