Now, don't get me wrong, I believe that horses were designed to be domestic and serve man. Indeed, domestic horses live longer than horses in the wild and for a variety of reasons: better diet, better hoof care, protection from predators, and so on. But we do, inadvertently to be sure, create problems for our horses through the life we ask them to live. One of the biggest and most life-threatening problems that you need to be informed about if you are a horse owner is Colic.
What is Colic?
At its most basic, its a tummy ache! It is a general term used to describe any sort of abdominal pain. It can be so mild that you don't even know it is happening or so severe that it becomes a medical emergency. In fact, colic causes more deaths in horses than any other disease! And, surgery for colic is very expensive! (I know, you are thinking: "What does a rich author need to worry about expenses for?" Well, I am here to tell you that "Rich Author" is an oxymoron unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling!)
So, What can you do?
First, you can know of and limit the risk factors that can lead to an onset of colic.
1) Horses are animals (much like children) who do best on a predictable routine. They tend to start worrying if there are any changes. As a result, any change of that routine can actually bring on colic. This would include especially: increased stall time do to an injury or weather; increasing or decreasing the work/exercise load; change in feed whether hay or grain.
Any changes need to be made gradually. If the horse is injured, hopefully you could at least do some hand walking. New feed needs to be introduced by mixing it a little at a time with the old feed. The same is true with exercise. Do not try a steep Colorado Mountain trail your first ride out in the spring for instance.
2) Dehydration. Horses need to have constant access to water to avoid GI trouble caused by impaction. (Food kind of balling up and getting jammed.) If it is freezing outside, make sure you clear water tanks of ice.
Horses drink a lot of water so be prepared!
3) Sand colic is another risk. If your soil is quite sandy it is very possible that the horse could ingest it. This can build up in the GI tract and cause loose stool and other upset. Some vets recommend a daily supplement that prevents this.
4) Parasites can cause intestinal inflammation which can lead to colic. Make sure you keep up on your worming schedule.
Now, even if you are very careful about all of these risk factors, even the best horseman/woman will experience a horse getting colic. The key to recovery is a quick diagnosis. Know the signs that your horse is uncomfortable or, worse, in trouble.
According to SmartPak.com the tell-tale signs are:
Looking at, kicking or biting the abdomen
Repeatedly lying down and getting up
Sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back
Lack of Bowel movements
Reduced or absent gut sounds
Not eating or drinking
Stretching out as if to urinate
Elevated respiratory rate
Elevated heart rat
If your horse displays any of these signs call the vet and follow whatever he/she tells you to do! Let's help our noble and great horses live a long life!
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