Veterinarians experience an increase in calls this time of year because of colic. Episodes of colic can affect your horse any time of the year, but the reason behind the stomach pain often varies seasonally.
Impaction-related colic is most common in the winter months. Feed is not digested through the gut correctly, instead, it accumulates and forms a blockage. Severe cases will put your horse in the hospital. It’s important to follow these tips to prevent colic altogether.
1) Keep your horse hydrated! Your horse must drink between 8 and 10 gallons a day. His water source must not be frozen in order for him to drink enough. The temperature of the water must also be considered. Ice cold water is less than desirable. If you’re having trouble getting him to drink, consider soaked beet pulp after discussing it with your vet.
2) Be careful of a sudden increase in forage or feed. His diet should change over a 2 week period, in order to give his gut a chance to adjust.
3) Frequent turnout is helpful. A horse out on pasture will have a healthy, moving gut. The small, frequent meals while grazing, combined with physical activity, will go a long way in prevention.
4) Have a parasite prevention program established. If your horse is confided to a smaller area in the winter, he may be eating closer to his manure.
5) Less grass may cause him to eat poisonous plants. Look over your pasture and eliminate dangerous weeds or trees.
6) Watch out for abrupt changes in the weather. While you can’t control winter storms, you can keep a diligent eye on your horse and set him up for success with plenty of water, forage, and turnout.
Don’t let your horse be miserable this winter, instead follow these tips and keep him safe from colic.
(Originally published in January 2017).