Cold winds and changing winter weather might not seem like contributing factors for equine colic; however, these conditions can foster changes in routine and eating habits that could affect your horse’s well-being.
“A common wintertime equine health concern is colic,” notes Glennon Mays, DVM, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Colic is a symptom of abdominal pain and can take the form of digestive problems, intestinal blockage, or a twisted intestine among other possibilities.
“There are several reasons why horses tend to colic more as the winter months linger,” explains Mays. “Lack of quality grazing, too cold water, and reduced exercise time can contribute to equine colic.”
Spring’s lush green pastures provide grass containing moisture that is absorbed in the gut and adds wet fiber to more readily move food along your horse’s digestive tract. When there is no green grass to graze, the possibility for impaction increases, explains Mays. Keep quality hay in front of your horse to provide roughage. The horse’s digestive tract is designed for high-volume food such as grass and hay, and these should be fed before grain.
“When temperatures drop, the tendency is to increase your horse’s grain rations to meet the increased energy demands to stay warm. However, increased carbohydrates can upset your horse’s digestive tract. When temperatures drop, feed extra hay, not grain, since hay provides more efficient ‘heating fuel’ for your horse,” says Mays.
“Roughage quality and