Colic In The Horse
By Jo Thompson
Many of our horses live a much different life than they used to. Horses once lived on the plains traveling in herds and grazing all day. This was what they were intended to do by nature. Today, however, we like to show our horses and we like to keep them in the barn for easy access. Our horses have begun to live in stalls or small pens most of their lives and because of this they have had to adjust. Many horses have adapted to this type of lifestyle, but it has not been without any healthy effects. Colic is one of the most common health issues that horse owners have to worry about today.
Colic is a fairly broad term, but essentially it is a stomachache. The horse’s digestive system is very unique and they’re stomachs are incredibly small of their size. They are designed to eat multiple small meals per day, but we have adjusted that to fit our daily schedules and many horses get two rather large meals per day. The horse also does not have the constant flow of fiber that he once had when he was able to roam the range. Instead, they also receive two rather large flakes of hay per day. There are some horses that are lucky enough to have constant access to hay via round bales, but many horses receive their forage with their meal. This means that a horse may be shocking his system because he is receiving so much food at one time. Horses are unable to tell when they are “full” and this means that they will continue to eat whether they need to or not.
A horse is unable to digest a large amount of feed in such a small amount of time. As the horse eats too much he is overloading his stomach and killing off the helpful bacteria that live in the hindgut of the horse. Because there are no bacteria to help ferment and digest the feed, the feed sits there in the hindgut and causes a toxic problem that produces founder to occur. The toxins begin to build up in the horse’s blood stream and eventually the horse begins to not only show signs of colic but founder as well.
The horse may begin to roll continuously. The horse will get up and lie down and roll over and over. The horse may also develop a fever and begin to sweat. Some horses will act as though they can barely stand up. In severe cases of colic a horse will sit back on his hind feet to avoid putting pressure on his front feet. These are the signs of founder beginning to set into the horse’s feet. When a horse is found colicking, a veterinarian should be alerted as soon as possible and the horse should be walked until the veterinarian arrives. Horses who are allowed to roll may twist a gut and cause more severe internal problems.
Jo loves horses and everything related to horses including merry go rounds
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