Questioning myself

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Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2005
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SW Idaho
This is my third colic in 12 months.
This time it was my Paint gelding, Guy (yes the same one that dumped Darrin last month). Didn't want dinner, listened to his belly and heard NOTHING. Very pale. Very quiet. Called the vet, jogged him out, he passed some manure. Vet came, normal gut sounds, normal color, normal temperature. The only thing abnormal was me; pacing and chain-smoking. I told the vet that he still wasn't acting himself. Mr. Personality was quite stoic. So he tubed him.

Overnight, he pooped (I love to see poop in the morning), and remodeled his stall. He's a bit like Marty's Sonny.

What am I doing wrong? I micro-manage these horses specifically to try to prevent colic. I have a strict feeding regimen that I stick to (hay 2 hours before turn out or pelleted feed, loose salt, block salt, suppliments, beet pulp mashes on occasion). I'm wondering if I should go to beet pulp mashes every day (that's a lot of soaking). They are wormed on rotation every-other month. I wormed with Ivermectin on Sunday.

I'm starting to feel like I'm driving myself into the nut house trying to keep them healthy. I'm always worrying about colic. My horses are sick of me having my ear on their bellies. It's like mare-stare that never ends. The vet said last night, "Sometimes no matter what you do, they are going to colic on you occasionally." I think he thinks I'm one fruit loop short of a full bowl.

I've always been told that colic is a management issue; not enough roughage, water, exercise, eating inappropriate things. Any ideas? I'm desperate... for my horses' health and my own sanity. I'd like to be able to enjoy my horses, and not constantly stress out about their health.


sleepless and stressed
what type of grain are you feeding? any hay streacher or anything? recently my friend tested various types of grain afer finding that one type of hay streacher was FULL of dirt/grit (ground limestone as "calcium" but that type of calcium doenst break down) and foudn it didn't break down in acid ect. since she's tested other types and foudn them to be full. she had one horse having some problems which alerted her to this. I was also told many pelleted feeds have CLAY in them to help them clump to form the pellets. might be something worth looking into and considering!
Suzanne you could have called me I would have paced with you
I think the weather changes here have alot to do with it -

I feed beet pulp daily alot of it and wouldnt be without it anymore it might help get more water into them especially now with the mornings cold and days hot (sometimes)
I think Lisa put her finger right on it!

Temperature changes will cause horses to change their water consumption.....Giving wet beet pulp sure can't hurt, if that's the culprit!

Just another thought, as I also when through colic over and over and over... check your property for any trees, shrubs, etc. I scoured my property and took samples over every tree leaf to my local nursery where I had everything identified. Then I called poison control to find out what was toxic, and what was not.

As it turned out, I had a loquat tree at the far end of the property, that would drop small dried loquats into the horses' area. The seeds in the loquats had cyanide in them.

Best wishes,

Liz R.
Hi Suzanne,

I am not sure if it is totally a management issue or not as sometimes it just seems to happen out of the blue on the rare occassion and nothing has changed and one never finds out why it happened. I have had horses for over 25 years, and lost my first to colic this year, but have not really changed any of my ways in the 25 years. I rarely have colic issues (4 cases total in the past 24 years not counting the foal last year that had colic issues and numerous other physical issues that were causing colic), but this year I have had 3 in 40 days which tells me that something is/was seriously wrong... Now with that said, there are some things that I have learned, especially about minis...

First is that I have had more issues with colic in minis that with the large horses. It just seems that minis are picky in this way. I have had minis for only 10 years, yet my colic cases have been split 50/50 between minis and full sized horses until the ones that happened this year. The ones from this year were definately a management issue and it will be a very long time until I forgive myself for feeding that course hay from our field that resulted in the death of our precious yearling. (I can here Kim_Rule yell at me now...) I wouldn't have bought that hay, yet I thought that it wasn't that bad and since we grew it that I would use it. Trying to pinch a few pennies has resulted in a huge cost... I will never feed anything that I wouldn't be willing to buy from now on. Big lesson learned!

