Hey y'all! It's been a while I know. I've been "living" life. lol
I bring this message to you today to help those folks who may be first timers with horses. I'm sure some of the old hands know about how bad Winter colic can be.
Winter colic is the same as plain colic. It happens when stuff gets compacted in the gut or intestines causing a blockage. This is a scary event not only for you but for your horse. It's also extremely painful and if left untreated, deadly. You've heard the term: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure right? No truer words have ever been spoken when it comes to horse health care. Staying on top of things will save you TONS of money, headaches and heartaches throughout the life of your horse. We as humans after all take on the responsibility of caring for our animals when we go pick them up and bring them home. If you can't care for your animal for the duration of its lifetime, don't get one.
Ok, Winter colic. I thank the good Lord I've never had to personally deal with this experience firsthand, however I have read, heard and talked with many people who have and the outcomes were about 50/50.
It's not rocket science and so very easy to avoid "IF" you pay attention and stay on top of things. When the outside temperatures drop below 60* horses tend to not want to drink as much water than if the temperatures are warmer. If you haven't already put out salt blocks, you need to keep a salt block out 24-7, 365 days a year. Don't let your horse run out of salt. This little mineral is the catalyst for making a horse want to drink when otherwise they might not.
When you go out to feed, check the water trough every evening and make a mental note of the level in the tank. This can be difficult if you have automatic waterers. Turn it off for a few nights so you can check to see how much your horse is drinking. When you go out in the morning to feed, how much water has your horse drank, if any? The average horse will drink approximately 10 gallons of water per day. More in extremely hot temperatures, and less in extremely cold temperatures. Considering we're talking about winter, more water is awesome.
If you find your horse isn't drinking a good 10 gallons, help them out. Now I've never been a fan of graining my horses. This year I am giving it a try. Cookie only gets 1 1/2 lbs of sweet grain per day. 1/2 in her morning feed and 1/2 at night. The extra 1/2 is when the temperatures are at or below freezing, and it's in a 2 gallon bucket of warm water. This encourages her to drink the water to get to the grain bits at the bottom of the bucket. I think she likes it. I mean she plays in it as if it were a pond. Splashing it everywhere, taking mouthfuls and spraying all around like a sprinkler. LOL. She does drink more than 1/2 of the water though. That's what I want to see!
Her alfalfa mix this year is a little different also. Her feedings are: 1 pound of alfalfa, 1/2 pound of sweet pelleted grain, 1/2 cup of pure vegetable oil, 2 dry ounces of milled flax seed, 1 scoop of multi-vitamin, 2 tablespoons of DE & 1 tablespoon of salt. Warm water gets added until it's very soupy. More water when it's colder, less when it's warmer. This is her morning alfalfa feeding. In the evening, she gets the alfalfa, grain, oil, salt and water only.
Watching the water tough isn't the only way to keep up on what's going on in the inside. Check out the manure piles too! Are they hard and dry, soft and break apart easily or are they cow flops? Hard and dry means your horse isn't drinking enough water. Soft and break apart easily means your horse is good to go and cow flops (diarrhea) means they need some Pre and/or Pro biotics for about a week.
How is your horses attitude? Do they look at you and nicker when you come out to feed or do they stand away and look tired or sullen? Take their temperature. Is it normal, are they running a fever or are they below normal? If you have a fever going on, call the vet. An internal infection means they very well could be getting dehydrated and in trouble.
The next step in helping your horse to avoid colic is to get them moving. Take their hay serving and spread it around. Make 4-5 small piles in different areas so they have to walk to get to it. This does many things. 1. It stimulates gut movement. (Trotting is better for this, but walking works too) 2. It stimulates blood flow to the feet and 3. It actually helps keep them warm.
Another pet peeve, blankets. Oh the controversy! Blankets are for very young, very old and very sick horses. Otherwise, take them off! Your horse has the ability to get warmer or cooler with their own coats. When your horse is blanketed, you can't tell if they're sweating or if they're regulating themselves properly. When a horse sweats, guess what? It loses water & becomes dehydrated. Considering it's wintertime, they won't drink all they need to replenish what they've lost. Offer them shelter or weather break. Chances are you'll get frustrated because your horse is standing right out in the elements. That's because they are built to weather the weather. :)
In freezing temperatures, unless you have a tank heater, you'll have to go out break the ice off the top of the water so your horse has the opportunity to drink. Bring out a 5 gallon bucket of warm water for them to drink. Break the ice off the top of the trough and pour what they don't drink into the water trough. This will help warm the water some.
Now that you have some basic tools and know what to look for, put them to use. Your horse will certainly appreciate the extra effort, and if they don't.. well you've lost nothing but inches off your waistline lugging all that water out to them. :)
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