If your horse tends to colic, it’s probably best to get him out in the field, researchers say. That’s even more important if he has stereotypies like cribbing, windsucking, or weaving.

According to a recent study, horses with recurrent colic have fewer repeat episodes on average when they spend more time at pasture. But cribbing, windsucking, and even weaving increase the risk of repeat colic.

“Horses are naturally ‘trickle feeders’ designed to forage for their food, and providing access to pasture can provide for this physiological need,” said Claire Scantlebury, BSc BVSc PhD MRCVS, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool in Wirral, the UK. “There are a variety of other benefits (of pasture time) in addition to promoting digestive health, such as allowing expression of natural behavior, opportunities for social interactions with other horses, and exercise.”

In their pioneering study identifying risk factors for recurrent colic, Scantlebury and her fellow researchers followed 59 cases of repeat colic and 177 control cases in which the horses did not colic again. Repeat colic was defined as a second case of colic that occurred between 48 hours and one year of a previous case, providing the horse was eating normally, passing normal droppings, and showing no further signs of colic within 48 hours. The median time of recurrence was 101 days, but some horses had several cases of colic within a year. One horse even had five cases in the one-year study period.

Using both veterinary records and owner reports, the scientists were ab