Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Colic: To Walk Or Not To Walk

Despite what has been passed down through the years, it is acceptable for a colicky horse to lie down. Furthermore, it is considered unlikely that the horse will twist the intestines by rolling.

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There are a number of things that can send shivers of fear running up and down a horse owner’s spine. You walk out to the pasture and see your favorite mount standing there three-legged lame, blood dripping from a gaping wound in the leg being held aloft. Serious injury. You walk into the stable and there in that comfortable box stall is a horse rocking back on its rear legs, front legs extended. The horse is in obvious, severe pain. Laminitis. You walk into barn or pasture and there on the ground lies your horse, writhing in agony, its eyes glazed with pain, its coat dirty from rolling. Colic.

How the horse owner reacts in the above three situations can be critical to the animal’s survival. In two of them, the action taken by the owner is pretty clear-cut. In the third, colic, there is a good deal more confusion.

The first step, of course, is obvious. Immediately call a veterinarian. What one does while waiting for the veterinarian to show up can be a little confusing when dealing with colic. That is not the case when dealing with serious injury or laminitis. In those two instances, one wants to keep the horse quiet and not moving. In the case of a bleeding injury, one should staunch the flow of blood.

But what about colic? Should you walk the horse until the veterinarian arrives? Should you put it into a corral and use a whip to keep it at a trot? What if it wants to lie down and roll? Should that be permitted (can’t horses twist their gut if they roll?), or should the horse be kept on its

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Written by:

Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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