What to do if your horse gorges on grain!


Colic and laminitis are two very real problems that result from a horse that ate his way through the feed room. Even just a little bit. The first thing to do is to call your horse’s veterinarian. ASAP. This is a real emergency and with prompt veterinary attention, your horse might not even develop the tiniest twinge of colic or laminitis.


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How does this gorging of grains lead to laminitis and colic?


  • Fortified feeds and grains are delicious and quickly digested. They don’t spend a lot of time in the stomach, and therefore most of the digestion happens in the hindgut.


  • The hindgut is where the microbes have set up shop to help your horse digest. Some microbes LOVE sugars and starches, and the other microbes LOVE fiber.


feed bin with feed bag inside

No smorgasbord allowed.


  • Now….if your horse eats a bunch of grain/fortified feed (as little as six pounds can be dangerous) the sugar and starch-loving microbes feast.


  • The sugar and starch-loving microbes produce by-products, which change the pH of the hindgut as well as cause inflammation.


  • This makes the fiber-loving microbes die…. which in turn makes endotoxins as the fiber-loving microbes break down.


  • It’s these endotoxins that act in your horse’s hooves to create laminitis.


The second thing to do is get your horse’s hooves into some ice.


  • Even if his hooves don’t feel hot. All of his hooves.


  • Nothing battles laminitis better than ice, and getting a jump start is the best thing you can do, long before any heat or obvious pain starts.


  • This is going to seem like a lot – but icing his feet for 24 to 48 hours is the best thing you can do to head off laminitis.


  • If you decide foolishly to wait and see, laminitis will have a head start and by the time your horse tells you he’s painful, so much damage has already happened.



horse in buckets of ice

Ice the hooves. It’s your best bet for hoof health.


While you are waiting for your veterinarian to arrive, you have some homework to do.


  • Try and determine how much he ate and how much manure he has passed since then.



  • Check your horse for hydration. Use a finger to feel his gums – sticky or dry is BAD, slippery is good.


  • These actions monitor a measurable value that you and your vet can track over the next few days.


  • Your vet will likely administer some anti-inflammatory meds, and perhaps some activated charcoal to absorb the toxins.


  • In some cases, your vet may need to perform gastric lavage to physically flush your horse’s digestive system.


  • Then your vet can give you a plan of action regarding managing any colics and laminitis (or diarrhea) or anything else that can pop up as a result of gorging on grains.



check your horse's digital pulse

Check his digital pulses often. As a general rule, more pulse = more things happening in the hoof = more reasons to ice and call the vet!



This video shows you how the digital artery “works” to check your horse’s hoof health.


This video shows you how to measure the digital pulse.



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Cavallo Simple Hoof Boot for Horses, Size 3, Black

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EasyCare Glove Hoof Boot

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Handson Ergonomic Hoof Pick
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Thank you!