Colic Relief and What We Can Do
I highly recommend Googling ‘Colic in horses’ and learning more about it, even if it has never happened to you, because when it does happen our wits seem to get lost and we are in emotional panic mode!
My recommendation would be to type up a list of what to do and post it somewhere along with your emergency Vets numbers and to have Banamine in the fridge.
Horses have a one-way digestive tract, meaning when something goes down and is not agreeing with them, they cannot burp or throw up. This creates other issues like gas and bloating. Have you ever been really bloated after a meal and could not relieve the internal pain? Well this is what is happening to our horses when they colic. Something is blocking how their digestive tract should be moving and then the hays and grains start to ferment which creates gas. The horse might decide to lay down or try to roll to dislodge the blockage and gas build up. Unfortunately, from what I have been told they can twist an intestine while doing this which could possibly mean the need for emergency surgery at the minimum price of $5000!
So, do not let them lay down to roll-have someone with them at all times while you are calling the Vet and organizing what to do next, and keep them walking. You will notice that they do not feel like eating and are not pooping.
I needed to realize that things were not moving in my horse’s intestines and find out what I could do to get things moving.
I went out one morning and saw my horse Tiki pawing at the rubber mats in his stall; something he did not normally do after breakfast, which he had not finished. That is another sign of blocked or upset digestive tract, not finishing their normal feeding. Not wanting to eat a carrot is another sign I always looked for daily, and especially at endurance rides. We did carrot stretches from my horse yoga in the morning when we fed. One carrot piece to each side stifle and we used this as early diagnostics for body issues and tummy issues.
Then I put my ear to both sides tummy/flank area and could not hear any gurgling gut sounds. You should be able to easily hear them. My suggestion to you is to spend a few days putting your ear to your horse’s side flank area (if safe to do so) and get used to what is normal for them. Also, to get an equine rectal thermometer and get to know your horses normal internal temperature. Make sure it has a way to clip to the tail hairs or it may get sucked inside the anus while taking temperature, (yes that is where we take the temperature)and that is not a good thing! The internet says a normal body temp is between 99 and 101 and anything higher may indicate an infection. Make sure you take your horse’s temperature when he is resting, not after a workout, as a workout will raise his body temperature.
I recommend loading the horse in the trailer and taking them to the Vet if possible for early diagnosis. This will save you hours and a large farm call. If it were my horse I would do the Banamine and butt tuck and belly lift combination before loading, to help get things moving, and to give the horse some relief from pain. Sometimes just loading them into the trailer will get them to start pooping. Sometimes when you get to the Vet clinic the horse is already showing signs of feeling better and all you had to do was help them be more comfortable, and trailer them, and the Vet can do their diagnosis, which will probably save you $$ in the long run.
If you do not have a way to trailer, and are waiting for your Vet to show up, I will share what I did for my horses to help them be more comfortable.
- I gave Banamine paste immediately (I had stored it in my fridge), to help relieve the pain of the gas and bloating that makes horses want to roll. The oral takes longer than the liquid that can be injected into the vein, so I wanted to get that done first. Not everyone is comfortable with putting needles and shots into a horse. If you don’t have Banamine (put on list to get) I have heard that syringing warm salt water can help create loose stools and that is why the side of Epsom salt box says to take for constipation. I prefer a natural sea salt but Epsom salt can work in a pinch.
- I use DoTerra Digest Zen; it’s an amazing product for horses and humans to relieve gas and bloating. I put a drop on my finger and then put in my mouth within 60 seconds I can feel it going down and giving relief (they have chew-able and liquid gel capsules for humans as well). Then I also put some on my navel and tummy area and that is quite relieving as well. You can feel it from the outside in. So this is what I did for my horse Tiki. I let him smell it with both nostrils then put the bottle in his lip to put in some drops. You can put in on your finger or in a syringe for harder horses, but my Tiki trusted me and let me just do it straight inside his lip. Then I put quite a bit on my hands and applied it to his navel and all over his stomach area almost out to his flanks. I could already see the relief in his eyes and could hear a few more gurgles-a good sign.
- Then I did my mid rib lifts where you put your hands under their ribs from girth area back to about 15th rib and using my whole body I gently lift that side rib cage and hold for a few seconds and gently let back down. I then went and did the same on the other side. After this, the ribs are easier to move. Then I do the 5th move from my horse yoga; the belly lifts which helps the horse lift large and small intestine, and my hope was that the blockage would move and let the gas relieve itself.
- Then I did the tail pull and butt tuck (moves 3 and 4 from my horse yoga), to open the spine and tip the pelvis under, lifting again the large intestine area. Please be careful back behind the horse if you have not been doing these moves previously, as some horses that are not used to them might react with the hind legs by kicking out. Start slow.
