Of Horse

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Fall/Winter Colic
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Fall/Winter Colic

It can happen before you know it if you're not paying attention & by the time you notice things can go from bad to worse in a heartbeat. For seasoned horse owners, this is nothing new, for beginner horse owners it can be a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be. *Note* this is a general idea of Colic & possibilities surrounding it, it is only meant as a general guide. Any questions, comments, concerns, please call your vet for more information. 

This is the time of year when we start getting extra busy. Holidays are upon us & there's parties, family get togethers, Christmas shopping. These things begin to take up more of our "spare" time & take our focus away from our horses. We take enough time to throw them their feed, check their water & do a cursory body check & off we go. Even if you can't really take the time to check your horse thoroughly, you can do things to prevent problems.  

If you give your horse grain, mash or mixes consider adding water. Add water gradually over a period of 2-3 weeks. If you give 1lb of grain, add 1 cup of water. If you use Alfalfa cubes, break them up with pliers & add enough water so that it becomes re-hydrated, but not running water. If you add too much water to Alfalfa cubes, it can cause your horse to have runny/soupy poop. (Just had this happen with Cookie, & I fixed it by reducing the amount of water in her cubes). This will put more water into your horse's system & when done gradually before the hard weather hits, you'll be ahead of the possible dehydration that may come on. Dehydration can cause an impaction. If you suspect your horse is dehydrated, pinch up the skin over the shoulder blade. If it bounces back, your horse is probably doing alright. If it stands up & doesn't bounce back or flatten out right away, there's a good chance he's getting dehydrated. Knowing your horses vitals will help the vet should a problem arise. 

Tank heaters will prevent water from freezing in most cases & also they help keep the temperature of the water at a palatable level for horses to drink during the winter. Pay attention to how much your horse drinks during warmer weather. The average horse will consume 10-30 gallons of water per day. Cookie's water trough is a 30 gal. trash can & I have to fill it up every 3rd day. There's still water in the bottom, enough for her to drink, but I never let it get empty. I clean it out every 6th day to remove any dirt, hay & leaves that have accumulated in the bottom. 

Another consideration is shredded beet pulp or pellets. Soaking them also adds water into your horse's system & it also helps to put on a few winter pounds as well as give them some added warmth through the gut. 

If you haven't started your horse on any of these items & are considering doing so, do it gradually. Less is often more & gradually adding these items will help to avoid colic/stomach problems. Also when you add these items, doing it 1 at a time will help you to determine if a new problem arises what the cause may be. If at any time you see a negative change in your horse after adding items to their diet, back off of the item. It may be that you're giving too much too soon. 

It takes roughly 2 weeks for a horses system to adjust to anything new. As always, consult your vet BEFORE adding things to their diet. If you have a good vet, the consult is usually free over the phone & they can help you determine how much you should give your horse over a certain amount of time. They can also help you to understand what signs & symptoms to watch for. 


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  1. naturegirl
    Great article! I like the idea of adding water to the food - didn't think of that! Voted! check out my new post, Equine Naturopathic Care, when you have the chance and vote if you like it!
    1. Rene Wright
      Rene Wright
      I've been reading & researching so much stuff about winterizing your horse (of sorts). The one thing that keeps repeating is soaking the hay. Well, Cookie won't eat her regular hay if it's wet, but she does eat her alfalfa cubes wet. I think that's mostly because I started her out with wet alfalfa cubes. I'm sure if she got hungry enough, she'd eat wet hay, but here in the south hay will mold in a heartbeat because of the quick changes in weather. It's imperative they eat the wet hay within a few hours to prevent colic from moldy wet hay.

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