Stable Management,Top 5 Ways to Prevent Colic

Avoiding a bout of colic is part of the duties of the stable management. Colic, simply said is

Buddy's neck

Stable Managers Would Rather Avoid Colic Than Treat Colic (Photo credit: carterse)

an upset stomach. A horse’s stomach is relatively small considering their large size. They evolved over time grazing and constantly having a small amount of food in their gut all the time. Compare this to meat eater, wolves and tigers for example, who eat to excess after making a well timed hunt and kill. After eating, meat eaters seem to tuck themselves in a safe spot and sleep the binge off.

Not so with a horse. and taking into consideration the way horses eat, they graze on small amounts all day and are ready to gallop off at a moments notice should a dangerous situation arise.

How to Prevent Colic

Stable manages would prefer to prevent a colic rather than treat a colic. Prevention is the best cure and although some colics seem to arise out of nothing avoiding colic is a good option.

  1.  Make no sudden changes in grain or food. Switching grains or feed can trigger a colic. If you are thinking of changing grain or moving your horse to a new stable where they feed different grain than you, change the grain over gradually.

This may mean mixing both grains together. For example,

  • day 1  3/4 regular grain and 1/4 amount of the new grain mixed together
  • day 2  1/2 of regular mixed with 1/2 of the new grain mixed together
  • day 3 1/4 of regular grain mixed with 3/4 of the new grain
  • day 4  new grain only.

This is an example and if your horse is subject to colic or your horse gets a significant amount of grain then consider lengthening this process to 7 or 8 days.

 This is also true when introducing horses to pasture. If your horse has been stabled and you wish it to be out at pasture, gradually introduce your horse to pasture to avoid colic.

This may mean introducing your horse to the pasture in 15 minute increments until the horse is accustomed to grazing the entire day.

 2.      Have a regular worming program. Internal parasites can cause stomach upset

Blood worms in horse poop

Blood worms in horse poop (Photo credit: The Latest Slub:)

and colic in some horses. The lifecycle of internal parasites can disrupt the lining of the stomach and in some cases may even block the passage of manure.

3.      Have free access to water.  This is particularly important during the winter months during cold temperatures. Some horse owners think horses can eat snow to stay hydrated. Eating snow is not a good way for horses to stay hydrated. Access to water is important. A trough with a stock heater will help keep the water at a suitable temperature and will promote drinking.

4.      Provide salt in the diet is a great way to ensure your horse will drink enough water. One equine nutritionist told me 1 oz. of salt was the cheapest colic insurance horse owners could get.

5.      Do not give water directly after a workout.

Do you have a surefire way to avoid colic which isn’t mentioned here? Please let us know and we will add it.

Thanks ~Laura

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About Laura

Laura Kelland-May is the founder of Thistle Ridge Skill Builders Development Program. She more than trains horses, she trains people to train their horses. In addition she is a Sr. Judge and can offer insight into What the Judge Is Looking For. Follow her here and get more tips.
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2 Responses to Stable Management,Top 5 Ways to Prevent Colic

  1. Sobering article and sometimes difficult to talk about. Thank you for such good concise information. It’s worth printing and posting on the barn’s announcement board.

  2. Laura says:

    Imagine not having to worry about colic! I think I survey the stall for poops (note to poopology article) and survey the shavings for undue signs of distress. All these things seem, to me, to be second nature now. It is up to us as seasoned horse people to ensure our helpers can also become adept at spotting distressing situations before they arise.

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