I rotate dewormers like you do and deworm every 8 weeks. Some have found that a daily dewormer will help decrease colic if the worms are causing it. Have a fecal count done on the manure from the colic case and that will tell you if that is part of the issue. I have only seen one colic case from worms, and that was when we bought our first horse as a 2 year old and dewromed her the first time. This was 25 years ago. We didn't know she was loaded with worms and the dying of those worms caused an issue. She never coliced again after that one episode. We had her until she passed away at the age of 18.

I add salt to the food. It does cut way down on their colic from not drinking enough. I was told to add a teaspoon of loose salt to the grain of my most recent case and to wet that food. It is pelleted, so the food absorbs the water and the salt sticks to it. All of my minis are now getting 1/2 of a teaspoon added to their grain again. (I stopped this practice when we moved the farm as I don't have individual stalls to feed in. Now it is back to standing guard over the grain pans to ensure that the horses all get their share of extra salt. When we were feeding salt regularly, colic issues didn't really seem to occure.)

I feed whole flax seed every day. I don't soak it or anything. Just top dress my grain with it. This has been VERY effective on keeping my horses free of sand when I do it regularly. The 3 that coliced this year were free of sand when checked for it which included ultrasounding them.

Hay... Again, This is where I have learned a HUGE lesson... Make sure that your hay is nice and tender. Not course like straw. It will cause impactions if it is course. I have changed my hay and hopefully my colic cases go away now. Another thing about hay... If you feed hay part of the time and turn the horses out to graze part of the time, it can cause the horses to not want to drink enough. The reason is that the horses are less thirsty when they graze due to the higher water content in the green grass. At least that is what the theory is. Anyway, our two cases in the last 2 weeks which were extremely bad and resulted in our only loss from colic were from horses that got limited grazing on grass. Our boys were turned out for a couple of hours each night for their evening meal. Funny thing is that minis are the only horses I have ever limited grazing on, and well, my full sized horses always had free choice grazing and never coliced. So I am inclined to think there may be some truth to this theory.

Beet pulp. I am not familiar with it, but it may become a huge part of my routine if I can find a way to incorporate it into the daily chores. The biggest issue for me is that I don't live on the farm, and my farm partner is reluctant to take on additional tasks as she is overwhelmed with caring for the horses and her in-law and working full time, not to mention her health issues. I will have to see where this will lead on this one. If the horses were at my place, I would certainly be trying this one out. Still, in all my years with horses I have never used beet pulp and never had an issue with colic to speak of until this year.

And finally, the weather here is playing a big part with the horses. As you know, it has been really hot one day, and cool the next. I think it has been a weird summer here, and I have noticed that the last two cases of colic were following a sharp cool-down. The vets that I have talked with told me that right now we are in the peak time for colic related to the extremes in temps and the fact that the days which are in the 90's also have nights in the upper 50's to low 60's. I am thinking that they are not drinking enough due to the cool weather and this has been an issue. Again my vets recommended making sure that the horses not only have free access to salt, but that you make sure to add salt to their food to increase the thirst the horse has. This was heavily stressed.

Along the same lines as the weather, make sure you have tank heaters for your water in the winter. I have found that my horses will easily drink double the amount of water in the cold winter months when the water has the tank heater in it to keep ice from forming on it. It really is amazing that even though we break the ice and remove it that the horses don't drink that cold water like they do with the water that is kept just warm enough to keep ice from forming.

Hang in there and keep trying things until you find what works best for your horses. And like you, I am also one who constantly looks out for what I can do to prevent colic as that is one of my biggest fears concerning horses.
I think some horses are just prone to colic. My ol man surely was, didnt matter what I fed him, he would colic at least evey year. The others I could feed nails to and never have a problem.

