6 Life-Saving Tips For Preventing Colic In Your Horse

March 20, 2023

Have you or someone you know had a horse that has gone through colic?
It’s a really scary time when your horse is in so much pain that they are not acting like themselves.
You may have to help your horse through this rough period.
Not sure how to do that? Well, any emergency starts with a calm, cool, and collected head. Knowing what to look for and how to handle things until the vet arrives will help ease some of the stress of seeing your best friend in pain.
And the best news? We can help you be prepared.
Keep reading for more tips on helping your horse through colic.

Bay horse rolling in dust

Why do horses colic?

Why does colic happen to horses? There is no right answer to this because it varies case by case.
As an experienced horse person, you know that your horses’ body will react in different ways to changes in their diet, stress level, and environment. Some of those reactions will be positive, but some will be negative
Colic is simply defined as abdominal pain. But the causes can be anything from a mild tummy ache from excessive gas to the extreme case of the stomach building up fluid and bursting. This is why it is so important for you to call your vet immediately if you think your horse is in the early stages of colic.

Early signs of colic in horses:

Did you walk out to your pasture this morning or over to their stall and something just seemed off about your horse?
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for if you’re not sure if your horse is showing early signs of colic:

  • Kicking or biting at their belly
  • Excessive rolling or laying down
  • A lack of interest in food or water
  • Little to no poop OR passing mucus covered manure
  • Off-colored gums

How to treat colic:

The best way to treat colic is by calling your vet as soon as possible.
However, there are things that you can do before your vet arrives in order to help your horse:

  • Try to keep your horse from laying down and rolling.
  • Keep your horse walking. If there is an impaction in their gut (they can’t pass fecal matter), walking them may help move it through.
  • Occasionally offer them water
  • Remove their food. If there is no impaction in their gut then you don’t want to add to it with more food.

Bay horse and pinto hors eating hay off of the ground in paddock

How can I prevent colic in the future?


1. Always have clean water available

Having clean water for your horse is important.
Make sure that the container that their water is in is cleaned regularly. Having a dirty or long-standing water trough can cause the built-up bacteria to get into your horse’s stomach, which can lead to gastrointestinal upset or colic.
Clean your water tank once a month. Whenever you do clean out your water take make sure to use a horse-safe cleaner like apple cider vinegar to kill all the bacteria inside your water tank. After you have scrubbed it out and sprayed it down with your cleaner, let it sit and dry for a bit. Make sure to rinse it out before you fill it up for your horses.

Behlen, 2 ft. X 2 ft. X 3 ft. Stock Tank, 71 gal

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2. Let them go out into the pasture

Letting your horse go out into the pasture is not only a great way to keep up on their exercise, but it’s also a way to make sure that if they are in a stall that their body doesn’t become stagnant. Allowing them to have pasture time for and hour a day or more will help make sure their system is regularly moving their food through it.

3. Don’t feed hay in areas with sand

You should avoid feeding hay in sandy areas.
If you have to feed in a sandy area, try getting their hay up off the ground.
Get them a feeder, use a hay net, or build your own feeder for them. Put down a stall mat where they typically eat so that they are reducing their intake of sand or dirt. If they get sand and dirt into their stomach, it can cause irritation, which will lead to upset and could lead to ulcers and colic. It’s important to make sure to include a supplement like SandRid or Equerry’s Sand Master Digestive Health Supplement in their grain to make sure that whatever dirt or arena sand they are ingesting is going through their system in an appropriate manner.

Durvet, SandRID Psyllium Pellets, 10 lb

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Pinto horse grazing in green grass field

4. Only feed grain or pelleted feeds when needed

For some horses, grain is an essential part of their diet. But if your horse is turned out to pasture make sure to cut back on their grain or pelleted feeds.
Some pelleted feeds can expand when mixed with saliva or liquids in the stomach. This can cause a blockage in their intestines and can lead to colic or other serious problems.
If you’re planning on feeding grain or pelleted feed to your horse make sure you soak them In water before you give the grain to your horse. Make sure that you have at least two hands of water on top of your grain since most grain will puff up and soak up the water.

5. Keep your horse’s teeth on a regular floating schedule

A healthy gastrointestinal system starts with your horse’s teeth.
If their teeth get too long then they can’t chew their food properly, which will lead to poor digestion and upset stomach in some cases. Just like their hooves their teeth grow constantly and need to be taken care of. Make sure you talk to your vet about when they would recommend your horse’s dental check-ups should be. Some vets may recommend every 6 months depending on how fast your horse’s teeth grow, while others will recommend every year to every few years depending on their age.

6. Slowly introduce anything new into your horse’s routine

Horses are creatures of habit, even in their diet.
Always make sure to introduce new foods and supplements slowly, to allow their body to get used to it. This will help their sensitive stomach to absorb the enzymes and adjust to the new idiosyncrasies of their food.

Run to your local Wilco Farm Store for more tips and products to help prevent colic in your horse.

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