Copyright thewayofhorses
                                                                                   Eleanor Richards
If Your Horse Colics, it's Probably Your Fault.
By Eleanor Richards
Copyright @ 2006

      Most episodes of colic are cause by poor management. 
      Poor quality feed, rapid feed changes, lack of water, improper deworming practices and stress are common causes of colic.  These can be avoided if the horse is properly managed. 
      Never offer a horse moldy, dusty, bug infested, old or dirty feed.  If the horse refuses to eat - there is a reason.  It may be the feed, and it may be that he already has a tummy ache (colic).  Don't try to force him to eat it. 

     If the questionable feed is a commercial product, return it to the store - in the bag with the tag, so the dealer can retrieve the manufacturer's code.  Make sure the new bag is from a different lot number.   (See my article at on how to read a feed tag.)
     Make all feed changes gradually.  The bacteria and microbes in the horse's digestive system are balanced to utilize the current feed the horse is consuming.  If the feed is suddenly changed, the microbes become frantic as they try to adjust to the rapid change of environment.  This unstable atmosphere can lead to colic and laminitis. 

       In addition to making gradual changes in commercial mixes or grain, making a forage change must also be done gradually.  Introducing a horse to pasture or starting a new load of hay is considered a change of feed.  The microbes in the digestive system must be allowed to balance themselves over a period of time.  I like to recommend 10 to 14 days to complete the change.

      The lack of clean fresh water kills horses.

      Water is the most important and most neglected nutrient.  The number one cause of impaction colic is lack of water. 

      Walk down any barn aisle and look in the stalls and examine the buckets.  How many have a green or black substance growing on the walls?  How many have manure, old hay, grain or dead rodents floating in them?  If there are automatic waterers - how many are working?  When were they last cleaned?  Can you tell how much water the horses are drinking?  Are there flow meters installed? Is there a watering plan in place for winter when the containers freeze?

    Take a walk in the pasture and check on the horse's water supply.  Are the horses expected to drink out of a stagnant pond or swamp?  Is the stock tank growing algae and sitting in the hot sun?  Is there a creek running through the pasture that is bringing contaminants, such as chemicals and fertilizer, from upstream?

     The lack of water kills horses!

     There is no doubt the practice of deworming horses has extended their life expectancy.  With the variety of dewormers on the market there is no excuse for not activating a deworming program.  

      Heavy intestinal worm populations can cause colic.  But the misuse of dewormers can also cause colic.  If your horse has not been dewormed, consult an equine veterinarian before giving a dewormer.  A massive kill of worms can create a blockage resulting in impaction colic. 

      Follow the directions on the product.  Be very careful when using products containing moxidectin. Moxidectin is a very strong dewormer and can kill foals less than six months of age.

       Stress affects horses just as it affects humans.  Gastric distress (ulcers, acid stomach and colic) is common during stressful periods.  

       Horses are maintained in ways unnatural to their needs. Try to provide as close to a natural environment as possible. Feed small frequent meals that include lots of forage, and allow horses adequate turnout time.  If is best if horses have other horses or animals for companionship.

Have a feeding routine and stick to it.

Know what is normal for your horse.  Observation can alleviate many problems.

You may at a fault if your horse's health isn't perfect.
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