As the seasons change throughout the year, it's more important than ever to make sure your horse is staying healthy and comfortable. Horses are just as prone to the effects of seasonal weather change as humans - showing signs like shivering or tucking their tails to try and stay warm. One way that horses can be particularly vulnerable in fluctuating temperatures is by picking up colic, a condition that causes abdominal pain and can even require serious medical attention if not treated properly.
Why Do Horses Get Colic?
There are different types of colic in horses, but in general, colic is impaction-based and commonly picked up in cold weather. Horses suffering from this type of colic usually have lower water intake and fewer moisture-rich greens in their diets.
As a horse owner, you are the sole caregiver of your horse. Therefore, it is extremely important to know how to properly take care of your horse, whether the day is long and hot or short and cold. Regardless of the season, there are several things you can do to prevent colic in horses. In this blog post, we'll cover 5 tips on how you can keep your horse comfortable year-round and reduce their risk of developing colic.
Check In With Your Horse Regularly
Take a few minutes each day to check in with your horse. If your horse is wearing a blanket, it is important to lift it off every so often and take a good look at their body condition. Look for any signs of digestive upset such as gauntness or tight bellies. These may be symptoms of colic in horses or lead to colic if left untreated.
Additionally, take a look at your horse's manure pile. Healthy manure should form in neat, somewhat firm balls, and have a glossy shine to it. If your horse's manure is dull, dark, or hard, it may be an indication of dehydration. If the manure appears looser than usual, or its quantity is less than normal, then it's time to ask some questions about why this might be happening and what can be done to help.
During regular check-ins, you should examine the quality of the hay you provide for your horse. Is there any mold present? Are there any weeds mixed in with the hay? Both of these can cause serious health issues for horses if left unchecked, so make sure you keep an eye out for anything unusual when inspecting hay quality.
Finally, consider what type of grain you're providing for your horse and how much they eat each day. Consider their breed and activity level when determining how much food to give them.
Maintain Consistent Feeding & Drinking
At different seasons, horses can be less active than at other times. Depending on the season, they’ll have more time off from training and less opportunity to move around and graze. Grazing is important to a horse’s diet, as chewing grass creates saliva, which helps to lubricate the digestive tract and aid in digestion. When horses are unable to graze due to weather conditions or lack of available food, their digestive tracts become sluggish and prone to GI issues.
Lack of grazing is a big factor behind why a horse develops colic. To make up for this, caregivers should support their horses in other ways to help encourage digestion. A great step to take here is to adjust their diet. In this way, you can avoid needing to search for various equine colic treatments by preventing it in the first place.
Adjusting a horse to a healthy diet for each season of the year can be done by giving them lower-quality feeds. This way, they eat more consistently throughout the day, instead of consuming large meals at once. Straw or grade hay are both good options here, as these are easy on the digestive system. At Silver Lining Herbs, we encourage horse owners to introduce different foods at different times of the year. For example, we introduce alfalfa to horse's diets in the colder months. Alfalfa is a great digestive herb that will help lubricate your horse's digestive tract. It’s also been proven to help in treating digestive upset.
It’s also important to ensure that your horse is drinking plenty of water. Make sure you are regularly clearing ice from their water, or even better, use a submersible water heater in their tanks.
Implement Quality Prebiotics & Probiotics
Hay is a great staple in the diet of horses, but it does come with one drawback—hay lacks the live vegetation that horses would typically eat while grazing. This lack of live vegetation means that fewer prebiotics and probiotics are being used in the horse's digestive system. To make sure your horse gets all the nutrients it needs, and to prevent seasonal colic, you'll need to supplement their diet with a good probiotic and prebiotic.
What Are Prebiotics and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that nourish beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. These bacteria produce vitamins, support digestion, boost immunity, and more. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help maintain a healthy balance of gut flora in the digestive tract. They help keep your horse's gut healthy by regulating digestion, aiding nutrient absorption, and supporting a healthy immune system.
We recommend supporting your horse with different herbal pre and probiotics at different times of the year. Our probiotic for horses is microencapsulated to ensure optimum breakdown and absorption of nutrients and is ideal for colic prevention for seasonal weather changes. Avoid treating colic in horses by preventing it with the help of a good pre and probiotic.
We also recommend using a digestive support product to help keep your horse's digestive system functioning properly. Look for ingredients like ginger, licorice, slippery elm, cascara, and chamomile in these blends. Ginger is great for dissipating gas in the GI tract, while licorice promotes an effective digestive system. Slippery elm is a soothing herb that also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and cascara helps to bring water into the colon, which is beneficial in combating constipation. Finally, chamomile is amazing for calming tight bellies or spasms.
Treat Digestive Discomfort Effectively
Even if you’ve followed our tips to improve your horse’s healthcare, there may still be a chance that your horse experiences digestive discomfort at various times of the year. In these cases, it's crucial to have a plan to prevent colic from occurring. We recommend keeping our Kolik Eaz at hand. This blend of herbs includes cascara, known for its unique ability to stimulate peristalsis. It also contains ginger to help dissipate gas from the intestines and slippery elm for its anti-inflammatory properties.
When a horse has colic, owners may wonder what to give them. It’s important to remember that veterinarians know how to treat colic in horses, and if your horse's discomfort is persistent, contacting a trusted veterinarian is the best option.
Avoid Passive Care & Aim for Prevention
As a horse owner, the health, comfort, and overall well-being of your horse depend on you. Being responsible for your horse means taking care of him actively rather than passively. You should know your horse well enough to be able to recognize what’s normal, what’s off, and when something is very wrong. The whole body of your horse is connected, and identifying when something looks off is the first step to giving your horse the care they need.
That being said, the most important thing horse owners should be aiming for is preventative care. That means actively seeking out ways to avoid issues from turning up in the first place, and not just looking for solutions once they’ve already happened. This applies to your horse's health in general, not just to colic prevention. Preventative care will not only help keep your horse happy and healthy, but it will also save you from things like expensive veterinary bills for something that could have easily been prevented.
By following these five tips, you can help your horse avoid colic and maintain their health all year long. Be sure to check in with your horse regularly, and build an awareness of what’s normal and what’s not in their everyday health. Maintaining consistent feeding and drinking habits is crucial for preventing colic, as is implementing quality prebiotics and probiotics. If your horse does experience digestive discomfort, there are herbal treatments that can effectively relieve symptoms and prevent discomfort from turning into colic. Finally, aim for prevention by avoiding passive care and being proactive about your horse’s health.
Explore our range of herbal healthcare products designed to keep your horses happy and healthy year-round. If you have any questions and need advice on choosing the right products for your horse, just get in touch with us. Our team at Silver Lining Herbs would be happy to help you out.