Do you worm w/stuff to get tapes too?
Some people just have all the luck. A very close friend of mine has had 3 colic (losing 3 of them) in a year. All different places, different food, so not related.

I have never had a horse colic but sure does make me nervous. I do feed Beet Pulp (even to my large horse) Being that I show halter on my large horses we find Beet pulp is wonderful stuff. Gives the lots of bulk without the worry of colic. In my mini I find it is good because she doesn't inhale it and seems to keep her regular.

Pepipony said:
I think some horses are just prone to colic. My ol man surely was, didnt matter what I fed him, he would colic at least evey year. The others I could feed nails to and never have a problem.
  Do you worm w/stuff to get tapes too?


(Knocking on wood) I havent had a colic in several(5 plus) years now. WHat do I do, then them be horses! They are not over loaded with unessesary things. Are not feed all kinds of different things, they are never locked unless its for a show or foaling. They are a horse, are treated like a horse, and are aloud to live like a horse.

As the saying goes, S**t Happens even with the best of care. Over the years I have lived here and used the same vets we have become personal friends as well as professional associates. I have built the safest facility I could, take the best care I can and you know what still happens. Their comments have been that I have one of the best run places they deal with and my horses are the favorites to work on. My paddocks are cleaned daily and I just wormed and even the weanlings getting wormed for the first time didn't pass any worms. I always dig through the piles to see what they dump. I have had 3 or 4 colics this year and the first resulting in the death of my yearling.

One thing I will be more diligent about is making sure to clean them out for sand. During surgery on my colt they found sand so everyone is going to get a cleansing.

Good luck and when you change everything you feel needs to be changed and you still get colic, remember, S**t Happens.
wcr said:
As the saying goes, S**t Happens even with the best of care.

I would definitely agree with that!

I wouldn't blame yourself especially if you take as good of care of your horse's as you seem to.

We had a Quarter Horse gelding at my riding school who used to colic every single time there was a drastic weather change! It was really bizarre and we had many sleepless nights over that horse.
Thanks all for the advice, ideas and encouragement. Thanks too, Lisa, for the offer of pacing with me. Had it not been so close to nationals, I may have called you; I thought you'd be gone by now!

Here's some answers to all of your very good questions:

All the horses & ponies get Purina Eq.Sr., except for the filly, who's on her last bag of Jr. They all get Purina Mare & Maintenance and loose pink salt (trace mineral, no selenium, due to the selenium in their Sr and M&M. The big horses get a scoop of salt equal to about 2 tablespoons mixed in their cereal, the ponies about 1/2 that, except the filly, who drinks plenty on her own with just a wee sprinkle. I don't think I feed anything with stretchers; I'll be upset if I do!

I have been rotating dewormers, and do a tapeworm treatment every fall, and a 5-day double Panacur in the spring. I don't do daily dewormer, as I had bigger problems with very positive fecals when I used it in the past. I haven't had fecals run (with the exception of sand tests, which have been neg) for a couple of years, so I'll do that in late October, just before they are next due. I'm wondering if I have some resistant pin worms, as the mares have had itchy backsides this summer. The big horses are currently on dry lot during the day. The ponies are on sparse pasture for a few afternoon hours each day. They have tank heaters in the winter, but they aren't in yet.

Flax is something that I may research and try. I've heard it's quite expensive, true? Is it easy to find locally Nila? And I think I may add beet pulp mashes every day. It's a pain to feed for sure, but worth the stress relief.

I may also add a daily glass of wine.
You sound like me. Everyone tells me I am a professional worrier. I got it from my mom. If she didn't have any of us to worry about, she'd put on As the World Turns just to worry about Dr. Bob and Kim. If that didn't get it, she'd turn on The Young and the Restless and literally speak to Nikki about her pole dancing..........

I don't have a clue and you are probably not doing anything wrong. I think someone just may have put the whammy on you or something

Got any dirt? Could they be injesting any dirt, like a lot of dirt or sand maybe?

