Thursday, December 9, 2021
HomeHorse WeekTips to minimise the risk of winter colic

Tips to minimise the risk of winter colic

WINTER brings a much greater risk

of sudden changes to diet and routine and therefore a higher risk of colic.

Feed plenty of forage/ fibre

Not only does ‘ad lib’ forage provide calories and other nutrients, and heat during its fermentation in the hind gut, it also provides physical bulk in the digestive tract, that should encourage gut motility and potentially re-duce the risk of twists

or intussusceptions, which could occur if portions of the gut are empty.

Hopefully, your horse has

daily access to grazing but, when grass quantity diminishes, providing hay or haylage in the field is essential to keep your horse chewing and fibre flowing through the gut.

If, for whatever reason, your horse is not a good hay/ haylage eater, you should seriously consider feeding alternatives to keep your horse’s fibre intake up.

Chaffs, alfalfa chops and soaked beet or beet/ alfalfa combinations are all ideal fed as a ‘haynet in a bucket’ – separate from any hard feed – and can help encourage natural foraging behaviour.

Your horse should always have some form of forage or fibre to chew, as long periods with nothing to eat can risk gastric ulcers as well as colic.

Encourage water consumption

Your horse should always have access to fresh, clean drinking water so, when temperatures drop, life can get difficult as water buckets or drinkers freeze over. Some horses will also not drink very cold water, so adding hot water so that what’s on offer is lukewarm or tepid, may encourage drinking.

If a horse doesn’t drink enough, there is a risk of the gut contents becoming too dry and compacting to cause a blockage.

Other ways to increase moisture intake include feed-

ing soaked hay and wet feeds, as well as soaked beet pulp either as an alternative fibre source or alongside the compound feed.

Ensure daily exercise

The horse is not designed for a sedentary lifestyle and physical movement is essential to keep the gut functioning and its contents moving so, if turnout is curtailed and your horse is confined to the box, even a walk round the yard is better than nothing.

Vets always report an increase in colic cases in snowy weather, when owners leave horses in their boxes. Horses do cope remarkably well in the snow, although sheet ice is another thing!

Change the diet with care

Sometimes simply the change to winter forage can upset things and feeding a prebiotic, whenever change or potential stress arises, will support the microbial populations of the hindgut and help avoid upsets.

If your horse is getting the recommended amount of a mix or cube and work is suddenly interrupted, you can temporarily cut back the quantities until ‘normal service resumes’.

Problems arise when this situation continues for long-er than a day or two, as underfeeding a compound feed means you are not only cutting back on calories, but on essential nutrients too.

Adding a balancer to reduced quantities of hard

feed will bring levels of protein, vitamins and min-erals back up, without unwanted calories and, if introduced gradually, should also have minimal impact on gut bacteria.

For more information on

feeding, go to; email info@baileyshorsefeeds or telephone 01371 850247.

Bree Rutledge

If you would like to find out more about Horse Week, Bree Rutledge can be contacted by email: or or by telephone: +44 (0) 28 9033 4493.




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