Colic is not a disease but rather a combination of signs to reflect abdominal pain in the horse. Colic is still considered the number one killer of horses in the United States and can range from mild to severe. Colic is the main thing that all horse owners fear! Colic can become a life-threatening condition in a relatively short time and should never be ignored. Management plays a crucial role in colic prevention. I hear people say all the time, "Horses survive in the wild. You are just freaking out and over-reacting." Horses are actually extremely fragile creatures, and their anatomy leaves them predisposed to bouts or colic and intestinal torsions.
Horses are creature of habit. They need a low-stress environment. They love routine. In order to minimize stress on your horse, you should develop a routine and stick to it as closely as you can. Sudden climate change or change in feeding habits can bring on colic. Colic risks are more than doubled in the fall and winter. Does your horse have gastric ulcers? Ulcers make your horse much more prone to colic as well.
Here are a few tips to help reduce the risk of colic:
Excessive concentrates in the diet or energy-dense supplements have been linked to increased incidence of colic and therefore should be avoided.
At least half of the horse’s diet should be from forage each day.
Smaller rations and more frequent feedings are more in line with the way the horse maintains himself in the wild.
Hay should be fed free choice throughout the day.
A regular deworming program should be in effect whether it is rotational deworming or indicated by routine fecal testing (I recommend the latter, but you have to do whatever your barn recommends.)
Fresh clean water should be available at all times. Make sure that you break up all ice in troughs and buckets in the winter.
Horses still warm from exercise should not be allowed to drink excessive amounts of cold water.
Horses should not be fed on the ground but rather in feeders. (This is to prevent thing like sand colic)
Hay bedding and pasture should be monitored for noxious weeds, foreign material and other toxic substances.
Pay special attention to stress in your horse's environment. Changes in workload or when transporting make your horse especially vulnerable to colic.
Minimize stress the best that you can
All horses are susceptible to colic, although some more than others. Proper stable and horse management are the main ways to keep a colic incident from happening. Nothing is 100%, and there are some horses that will colic no matter what you do. If you do not currently have equine mortality insurance with colic coverage, I highly suggest looking into it. If you do not want to buy an insurance policy I would recommend looking into SmartDigest Ultra from SmartPak. When you use this product you will automatically be enrolled in their $7,500 colic surgery reimbursement program. (Certain conditions do apply.)
Always remember if you have any questions, consult an equine professional that you trust and even your veterinarian for more in-depth information.