Colic in Horses

horse food

Colic is a condition that can affect some horses, and is a broad term to describe abdominal pain. Rather than a disorder in itself, colic is a condition that is often caused by an accumulation of gas, impactions of feed materials or foreign objects such as sand, and even parasite infections. Horses of all calibres may experience colic, regardless of age, sex, and the type of work they are doing. When your horse first shows signs of colic, there are various things you can do to help and it is important to call the vet straight away – early intervention is vital for reducing the need for surgical intervention or death. If you have a horse that frequently colics it is important to review what horse food you are providing them with and assess the way you manage them.

What to Do if you Suspect your Horse has Colic

It is important to check your horse’s vital signs, including heart rate and rectal temperature and try to stop them rolling if you can as they can injure themselves. Take care as a horse in severe pain can be dangerous to be in the stable with and so in extreme cases you may be better waiting for a vet to administer pain relief. Additionally, checking your horse’s hooves for heat and the way they are standing can also be helpful for ruling out laminitis which is often mistaken for colic.

The presence of faeces in your horse’s stall or pen should also be looked for. If there is a significantly reduced amount, this could well be a problematic indication of colic. If you suspect your horse has colic, call your veterinarian immediately for their expert consultation. If problems are prolonged, the issues your horse is experiencing could become too severe to treat.

Horses Fizzy

How to Feed Your Horse with Colic

If your horse has had recurrent colic reviewing the ration is really important. It is essential to attempt to maintain a consistent feeding protocol, introducing any changes in their feeding regime gradually. Colic is often associated with a change in horse feed or their hay batch, with symptoms often presenting in the two weeks following any changes. If switching your horse’s feed is necessary, do so gradually over 10 days.

With regard to the bucket feed, keeping the meal size small is advised. This is because the horse’s stomach is relatively small in relation to the size of the animal and the horse has evolved to trickle feed as all herbivores do. Cereal grains should be kept to a minimum as the starch they contain can cause problems if fed in large amounts. The increased acidity that occurs as a result of feeding cereals can cause gastric ulcers and this is another disease that can cause intermittent and repeated colic symptoms.  Using high fibre and oil based horse feeds as energy sources is key to reducing the risk of colic.

To summarise, try to feed to reduce the risk of colic but if the worst happens and your horse is showing signs of tummy ache, you must call the vet immediately. Acting fast greatly increases the chances of a positive outcome. If you need advice on what to feed a horse prone to colic, contact an equine nutritionist.
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