Colic can affect any horse or pony at any time and can range in severity from very mild to life threatening and causes abdominal pain. The condition can be categorised into four groups:
- A blockage in the intestine (Impaction)
- Intestinal contractions (Spasmodic)
- Build-up of gas in the intestine (Tympanitic)
- Impaction or inflammation from ingesting sand (Sand colic)
Horses or ponies that are experiencing colic generally display the below signs:
- Repeatedly looking at or kicking at the abdomen
- Rolling and pawing at the ground
- Box walking
- Increased temperature, pulse and breathing
- Change in frequency and/or consistency of droppings
- Loss of appetite or refusing to eat/drink
If you are seeing some of the above signs, seek veterinary advice immediately.
In the more severe cases, colic surgery maybe required which is a delicate procedure and the after care needs to be carefully handled.
How to prevent colic
There are a number of risk factors that can cause any horse or pony to colic including:
- Low forage and high starch/cereal diets
- Reduced water intake
- Changes to the horses or ponies routine
- Mature forage – particularly to equines prone to impaction colic
- Poor teeth
- Mouldy feed/forage
The above should be avoided to prevent the risk of colic but nutrition can play a huge role.
Rule of thumb is to provide ad lib forage and feed a high fibre diet with controlled levels of Non-Structural Carbohydrates (NSC – starch, sugar and fructans). Forage and fibre help in keeping the digestive tract healthy.
The main part of all horses and ponies diet is forage, so ensure the hay/haylage is good quality.
Do not feed any mouldy forage or feed, and clean, feed and water buckets regularly. Supply fresh, clean water both in the field and in the stable.
The base of the feed should focus on fibre; avoiding high starch/cereal feeds. If higher energy is required, look for feeds that are high in oil which provides an alternative to cereal starch. If cereals are being fed, make sure they are not in large quantities; divide up into smaller meals.
Make any changes to the diet gradually and feeds should be divided into smaller meals with forage fed in-between.
Horses can ingest sand quite easily if your paddock is sand based. To help limit intake owners can feed hay from haynets or paddock friendly mangers, and there are supplements to aid in preventing build-up of sand. Speak to a qualified nutritionist for more information on supplements.
Fibre-Beet is a carefully designed blend of highly degradable fibre sources that provide optimum fermentation patterns to help keep the digestive system healthy. With an effective degradability 50% higher than forage fibre, Fibre-Beet can improve energy intake whilst keeping dietary fibre levels at an optimum.
Consult your vet for veterinary advice & contact the British Horse Feeds team for feed advice.
Read more about our feeds here.