Just say the word colic, and most horse owners’ palms grow clammy. It’s a condition no one likes to deal with, and for good reason: colic is the number one medical killer of horses.
The condition can seemingly strike at any time and often, horse owners are left scratching their heads, wondering why it happened to their horse. While it’s true that some forms of colic aren’t preventable (such as a twisted bowel), in many instances, colic can be prevented with proper management and diet.
Here are a few tips for preventing colic in your horse:
Cold Weather Colic
Colic is more common in cold weather because horses may not stay hydrated as well when temperatures drop. You can encourage your horse to drink more by providing clean, warmed water in heated buckets or tanks. Adding a tablespoon of loose unrefined sea salt in your horse’s feed will also encourage drinking, and if you soak hay cubes or pellets, this will automatically get more water into your horse’s system.
Horses may also colic in cold weather because they’re not moving around much. Movement increases gut motility; therefore it’s important to allow plenty of turnout time. Most horses would rather deal with the cold than be stuck in a stall all day anyway!
Grass/ Feed Related Colic
Horses have microbes in their gut which help to break down and digest food. These microbes become specialized in breaking down specific types of foods, and when you introduce a new food, the microbes must adjust. They can do it, but they need time. This is why it’s recommend to make feed transitions slowly, over a week or two. The same caution should be used with changes in pasture or forage. Whether you’re introducing your horse to a new pasture, letting them out onto new spring grass, or switching to a different type of hay, it’s advisable to do it slowly.
For support during times of feed/ forage transition or for horses dealing with the stress of transport or competition, we recommend adding our probiotic, ColicGuard.
Other Types of Colic
Horses living in sandy areas can also suffer from sand colic. If you live in an area with sandy soil, don’t feed your horse straight off the ground. You can also feed a ground flaxseed product such as SandGuard to help prevent sand buildup, but one of the best things to do is feed plenty of forage. This keeps the gut moving and will help to flush out any sand as it comes in.
If horses are overly burdened with worms, colic can occur directly after deworming if a large number of expelled worms block the intestines. There are several ways to prevent this from occurring, one of the most important being responsible pasture management (picking up manure, not overcrowding pastures, and/or rotating pastures). Feeding one of our Wormguard products can help as a preventative measure.
One final and very important tip is this: if your horse is only fed two meals per day and has nothing else to munch on the rest of the time, you could unintentionally be setting him up for colic. As stated before, eating forage keeps the gut moving. So provide plenty of hay and use slow feeders, if necessary.