Are You Killing Your Horse? The How, What and Why of Colic

Hello Horse Lovers,

Together, we can help reduce owner caused colic in horses, one person at a time. Welcome to the Zealous Horse family. My name is Sharon North Pohl, founder of Zealous Horses.com. I love horses and I’ve dedicated over 30 years of my life to training, rescuing, and helping horses and people form lasting, meaningful bonds.

June is a special month, dedicated to the awareness of colic in horses. It is also the launch of our virtual barn, Zealous Horses.com, and we’ve created a new resource for you; our Colic Crusher System-the first in our Horse Saver System Series. This is a useful collection of easy-to-follow charts with audio explanations, filled with stories from my own personal experience.

It’s all about being prepared and helping you become more aware and better able to deal with many common horse health issues.

What Is Colic?

Colic is not a specific medical condition, it refers to a non-descript abdominal pain related to the disruption of the digestive system. The pain can be mild or severe. All incidents should be taken seriously as colic can be life threatening. There are many causes and types of colic in horses. Many of the colic episodes are owner assisted-through our own mistakes, we create situations that put our beloved partners at risk.

How Do I Notice Colic

Every horse exhibits different signs, but the most common colic signs may include:

  • Not eating
  • Neck stretched out head low
  • Looking at his/her belly
  • Laying down
  • Kicking at stomach
  • Looking at stomach
  • Pawing
  • Rolling excessively
  • Restless behavior, getting up and down
  • Profusely sweating
  • Decreased manure production

What to Do if I Think My Horse Has Colic

  • Remove all feed
  • Call the vet
  • Take them for a moderately brisk walk
  • Keep them up, do not let them roll
  • Keep fresh clean water for them (unless advised otherwise by vet)
  • Take you horses vital signs (temperature heart, respiration)
    • Know what normal is by having recorded records for your healthy horse
  • Do not administer any drugs without instructions from your vet

Types of Colic

  • Gas Colic is excess gas resulting in colic
  • Intestinal spasm
  • Impaction
  • Intestinal accident. This could be intestinal tears , hernias and in many cases this will require surgery
  • Enteritis or ulcers are caused by inflammation , infections and other gastrointestinal diseases

Why Colic?

  • San Colic from ingesting sand in the feed (feeding on the ground)*
  • Ingesting moldy or bad feed*
  • Eating wood, plastic or stones*
  • Parasites cause 50% of the deaths in horses*
  • Irregular feeding schedule*
  • Lack of sufficient water
  • Intestinal stones in the large intestine, referred to as enteroliths.
  • Twisted intestines (often requires surgery)

*All owner caused WE are responsible for 6 out of these 8 causes.

How to Help Prevent Colic

  • Feed high roughage diet, grass or hay
  • Look at what you feed , watch for mold, weeds and other contaminates
  • Limit grazing time on new spring grass
  • Use a grazing muzzle on ravenous horses
  • Especially watch minis and ponies , they are the most at risk
  • Keep a good rodent management plan in place
  • Keep all grain in metal closed containers in locked feed room
  • Limit grain unless horse is in high demand work
  • Keep plenty of fresh clean water- use dunks to discourage mosquitos
  • Monitor water intake when traveling, add molasses to encourage drinking
  • Keep the horse on a regular rotating worming schedule, keep records
  • Provide daily exercise
  • Keep feed off the ground, use mats to protect spilled feed from sand
  • Keep you horses teeth regularly maintained for proper chewing
  • Use digestive supplements for reducing sand and improving healthy gut

You may know the signs of colic but your barn help and substitute feeders may not. Using this simple, easy to understand set of awareness charts and making adjustments to our stable practices can change the colic statistics. Together we can all make a difference and lessen the incidents of colic in barns all around the world.

Quick Tips

5 critical signs your horse could be having a colic incident

  1. Not Eating
  2. Pawing
  3. Looking/Biting at Stomach
  4. Excessive Rolling
  5. Kicking at stomach