My Colicky Horse and Solution
I purchased an on off the track quarter horse mare, who didn’t consume enough water. This lead to several impaction colic’s, vet calls, and trips to a local University for treatment. The typical colic meds, withdrawal of food, tubing mineral oil often, and even colic surgery were unsuccessful at helping and preventing this problem on a regular basis. This left us no choice but to come up with an “un-orthodox” treatment and prevention plan for this not-so-easy-keeper. This thinking outside of the box is what saved my horse.
A prevention routine for this impaction prone, next to non-drinking mare, was very important to develop. While at the University vets tried adding salt, molasses, water, senior feed, and more to increase water in-take and consumption of water, but had unsuccessful results. After returning home, conducting a lot of research about possible options to help maintain proper moisture and mobility in the gut began. First- all food was watered down and left for the horse to consume several times a day, this includes leaving “hay water” in a large hay tub. Adding water gives much needed moisture for the low drinking horse. Feeding horses three times a day will also help stimulate the gut and metabolism on a daily basis. Second- the hay should be of high quality and be the left-over’s of the bale- meaning the little pieces that would fall out of each flake easily. These small pieces are easier to process and digest for a slower moving and less moist gut. Third- feed a high quality grain in moderation, mixed with wheat bran and water. The small amounts of grain will help the gut to move more quickly than larger amounts of grain (especially in one feeding). The wheat bran with water works as a laxative or stool softener, to help keep it moving through the gut and providing much needed water for the horses body. Lastly, I added supplements to the horses grain mixture. I added a probiotic to provide a good intestinal environment. Electrolytes are added to the horses feed to help maintain the moisture that is ingested. To insure that my mare did not refuse her feed during her heat cycle, I added herbs to her daily feed to balance out and help with her discomfort.
This adaptation to the various treatments of colic have proven very helpful. At the first sign of colic: I will use essential oils topically to start relaxing the horse. I use my phototonic red light on the correct colic spots. And then perform superficial massage on the horse including their tail bone and poll. If the horse isn't responding well/quickly an oral dose of banamine is given (which is typical with any colic). Then a repetitive pattern of massage/oils/light, exercise, turn out in an arena (quiet time), and turn out onto grass pasture begins. After the oils, massage, and red light - she is free lunged in the indoor arena for 5-15mins depending on discomfort, amount of higher energy movement, and gut sounds/bowel movements. While free lunging this allows the horse time to walk, put their head down, and relax- this relaxation is important in helping the intestine to loosen and allow the blockage to move out. The lunging should also contain a faster pace like trotting/cantering for short spurts of time to encourage the intestine to spasm and have high mobility. During lunging and arena turn out watch for bowel movements. With an impaction colic, there can be bowel movements of the feces that was in the intestine before the impaction occurred. It is important to keep track of these bowel movements (by numbers, cones, etc) and examine them for moisture content, un-digested food, and foreign materials like sand. It is very possible that the feces will become drier, just before the blockage and/or the longer it stays in the gut. After lunging, the arena turn out/quiet time should last one to two hours. Lastly, turn out onto a green lush pasture for one to two hours- the more moist the pasture the better! Turning out while dew is still on the grass is very helpful for getting a higher pH/laxative effect from the grass. The extra moisture doesn’t hurt either. After the time on pasture- repeat this process until the blockage has fully passed and the animal has returned to normal.
For a gas colic - the grazing isn't necessary and can be skipped. If you're not sure of which type of colic you're dealing with - often a gas colic happens after rain, a switch in hay, and comes on suddenly. The horse will often throw themselves down onto the ground and be experiencing sudden pain. An impaction colic often comes on more slowly with you noticing the horse not eating their grain, pawing at the ground, laying down and rolling, sweating, and looking depressed/lethargic.
I've used these techniques with different horses (and different types of colic) and had great results. Please understand there is no guarantee of them working, but often times we are left with no other options as I was with my mare. If I can be of any help or answer any questions please just let me know!