Just throwing it out there.

I vote for weather changes too.
I've been in minis since 1986 and what has helped me the most for colic is the Strongid C daily wormer with Zimectrin twice a year, pelleted feed and a warm brand mash weekly instead of the night meal. This was recommened to me by Tufts Universaity after several colic cases and ulcers. I swear by this routine.

Suzanne you sound good on all fronts......if this has been a newish problem try these two simple things......the beet pulp sloppy style and sand blast or straight psyllium for 7 days a month (now I use the psyllium in way bigger doses for your big horse 1/4 cup twice daily and ponies 1/8 cup twice daily) or if you feed once a day the whole amount added to the daily ration........I never had a colic then got hit with a sand colic in a resue pony......ever since I do a 7 day sand treatment once a month I also use daily wormer with this..........the only other colic I have had was caused by quest wormer and even my big horses belly ached on that stuff.......

I am totally relaxed my horses are on pasture or not I feed whatever hay I can get usually some alfalfa some grass occasionally oat I feed minimal grain and when I do I feed salt/mineral...fresh water......and I have only had the two episodes of colic in my own horses in 20 some years.......I worked with colic prone horses in the past and I think had beet pulp been more available/known it would have prevented alot of episodes.....whenever the weather starts changing I watch water consumption if it decreases we increase sloppy beetpulp just to get water in pasture is about done for the year so it is time to start getting the pulp/strategy/hay/cube/pellet diet going again for winter me if you ever need moral support...colicing horses stink.....
Check your alfalfa if you are feeding it the blister bugs ( even parts of the dead ones ) can cause symptoms of the colic. Was it grown with all natural and organic means with no chemicals?


I have only been the mini business 3 years but I have never had a case of colic yet. For that matter I have never had any in the past 10 years with my big horses. That was about the same time I changed to a full organic program in my pastures and feeding.

I use a mixture crushed Redmond Minerals, Redmond Salt, kelp, food grade DE ( this rids them of any internal parsaites, I do not have to use chemicals as the worms cannot build up a tolerance to nature) The mixture I use in my all natural feed (available in 10, 12 and 14 % available) works well. I feed an all natural extruded feed with no chemical preservatives.

Also feed Missing Link Equine Suppliment in the food. Yes this is all organic. I had issues with my older big horses until I went all organic. Their systems get clogged and does not absorb well in older years as do elderly people. Beet pulp is mostly a filler but does have some good minerals in it too. I only feed it when I have a horse gaining too much weight.

I feed only organically grown hays ( you have to either grow your own or buy early from organic growers because it is not widley grown yet. I have all natural grass pastures treated only with natural elements. I also put organic electrolites in their water.

You can get all this from your local all organic feed store. It is a little more expensive but their coats look great and I have haven't had a trip to the Vet for sickness, colic or anything except gelding in three years. Just routine shots for shows. Oh, I have not had to chemically worm my horses in three years either. THe cost savings there is huge when you have as many animals as I do.

Good luck with your little ones.

If there is not one in your area just shoot me an email and I will send you the name of the one in my area. They can ship anywhere.

Just wondering what does the flax seed do?? I have a mare that gets a mild case of colic every December. I thinks it sand colic and I think she gets it around December when the ground is so wet that the nubs of grass that are left just pull right up and she eats them dirt and all.
I like the "s**t happens"... just wish it happened more often to all horses so there were no colic issues anymore! A pooping horse is a happy horse!

Weather seems to be the big factor in my area for causing colic... I also micromanage since I lost my draft mare in 2004 to anterior enteritis. My veterinarian was at a loss why she got it as she was on an EPSM diet and the veterinarian who designed the diet thought that the fact the mare was starved and neglected prior to her rescue and me adopting her may have helped her get this.

Mercy developed ulcers after Connie was born so we watch her for belly troubles... we are 1 year without symptoms.