- Next, I combined the butt tuck and belly lift together, which is much easier if you have two people. Usually the horse will pass a lot of gas when two people are combining these moves either during, or right after, and this is what you want. You may not want to be the person standing behind the horse at this moment as it could be quite odorous
I did not have a second person so I did one side mid rib lift and reached back and did but tuck that side and hold for count of 5 and then I did the other side (Tiki is an Arabian so is much easier than a thoroughbred or Friesian which would need two people). After that, I gave him some more DoTerra Digest Zen essential oil in his mouth and listened for gut sounds again–which were improving. I have spent thousands of miles of endurance and training with this horse so I knew him well and I could see relief in his eyes already. All of the above here was done in about 7 minutes.
- Now I took him for a long walk. Remember you are looking for them wanting to poop so do anything that usually facilitates that. If there is fresh green grass, I let them take small bites as we keep walking. My goal was to not let him lay down or roll. After about 30 minutes he was looking more like his perky self.
It was a holiday weekend when this happened and no Vets were available to come out, and I could not haul him in so this is what I did for him, and then I kept an eye on him the rest of the day into the night. The main thing is to get all the gas to pass out of the horse to relieve the bloated painful feeling that has them wanting to roll. I then fed him warm wet soupy mashes for a few days to keep things moving well. I used soaked beet pulp which is what I had with a little bit of electrolytes, or salt in mash will keep stools loose and easy to pass. I used the Dynamite Dyna Spark, a natural molasses-based electrolyte source that horses love the taste of, so the soupy mash was sucked down eagerly.
My Vet has said to wet or soak the hay for a few days after signs of colic and not to give grains until they are back to normal because grain will ferment in a non-moving gut and create more gas. So my beet pulp mash did not have any grains in them.
The more water you can get into their intestines the better. Check your horse’s water tank often as sometimes they get impacted when they do not want to drink their water. One day I found a dead squirrel in my horse’s water tank-ew! Sometimes birds go to drink and fall in and drown, so please clean the water trough if your horse is showing signs of colic to encourage them to drink more water.
So, what might start a colic?
A blockage of some kind usually is what I was taught. Impaction from not drinking enough water like in winter when the water is icy cold. Using a chemical wormer that guarantees to kill all kinds of worms can cause a blockage from dead parasites. Then there can be a bit of plastic or twine or dirt that the horse picks up when eating that can create a blockage as well. Also, some horses just like to chew on things! So something hard and not digestible is usually what is causing the creation of the Enteroliths. Why I always fed wet mashes.
Then there are ‘stones’ or Enteroliths depending on who you talk to. I have a friend that has had 2 horses die from this. A severe colic the Vet could not pull the horse out of. My friend had to put both of them down with the Vets help, and then buried them on her property. She went thru the remains to see what the issue in intestines was and this picture is the 2 large ‘stones’ she found.
The smaller stone was 11.3 pounds and we put the beer can there so you could get an idea of the size of what is being carried around in the majority of older horses intestines. Also, what can be causing those mysterious colic symptoms?
What starts these to develop and grow? All a horse has to do is ingest a bit of foreign material that the body cannot digest.
This can be a piece of baling twine from the hay, plastic they chewed on, a small rock, and the list goes on. Young horses are always usually chewing on something when they are teething or trying to get their ‘caps’ off as their adult teeth come in around age 4. Then the body sends calcium and minerals to surround the foreign substance to protect the body from it. Unfortunately, it continues to grow like a pearl in an oyster till it starts to cause blockages. If you have horses with low hanging bellies and are quite gassy this might be something you want to investigate with an ultra sound. Excess calcium in diets like Alfalfa hay or hard water with heavy minerals can help speed up the progress of the growing Enteroliths.
I’ve been told UC Davis Equine medical center did surgery on a horse with Enteroliths. They removed them with surgery and measured and weighed them and then put them back in. They then fed raw organic apple cider vinegar in the horses’ feed for a few months and then did surgery again to remove them. What they found was the stones were actually breaking down and getting smaller.
If you google the benefits of raw organic apple cider vinegar (this is not the cheap store brand that is apple cider flavored it must have ‘the mother’ in it so will probably be cloudy) you will find it also helps with excess calcification’s of arthritis as well as benefiting our PH balance (how Alkaline our body is). Cancer cannot thrive in a PH (Alkaline) balanced body so we use it for our horses at about 1/3 cup a day. This can especially help grey horses more prone to Melanomas. I have been told by nutritionists that these horses also need more Copper, Selenium, and Zinc in their feed as well. Dynamite SOD works well for these horses.
You might have to sprinkle the ACV on feed and in drinking water until they get used to the smell and taste; then they love it. I have friends who started adding it to their drinking water and their ulcer reflex indigestion and heart burn went away with 1 tsp am and pm in their water.
Google the benefits and you will be amazed. There are also recipes to make your own raw, organic Apple Cider Vinegar.