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What Do I Do If My Horse Colics?


horse lying down

Violent rolling can be a sign of colic.

Image: K. Blocksdorf

Question: What Do I Do If My Horse Colics?



Assess the severity of the colic. If your horse has mild colic, perhaps looks uncomfortable, is biting at his flanks and stands stretched observe him to see if the colic abates after about 30 minutes time.  Look for a lack of manure or signs of diarrhea, signs such as crushed bedding that indicates the horse may have been trying to roll in his stall, sweating, shaking or any other unusual behavior. Once you’ve determined the severity of the colic, remove all edibles (including bedding) from the stall.


Try Walking and Trotting

As long as the horse is calm, you could try doing ‘belly lifts’ and hand walking or longing. A few minutes of trotting may help, but only for a few minutes. Don’t tire him out. If he starts to feel better, offer a tiny bit of food. If he eats, he may be over his bout, but keep a close eye on him for several hours afterwards. Your horse should be back to normal, including producing a reasonable amount of manure within a short time. 


After 30 Minutes

If mild colic symptoms haven’t abated after about a half hour’s time call your veterinarian. Write down any changes in feed, drugs or de-wormers administered, changes in routine, or anything else that you can remember that might have triggered the colic episode. Take note of the amount of manure he has produced and what the consistency of the manure is like. This may make it easier to diagnose the cause of the colic and speed treatment. If your horse seems shaky, and isn’t rolling violently, drape him with warm blankets.


Safety First

If the horse is thrashing violently look out for your own safety first. Your instincts will be to try to calm your horse, but a horse in extreme pain can be oblivious to everything—even a familiar and respected handler. Call the veterinarian immediately.

It has long been thought that rolling and thrashing violently may cause a twisted gut. But whether this is true or not has not been established. Try to keep your horse on his feet. Traditional colic care is to walk your horse, but if he is already tired from thrashing and rolling, walking may only add to his fatigue. Your horse will be okay standing, or just lying still for a short time. It may be nearly impossible (and dangerous) to stop a horse from rolling. Move him to a place where he is less likely to hurt himself or get cast if possible.


Use Medications with Caution

If you keep prescription drugs like muscle relaxants for spasmodic colic in your first aid box use them with extreme caution. Treating a horse incorrectly may cause more harm than good. With colic caused by a twisted or telescoped gut, a speedy diagnosis is imperative. Don’t give your horse anything that may mask symptoms.

Learn More About Colic

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