Fall Changes Contribute to Horse Colic

Colicky horse rolling in dirt.
Colicky horse rolling in dirt. Carien Schippers

Newsdate: Tue October 03, 2017, 12:52 pm
Location: GILROY, California

Does your horse exercise program change with the onset of fall and winter? Sudden changes in diet and routine are among the top colic risk factors for horses.

A horse in the throes of colic

A horse in the throes of colic

Changes in diet and stabling often occur at the same time as changes in weather and activity levels, and these changes can impact your horse's risk of colic.

As Equine Guelph E-news bulletin reminds horse owners, colic is the #1 killer of horses (after old age). Changes in diet and stabling often occur at the same time as changes in activity which can also impact your horses risk of colic as seasons change.

To prevent colic, it is important to be consistent in all areas of horse health. Since horses are grazers with relatively small stomachs and long stretches of intestine they are meant to eat small amounts throughout the day and they need a consistent supply of fresh, drinkable water to maintain health and prevent colic.

Follow these 10 tips to keep your horse free from colic:

  1. Establish a daily routine – include feeding and exercise schedules – and stick to it.
  2. Use slow feeder hay bags, feed free choice or use other means to allow your horse a consistent supply of hay or forage material that can be eaten 24/7 and feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage
  3. Avoid putting feed on the ground, especially in sandy soils where horses might ingest colic-causing sand..
  4. Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually, and be consistent in the amount of exercise time and intensity.
  5. .Maintain proper parasite control and routine dental maintenance to decrease incidences of colic.
  6. Provide access to clean, fresh water at all times since horses require large amounts of water to move feed material through their gut.
  7. In cold areas, warm your horse's water with a heater. According to research, horses prefer water that ranges between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and will drink more water if it is in the proper temperature range.
  8. Add salt and trace minerals to the diet as the weather to keep water intake consistent and help to reduce colic.
  9. Check hay, bedding, pasture, and environment for potentially toxic substances, such as blister beetles, noxious weeds, and other ingestible foreign matter.
  10. Reduce stress. Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at high risk of intestinal dysfunction. Pay special attention to horses when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.

As horses shift from a high moisture diet (grass) to a low moisture diet (hay), the risk of colic is increased. Don't believe the absence of hot weather is a reason to make less trips to the water troughs or water buckets; horses will be seeking water to aid in the digestion of that dry hay.

Visit Equine Guelph's Colic Risk Rater to determine your horses level of risk and learn more about preventative measures you can take.

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying  up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..