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Colic: Why It Happens and How to Recognize It
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Colic: Why It Happens and How to Recognize It

I used to board my horse at a huge public barn and it wasn’t uncommon to see a bout of colic every now and then. This led me to be able to learn a lot about it and now I am able to recognize the ailment with ease. Colic is any stomach pain. This pain can lead to much more serious issues if not taken care of.

What to watch for:

Lethargy/lack of appetite/acting off: A horse who doesn’t feel well tends to act as such. If your horse is hanging his head, standing around way more than usual, and laying down for long periods of time, I would recommend keeping an eye on him. You should also be sure to keep an extra close eye if he is off his feed or generally not acting himself. Do not panic at this point. Just be responsible and watchful. Colic is one of the most common ailments and it is wise to always be on the lookout.

Restlessness: If your horse is restless, pacing, pawing, and looking at his/her stomach, it could mean they are in pain. Some may back into a corn or stretch. Many behaviors are out of the ordinary and should be kept note of.

Rolling: rolling is a sure-fire sign that your horse is colicing. If they are up and down more than usual, then they are trying to “roll the pain away”. You cannot allow them to do this because this movement can cause their intestines to twist or become displaced.

Lack of defecation: If you suspect your horse is colicing, then you should check their stall/pasture for piles of manure. If they are not passing feces then they could have a blockage or a torsion in their intestines.

Reasons a horse may colic:

Dehydration: Dehydration causes all sorts of problems but, can cause a blockage or cause the digestive tract to not work at peak performance.

Moldy feed: Moldy or spoiled feed can cause a stomach ache and can cause the start of colic.

Impaction: Impaction is when a horse has a blockage in the stomach or intestines. This could be due to something that was swallowed or due to digested food being backed up.

Gas: Gas colic is usually called spasmodic colic. Believe it or not, horses get gas just like people. If it is trapped in certain places it can cause pain or discomfort, leading to colic.

Sand: Horses eat off the ground, so it is possible for them to eat sand or dirt. This can be very painful and lead to a very nasty bout of colic.

Twisted Gut: A horse can get a twisted gut due to frequent rolling.

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