Preventing Winter Colic in Horses

Winter Horse

While horses can suffer from colic at any time of year, a change to a winter diet can be a major factor.

Little or no pasture is available for grazing in winter. Diet changes should start to be considered in the fall when grass begins its dormant period.

Hay proteins, sugar and starch are digested in the small intestine. Fiber and complex carbohydrate digestion take place in the large intestine. The organisms necessary for digestion need at least 7 days to adjust to a complete change in diet.

When changing the horse’s diet to grains, hay and other compounds, do so gradually to avoid upsets which can turn into colic. If food is changed too quickly, a horse can suffer with gas, diarrhea and sometimes the motion of the intestines is disturbed.

The winter diet does not contain adequate water. A horse drinks approximately 10 gallons of water daily no matter what the weather. Horses usually consume water after eating hay, so place both close together.

In winter, drinking can be encouraged by adding an ounce of salt daily to the feed. Add some warm water to food pellets can also increase fluid intake. Never allow water to ice over. Drinking water in winter should be warm.

Exercise is another deterrent to coming down with colic. Unless weather is severe, horses should be turned out and exercised as usual. If the weather is really too severe to go outdoors, make sure your horse drinks lots of water to help avoid colic.

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