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Colic Weather - Is Your Horse At Risk?

Posted by M. Drum on


The hot weather of summer has been hanging on longer than most of us can remember. My senior horses have already grown in most of their Winter coats. Many of us are looking forward to sweaters & bonfires. Better late than never, a taste of Fall is arriving with drastic temperature change this weekend, which will also bring a high risk of equine colic.

This weekend we will experience a drastic temperature drop, in 24 hours the average daytime temperature will drop 50 degrees or more. Today's 97 is tomorrow's 52. While we enjoy this refreshing change, we need to take a minute to keep an eye on our equine friends, these types of changes can cause a large spike in colic, keeping our good friends at Tryon Equine Hospital very busy. 

There are a few important changes to your horse's behavior to be mindful of. For instance with a sudden temperature drop your horse may have any interest in drinking. Dehydration is commonly observed when we have drastic changes in weather and can be an early sign of colic. 

Horses are herbivores & grazers by nature, they are meant to be constantly grazing keeping there gut moving at all times. When horses stop drinking they become dehydrated, the lack of fluid in the gut slows the digestion process, eventually leading to impaction colic which can lead to surgery or even death if not treated promptly. 

Here are some ideas to entice your picky drinker & increase his fluid intake. 

In this weather I often give my horses 'soup for dinner' for a meal or two. 
I flood their meal with warm water until it's a soupy texture, they may make a mess but I know they are hydrated. 

Another idea is to serve soaked hay if your horses are either stalled or turned out where hay is usually thrown. 
the soaked hay is a great way to sneak them some water. 

Soaked hay cubes is also a great way to sneak in some water. 

One of my horses is a very fickle drinker in general, especially if we go to a competition venue. I have found that letting him 'bob for hay cubes' is something that keeps him entertained as well as hydrated. I always make sure to give him one bucket with floating cubes & another that's just plain water. ( be sure to break the cubes apart so they are small enough to float and grab at but not choke on) 

Offering free choice salt or electrolytes can also stimulate your horse to drink more. I have also had some luck with adding a small bottle of gatorade / powerade to a 5 gallon bucket of water. The sugary flavor can entice many picky drinkers to have a drink. 

If you happen to see any of the following signs of colic it is always a good idea to call your vet for a quick check up. 
Better to be safe than sorry. 

  • Restlessness and pawing at the ground.
  • Stall walking / pacing
  • Sweating and increased breathing rate.
  • Irritated kicking to the stomach.
  • Flank watching
  • Stretching as if to urinate.
  • Rolling or attempting to roll.
  • Elevated pulse rate.

Stay safe & enjoy this wonderful Fall weather!

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