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Preventing Colic

Horse Health Press Release

In the first three months of 2002 there were two separate unrelated cases of colic in horses that were caused by the horses eating hay band. Both of these horses required surgery at the Equine Hospital in Werribee, Australia. While not all cases of colic can be prevented, the following guidelines can maximise a horse's health and reduce the risk of colic.

Establish a daily set routine - including feeding and exercise - and stick to it.

Feed a high quality diet comprised primarily of roughage where possible.

Avoid feeding excessive grain and energy dense supplements. (At least half the horse's energy requirements should be supplied through hay or forage. A better guide is that twice as much energy should be supplied from roughage source than from concentrates.

Divide daily concentrate ration into two or more smaller feedings, rather than one large one, to avoid overloading the horse's digestive tract. Hay is best fed free-choice.

Set up a regular parasite control program with the help of your equine practitioner. Utilise fecal testing to determine its effectiveness.

Provide exercise and/or turnout on a daily basis.

Change the intensity/duration of an exercise regime gradually.

Provide fresh, clean water at all times. (The only exception is when a horse is excessively hot. Then it should be given small sips of lukewarm water until recovered.)

Avoid medications unless they are prescribed by your equine practitioner, especially pain-relief drugs (analgesics), which can cause ulcers.

Check hay, bedding, pasture and environments for potentially toxic substances such as noxious weeds, and other indigestible foreign matter such as hay band.

Avoid putting feed on ground, especially in sandy soils.

Make dietary and other management changes as gradually as possible.

Reduce stress. Horses experiencing changes in environment or workloads are at a high risk of intestinal dysfunction.

Pay special attention to animals when transporting them or changing their surroundings, such as at shows.

Observe foaling mares pre- and postpartum for any signs of colic. Also watch any horses who have had a previous bout with colic.

Maintain accurate records of management, feeding practices and health.