Colic In Horses

‘Colic’ is the term to describe all types of abdominal pain found in horses. Colic can occur in horses of all ages, types, and breeds. It can vary from mild discomfort that eventually resolves itself to a life-threatening emergency that may require surgery. Most cases of colic can be resolved through medication and an evaluation by a veterinarian.

However, 5-10% of cases will require colic surgery. It can be difficult to determine which colic case fits into which category since almost all colic types will look the same at the beginning. Since it is so difficult to decide what type of colic your horse has, it is imperative that the veterinarian is called immediately so appropriate treatment can begin as quickly as possible.

Types of Colic

Gas Colic: Gas colic occurs when there is a large buildup of gas within the horse’s intestines.

Spasmodic Colic: Horses can develop spasmodic colic from having intestinal spasms or cramps. This type of colic may also have intestinal hyper motility.

Impaction Colic: Impaction colic occurs when partially digested feed builds up in the large intestine and stops moving which results in an impaction. With impaction colic, the horse will not be able to defecate.

Sand Colic: Sand colic usually develops in horses that live in sandy areas or are being fed on sandy grand. The fine particles of sand build up in the large intestine and cause a blockage.

Twisted Gut: A twisted gut develops when a part of the intestine twists or inverts into itself. This type of colic is uncommon but is life threatening.

Displacement/Entrapment Colic: Displacement colic occurs when the intestine moves around in the abdominal cavity. Displacement colic is a serious condition because the shift in intestinal location stretches the blood supply and can also result in the intestine being compressed.

Causes of Colic

Some of the most common causes of colic include:

  • Moldy feed
  • Abrupt change in feed
  • Parasites
  • Stress
  • Lack of water leading to impactions
  • A diet of mostly grain and not enough roughage such as grass hay
  • Sand ingestion

Signs of Colic

The signs of colic can be hard to spot in mild cases and can become violent in severe cases.

  • Getting up and down repeatedly
  • Kicking or biting at their abdomen
  • Repeatedly rolling
  • Frequently curling their upper lip
  • Excessive sweating
  • Lack of normal gut sounds or an abrupt change in normal gut sounds

If your horse starts to show these signs, you should call your local veterinarian immediately.

Using An Exerciser for Rehabilitation

Equine exercisers are made in various designs. The most common design consists of four arms of heavy gauge steel that radiate from a central pivot point. The central pivot point contains a motor that moves the steel arms at various speeds. At the end of each arm is a short nylon rope with a snap at the end to attach to the horse’s halter. The horse on the exerciser moves in a circle and can be turned to go both ways. Some of the exercise machines have fencing surrounding the machine and some designs do not.

The motor is typically on a timer that will stop after a preset amount of time or a set number of rotations. Some of the other designs include a type of exerciser that has shifting panels without the radial arms, and a different kind includes paneled boxes or floating stalls without a rope attaching to the horse. The lack of attachment in the moving box allows the horse to move more naturally.

Many exercisers are programmable so that each horse is given proper exercise based on the individual horse’s needs and present ability. Some exercise machines only allow the horse to walk or trot while others, especially the larger exercisers, permit the horse to canter and gallop.

Performance horses may suffer injuries that require stall rest and time off from riding so the injury can heal. These injuries may require a rehabilitation period as well as an individual exercise program to help speed up the recovery process without straining the injury.

An exerciser may be used to gradually increase the exercise time that is spent building up muscle and fitness. A horse that has spent a considerable amount of time on stall rest may be very energetic when they are first allowed to exercise. An equine exerciser allows for a safe, secure environment to control the horse and to allow for proper exertion to continue the healing process.

All horses are not the same and all injuries are not the same. Some horses may not need an exerciser in their rehabilitation recommendation. If they do, it may be similar to the rehabilitation regimen as follows:

  • Stall rest along with hand walking for 15-20 minutes daily. The time is gradually increased to one hour per day of walking over 60 days.
  • Two months of walking on an exerciser with weight on the horse’s back. This exercise begins at 20 minutes and will increase over time to 45 minutes to an hour per day over the course of 60 days.
  • Trotting for five minutes each day on an exerciser. Gradually increase the time by increments of five minutes every two weeks for 60 days.
  • Cantering for five minutes on an exerciser every day. Some of the larger exercisers are more suitable for this exercise. The smaller exercisers do not have a large enough overall diameter sufficient for the healing horse to move comfortably and safely. Increase the time for the canter exercises in increments of five minutes every two weeks for 60 days.

After the course of 8-12 months of these exercises, the horse may be ready to return to working under saddle.

How To Clean Horse Blankets

nf6blufxquo-idella-maelandBlankets are an essential item that you should have on hand during the winter. Since they are guaranteed to be well used and dirty by the time winter is over, you will want to clean them before putting them in storage. Regularly cleaning your blankets and sheets will help them last longer.

