Tips To Prevent Winter-Weather Colic

Winter weather is rolling across many areas of the country and the vast temperature drops that tend to come with it make most horse owners anxious—and rightfully so. Certain types of colic are more prevalent when colder weather comes—specifically those that are impaction related.

An impaction colic is where ingested grain and hay ceases to move through the horse’s digestive system. This blockage causes the intestines to distend and become painful. Impactions are often found in the pelvic flexure, where the large colon loops back on itself, but they can occur almost anywhere.

There are some management strategies can help keep impaction colic at bay:

  • Keep horses hydrated. It’s imperative that horses always have access to unfrozen water. A bucket can freeze in six to 12 hours, if not sooner, so it’s fair to say that a horse will be without water for part of the day or night in between when his buckets are refilled. The most important time a horse need access to ice-free water is the three hours after he has eaten.
    Horses tend to drink more during cold weather when the water is warm; filling a bucket with warm water will also slow down the freezing process. Adding warm water to a horse’s daily meals can also make sure he gets more water in his system.
  • Turn out horses as much as possible. The ability to move keeps a horse’s gut going, as does continual grazing. Important to note, a horse that is moved from pasture to a stall is at an even higher risk of colic than those that are used to being stalled because of the dramatic change in management. A horse with a thick winter coat or a blanket, and access to shelter, can live outside comfortably even in single-digit temperatures.
  • Feed lots of forage. Though hay is much drier than pasture grasses, feeding hay constantly is easier on a horse than feeding hay just twice a day. Hay digestion also assists in keeping a horse warm.
  • Stay vigilant when temperatures tank. Though the correlation between plummeting temperatures and colic haven’t been scientifically proven, vets report rashes of colic calls when temperatures drop. Try to keep horses in their normal routine and watch them closely for signs of colic.

Read more at EQUUS magazine.

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