Avoiding Colic this Winter

If you've owned horses for any length of time the chances are you've had to deal with a horse with colic or you know someone who has. Colic can affect horses at any time of year but it does seem to be more likely to occur during the winter months. This is mainly due to three things; reduced water intake, reduced movement and increased feeding of concentrates.

Colic is the term used to describe abdominal pain - it can indicate a problem with the gut itself or other organs within the abdomen. There are many causes, ranging from simple indigestion to a twisted gut. Prevention is essential and, by following simple management techniques, the risk of a horse getting it can be reduced.

Here are a few tips to help reduce your horse's risk of colic over the winter months:


  • Ensure there is a constant supply of fresh water.
  • Small and frequent feeds of concentrates if necessary. Only use hard feed as a supplement to the grazing and high fibre food available to the horse.
  • Plan a diet consisting of high fibre content, using hay or other high fibre equivalent feeds. A ratio of at least 60 per cent hay or equivalent.
  • Ensure the feed is of good quality and is not mouldy, and has no hidden hazards such as baling twine/plastic.
  • Set a regular exercise programme, ensuring that the horse is fit for the work needed. Do not suddenly overexert your horse.
  • Have a post-exercise cooling off period.
  • Make any changes to exercise or feed slowly.
  • Allow as much turn out in a paddock as possible.
  • Have regular dental checks as poorly chewed food increases the risk of a blockage in the intestine.
  • Do not overgraze pasture.
  • Ration lush spring grass, treating it as a change of diet to the horse.
  • Wherever possible, avoid your horse grazing heavily sanded pasture.
  • Ensure the worm control programmeis kept up to date as recommended by your vet.
  • Have a regular daily routine and make changes gradually.

So try to keep your horse turned out for as long as possible, make sure your horse is hydrated and do not increase concentrates, increase fibre if necessary.