Lighter blankets and sheets may be washed in a standard home washing machine however it is not as easy as washing them along with the rest of your laundry. There are several things you should do to keep your blankets and washing machine from being damaged during the cycle.

  1. Remove all excess dirt, mud, or hair from the blanket.
  2. If the blanket or sheet is filthy, you may want to hose it down before running it through the washing machine.
  3.  Use cool water and a mild soap or detergent on a gentle cycle.
  4. If your blanket has removable straps, closures, or buckles, remove them and place them in a mesh laundry bag to be washed along with the blanket.
  5. If your blanket has attachments that are not removable, you can buy a mesh bag that will fit the entire blanket in so that the accessories won’t damage the machine.
  6. Do not use a fabric softener of any kind. Softeners can damage waterproofing treatments.

If you are washing a heavier blanket, you should wash them by hand instead of in a machine.

  1. Use a shedding blade or rubber curry comb to loosen up built up hair, mud, and dirt.
  2. Use a stiff brush to remove any remaining dirt or dust.
  3. Hose down the blanket with cold water and scrub the blanket with a clean stiff brush and a detergent designed for sensitive skin.
  4. Thoroughly rinse all soap residue from the blanket.

After you are finished washing your blankets and sheets, you should line-dry them. If possible, wash the blankets on a sunny or breezy day so that the sun or the wind can remove all of the moisture.You should not tumble dry sheets because heat can damage the fabric and treatments. Once the blankets are dry, check for tears and holes in the fabric. Repair any damaged fabric and replace all attachments that are broken, rusty, or missing before you store them. Plastic storage totes are ideal for storing blankets because you can store several blankets for one horse in each tote and you can easily label each one to keep them organized.

Grooming Techniques


Grooming is an important aspect of caring for your horse. It is important to be equipped with the right grooming tools to properly get the job done. Grooming removes dirt and helps massage the muscles and skin to move natural oils into the hair and improves circulation. Taking the time to groom your horse properly also gives you an excellent opportunity to check for injuries, missing shoes or nails, weight changes, and any other changes.

When you begin, pick up the horse’s hoof and pull the hoof pick down each side of the frog from heel to toe to remove mud, manure, and dirt. If the hoof walls have mud on them, you can gently scrape it off with a hoof pick or you can scrub it off with a stiff-bristled brush. Be careful not to scrub too hard around the coronet band, though.

Next, move to the body of the horse. By using a rubber curry comb with hard but blunt points, you can easily remove dried mud and loosen any dirt that is deep down in the coat by using large circular motions. You can also use a stiff body brush to loosen the dirt but remember, the bristles are somewhat harsh so do not use the brush on areas like the belly, clipped areas, or the legs.

Once the mud has been removed, use a body brush which is slightly softer than a dandy brush, and go over the horse’s coat in the direction that the hair grows. It is best to begin at the head and work your way back to the horse’s tail. When you are working near sensitive areas of the horse, be aware of where you are standing so that you will not be kicked. You can use the softer brush on areas like the legs, but you still do not want to put heavy pressure on the bristles against their joints and lower legs where their skin is thin.

When you groom the tail, you can brush it out with a body brush first and then use your fingers or a fine toothed comb to remove any tangles. Be careful not to pull any hairs out with the comb or your fingers to preserve the thickness of the tail. When you begin to brush out the tail, start at the bottom and do one small section at a time. Work your way up to the top of their tail bone at a gradual pace. If you want to help keep it tangle free, you can spray a detangler spray as you go through the hairs.

You can use a small sponge to wipe dirt out the muzzle and the dock area. Use a different sponge for these parts of the horse. When you clean the muzzle, you can clean around the horse’s mouth and the nostrils. For the dock area, move the tail to the side and lightly sponge the underside of the dock and the entire area under the tail. It is best to use a warm, damp sponge for these delicate areas. Cold water might make the horse jump or resent the process so always use warm water and gentle application of pressure. Avoid getting soap around these regions because soaps can dry out the skin or make them itch.

To train hair to lie a certain way, dampen the brush with warm water so that the hairs will lie flat and look neat. Use gentle strokes from the base of the mane and work downward from the roots. If you want to train the tail hairs to lie flat, dampen the top of the tail with a brush in the same manner as you did with the mane. If water does not do the job, you may also use a small amount of petroleum jelly on stubborn hairs.

Once the basic grooming is complete, you can run a damp cloth over the horse’s body. The cloth will pick up any remaining dust or dirt. You may also oil the horse’s hooves, however, do not oil feet that have mud or dirt on them. The oil will seal in the dirt which can cause bacteria to grow. Cover the whole hoof, including the bulbs of the heel and up to the coronet band, with a thin yet even coating of hoof dressing oil. You should also oil the frog as well. The oil will help prevent mud, ice, and bedding from being packed into the frog. You can apply this oil every other day.