Turnout, diet, and water consumption are critical considerations when avoiding colic.

The age-old disease of colic can best by managed be returning the horse–as much as possible–to its natural environment. This means horses should be turned out as often as their schedules and environments allow, and they should be fed rations composed predominantly of forage (grass or hay). There are limitations to this approach in areas where horses are housed in intensive farms, and dietary limitations apply to some breeds such as the Thoroughbred, a breed that often requires more concentrate feed to meet energy requirements. Finally, horses should be provided with a clean and readily available water source so they remain well-hydrated.

Alternative methods of avoiding colic, such as probiotics, have insufficient scientific evidence of efficacy, so we will limit our discussions to the three big management keys to preventing colic–turnout, diet, and water. Then we’ll look at some instances when colic might occur more frequently, so you can be prepared.


Horses evolved to graze approximately 18 hours a day. There is something about moving and grazing all day that likely reduces colic, although this has not been proven. There are a number of factors that make it difficult to manage them optimally, such as boarding conditions, show schedules, and convenience for riding. However, turnout on sufficient acreage should be as close to the minimum 18 hours as possible. A good guideline is five acres per horse, but less can be satisfactory, presuming there is adequate grass available on the farm. Horses can be managed in dry-lot conditions if the feeding program, routine care, and exercise are consistent with appropriate husbandry guidelines.

Owners should carefully plan how many horses they can accommodate on a farm before acquiring too many horses. Well-managed farms still