I have come across a few horses in my working life that were committed wind suckers or cribbers, but I have never owned one so you can take my comments with as many grains of salt as you like.
Most of us already know that wind sucking stems from stress. It is not a one off response to a one off stressful experience, but a habit developed slowly over a period of time in response to chronic stress. It can be triggered by prolonged confinement, isolation from other horses, lack of movement, stressful relationship with humans etc. It has even been suggested it can be caused by chronic ulcers and gastric inflammation, although the last I checked this was more a theory than a fact. I personally suspect that it is wind sucking that leads to these ailments, not the other way around.
But the thing to remember that once a horse has developed the habit of wind sucking it stays for life. There is no cure.
Some horses are more prone to developing the habit than others. But I don’t think there is an overall pattern, other than those horses that live a life of stress are more likely to wind suck, that will help identify a potential wind sucker. In my experience, it is rare to see cold-blooded breeds or ponies that wind suck.
It seems to begin in early life and early training and it is uncommon to see older and mature horses begin to wind suck if they haven’t done it before.
A horse can be stopped from wind sucking by removing objects it can bite down on, but I have seen horses bite on dirt when nothing else was available. People often fit an anti-crib collar to their horse, which makes it difficult for a horse to gulp in air, but once the collar is removed the habit will return.
Wind sucking is a coping strategy that a horse uses to get through life. I have never known it to be reversed even when the stress is gone from a horse’s life. Once it starts it seems to be for life. So given that it is a mechanism to relieve stress for a horse and that it can’t be undone, my view is that we should not try to prevent a horse wind sucking using gadgets and removing things that it could use to wind suck. It will not help a horse feel better and can only exacerbate the problem by eliminating the horse's ability to use it’s coping strategy. I know that is an opinion that many will disagree with.
In my experience, wind sucking does not interfere with a horse’s ability to work well or be highly trainable and thrive. The problems with it are often more about how we view it than any harm the horse suffers.
But that’s not a blanket endorsement of doing nothing. Wind sucking does have negative consequences in a few horses. One thing that can happen is that a horse will wear down its front teeth prematurely by biting on posts and other objects. I’ve seen 12-year-old horses where the front teeth have been worn down to stumps that you’d only expect to see in 30+-year-old horse. In addition, wind suckers can eat away wooden posts and rails until they are turned into nothing but a pile of splinters. The dental issues and the decimation of fences could be one justification for removing a horse’s access to these objects.
The other problem that sometimes occurs is that horse can have difficulty putting on weight and develop gut complications. Horses that wind suck a lot are prone to accumulating non-digestible debris in their gut. It can be dirt, wood fibres, plastic, sand etc. If this gut trash is not passed it can cause absorption problems, colic, and gut inflammation. A preventative treatment such as an annual drenching with paraffin is not a bad idea in these cases.
With a horse that wind sucks I think the best management would be to let it live in a large paddock with plenty of friends and high-fibre grasses. That way it will experience lower stress, better nutrition and plenty of exercise. If this is possible, I see no reason to worry about most horses that wind suck.