How to help prevent colic – know what’s normal for your horse!



I have a curious (read: annoying) habit of asking every single vet I meet what they wish their horse-owning clients would do. 99.6574893% say “KNOW WHAT’S NORMAL”. This is usually followed up by “TOUCH AND EXAMINE YOUR HORSE EVERY SINGLE DAY”.  Which leads me to this article about colic in horses, and what you might be able to do about it. If you don’t know normal, you’ll never catch what’s not normal in a timely manner. This includes colic.


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Know your horse’s normals:


  • Your horse’s TPR – temp, pulse, and respiration. Temperature may or may not increase during colic. It’s very likely that your horse’s resting heart rate and respirations will rise as a result of the pain. VIDEO below on how to take these vital signs.


Digitial thermometer

It takes only a few minutes to check temp, pulse, respirations, gut sounds, and digital pulses. And the information given is priceless!



  • Also, know your horse’s normal gut sounds. These often vary in a case of colic, and listening as you groom your horse gives you vital information. This literally takes seconds a day and pretty soon you will know what’s normal and what’s not.


  • Input and output. Be able to measure his water and food intake on a daily basis. Also, try to notice his urine output and manure output on a daily basis. This is most easily done if you are cleaning his stall and paddocks. And you can get measuring devices for automatic waterers to monitor drinking if you don’t use buckets.


horse drinking from trough



  • Hydration. A horse that is dehydrated can end up with an impaction. Definitely not good, and easy to monitor by feeling your horse’s gums. More on hydration here!


  • Speaking of hydration, keep clean water available at all times. You may recall that horses prefer to drink icy water, but will drink more of warmer water. If you can, keep all of your horse’s water warm in the winter. A heated bucket can help.


horse drinking from heated bucket in winter



  • Your horse should move around as much as possible. If land is scarce and horses spend more time in stalls, add in a hand walk or hand graze to his life. This, incidentally, is also good for you.



two horses in winter blankets in a paddock

Move it or lose it! Keep your horses active. These goobers are enjoying some time outside in some rather brisk and chilly weather.



  • Keep any food changes slow and steady. Think about changing feeds or hay or time spent on pasture over two weeks or more. This is another reason I don’t feed mash treats every now and again – either they are part of your horse’s diet on a daily basis or they are not.


  • Keep your horse eating smaller meals of grains, pellets, and feeds. I know this is not always possible in some boarding situations, but do your best to feed tiny meals more frequently throughout the day. More on this here!


slow feeder for horse feeds and hay pellets



  • Slow feeders are also amazing for hay forage. There are about 94,785 different styles to choose from, make yourself, or some combo of bought and modified. You can also find slow feeders for pellets and grains and bagged feeds.


round bale that looks ragged



  • Try and avoid round bales of hay if possible. There’s the risk of botulism, and sometimes the quality is lesser than that of square bales stored inside. The area surrounding a round bale is often hay bits ground into the earth, which might get eaten.




horse worms in a jar

Um, gross…


  • Parasites and worms can cause colic. Deal with parasites from many angles. Use fecal egg counts, and have your vet give you a plan for pinworms and tapes and bots and other things that are not usually found on fecal egg counts. Keep pastures picked of manure and harrow frequently.


A few notes about colic – DO call your vet. DO NOT give pain meds until you have spoken to your vet. Pain meds can mask signs, which doesn’t help your vet at all in the diagnostic process. DO or DO NOT walk your horse according to your vet’s advice. Sometimes horses that have colic need to rest, not walk. Remember that some colics that seem like a fart will fix things right up are, in fact, surgical and some colics that seem like your horse is a fish out of water are not surgical.


For more on what to tell your vet if you suspect colic, read this peachy article.






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Stock up here for your horse supplies! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, but it’s ZERO extra cents to you.  You can also visit my Amazon storefront here:  PEG storefront.

Digital Pet Thermometer - Waterproof, Fast and Accurate Measurements in 20 Seconds
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Every horse owner needs a digital thermometer for fast and accurate vital signs

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Keep your horse's brain happy!

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Great to use with buckets to discourage cribbing

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Grazing Muzzle by GG Equine

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HayPlay Slow Feed Bag – GG Equine - 2 sizes available

2 sizes of this slow-feeding hay toy - snack size holds a few flakes, and the half size holds 1/2 bale.

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Thank you! 



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