No other word strikes fear in the hearts and minds of horse owners more than the word “Colic”- it can affect any horse at any time for a multitude of reason. Sadly, colic is one of the biggest causes of death in horses worldwide, but fortunately the vast majority of colic episodes will respond to on-farm medical treatment.

So what is Colic?

Colic is a broad veterinary term used to describe any form of abdominal pain in the horse. Colic can be caused by very many different causes – most of these are gastrointestinal in nature but occasionally colic can be the result of things such as urinary and reproductive problems.

The signs of Colic

Colic can range from mild to severe, but it should never be ignored. Many of the conditions that cause colic can become life threatening in a relatively short period of time. It is essential to recognise quickly and accurately the signs of colic and to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible to maximise the chance for recovery.

  • Pawing at the ground
  • Flank watching
  • Kicking or biting at the bellyColic
  • Repeated lying down
  • Rolling
  • Holding head in unusual position
  • Repeated lifting up lip
  • Sweating
  • Stretching out as if to urinate
  • Dog sitting
  • Lying on back
  • Depression
  • Inappetence

Don’t hesitate, if you think your horse may have colic please call your veterinarian now….

SHEC’s 10 tips for reducing the risk of colic

  1. Establish a daily routine – including feeding and exercise schedules, and stick to it.
  2. Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage.
  3. Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy dense supplements. At least half the horse’s energy should be supplied through hay or forage.
  4. Divide daily concentrate rations into two or more smaller feeds rather than one large one to avoid overloading the horse’s digestive tract. Hay is best fed continuously throughout the day.
  5. Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your vet.
  6. Whenever possible, provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis. Change the intensity and duration of an exercise regimen gradually.
  7. Provide fresh, clean water at all times.
  8. Avoid putting feed directly on the ground, especially in sandy soils.
  9. Discuss with your vet to see if routinely feeding psyllium would be appropriate for your horse/pony if you live in an area with sandy soils
  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.


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