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I just had the worst scare with my 12 year old Quarter Horse. When I came home from work she was rolling on the ground, but she got up. Then when my husband put her in the stall to feed her, she went down again and wouldn't get up. She kept rolling over and looking at her belly. That's when I knew it was serious.

We took her to the vet (of course it was after hours) and he treated her. But he said he still didn't like the way her stomach sounded. He wasn't sure whether she would be okay or not. She seems to be all right now.

My question is "What causes colic in a horse, and does it always come on them so fast?"


- P. C.


Colic is one of the most frightening things that will ever happen to a horse owner. It's also one of the best proofs that horses need to be under constant human care. Colic generally comes on hard and fast, and if not treated quickly and aggressively it can leave the horse crippled -- or dead.

Among the most common causes of colic are overeating; not chewing feed properly; allowing a hot horse to have free access to water; spoiled or frozen feeds; new grains; dehydration; over-exercising; and intestinal parasites.

In the broadest terms, colic refers to any abdominal pain. It generally indicates a problem in the digestive tract, but problems with the bladder, kidneys, uterus, or other organs can cause similar symptoms -- sometimes called "false colic."

As I've mentioned elsewhere, part of the problem is that a horse can't barf when it gets sick to its stomach. And when it gets severe constipation, it can't grab a laxative or give itself an enema.

When colic hits, get in touch with your vet -- fast. If you live some distance from the vet, you may want to consult with him about keeping some pain-killers and a stomach tube on hand for such emergencies. The pain-killers are used to keep the horse from injuring itself while thrashing around and to make it easier to get the stomach tube down. Keeping a jug of mineral oil or raw linseed oil on hand is also a good idea. The idea is to get things flowing normally through the digestive system as quickly as possible. In milder cases, keeping the horse walking seems to help in getting the system working again.

After the initial emergency is over, talk to your vet about possible detoxification treatments to flush the accumulated poisons out of the horse's bloodstream before foot problems develop.

Above all, keep yourself calm. If you don't have any peace of your own, ask the Lord if you can borrow some of His. If you don't stay calm, your horse will sense your panic and work itself into even more agitation. Remember, there's no horse emergency that you, your vet, and the Lord can't handle together.

Happy Horse Care!

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