Freedom had an impaction colic on New Year's Day... just took a long time to clear her out. She has been good to date.

We do the psyllium fiber now and keep an eye on water intake and poop output. If anyone is looking sluggish, she goes out on the grass for a bit (our vet's recommendation).


Silversong Farm

Ashley said:
(Knocking on wood)  I havent had a colic in several(5 plus) years now.  WHat do I do, then them be horses!  They are not over loaded with unessesary things.  Are not feed all kinds of different things, they are never locked unless its for a show or foaling.  They are a horse, are treated like a horse, and are aloud to live like a horse. 


Flax seed.... I pay a lot for mine, but I buy mine in the local grocery store in the bulk foods isle. You can get feed grade at some feed stores I believe, but I like to buy lesser quantities and get it only when I need it as it can go bad.

Note: The flax should smell nutty. If it smells fishy it is rancid and should not be used. Also, the flax seed should be brown in color. The darker the brown the better. Do NOT feed green flax seed as it is toxic unless it is ripe. Again, go to the grocery store or health food store and look at the color that flax seed is that is used for human consumption.

How it works is simple. The horse's system doesn't digest it well unless it is ground because the seed case is pretty tough. So those that grind it do the grinding immediately before feeding. The reason is that it has zero shelf life when ground. When ground it is used for the nutritional qualities. I don't think that it will do anything for the sand if you feed it ground.

For sand, there are several ways to feed it, and it is feed whole. Some will cook it first and then let it cool down and feed it. It has been noted on several web sites that cooking it is not necessary as long as the seed is ripe.

Some will just take flax seed and put it into a container and cover with water. The flax then turns to the water to a gel. If you put it in the refrigerator and let it set over night you will see that it gets kind of like a jelly consistancy. I think I used about equal parts of water and flax. I can't tell you exactly how much water that I would use as I quit doing the soaking of the flax before hand a long time ago and have forgotten what the ratio is.

There is one other way that I use to feed it. I went to this method as some thoughts occured to me that actually made me change my ways and I found sources that do the same. If I soak or cook it first, I would feed that jelly like goop with the grain. The horses didn't mind it, but when I though about the situation, I realized that I may not be doing what I want it to do. My thinking goes like this... If fed soaked, the stomach acid would break down the jelly like substance before it hit the intestinal track. It would loose it's maximum stickyness by the time it made it to the sand that lays in the loops intestines. By feeding it unsoaked, it seemed to me that it would get sticky as it obsorbed the moisture further back in the intestines. This means that it would be at it's stickiest where the sand is. So what I do is feed human grade top dressed on the grain.

Now with that said, I have tried the spyllium and my horses would rather starve than eat it. I have litterally stood in the pasture for an hour trying to get them to eat that stuff. That is why I went to feeding the flax seed EVERY day.

And I will say that the flax seed seems to do what I was told it would do. We never ever had sand colic until we moved the farm from one side of Kuna to the other side of Kuna. The new place is ten acres, and well, the soil is very funky there. The old place was clay type of soil. The new has spots of clay, but it is mostly very sandy (decomposed grannet... it is sandy like typical horse arena sand is). We had our first case of sand colic on the new place just 6 months after moving in. That is when another forum member clued me in to using flax because she knew I was standing out in the cold at night at the end of December for an hour or better trying to get those picky animals to eat the phyllium. Since switching to flax 3 years ago, I have had ZERO cases of sand colic (knock on wood). The most recent two cases of colic, in which we lost one, both tested clear of sand. In fact a necropsy was done on teh one, so we know that the ultra-sound and the fecal test were accurate. I feed about 1 tablespoons whole unsoaked seed. I guess on the amount as I just use a little level scoop to sprinkle it on the grain.

And now the usual disclaimer... Flax seed is from the linseed plant. It is reported to contain cyanide especially if it is green. That is why I feed the human grade where the seed is a nice rich deep brown color. The cooking of the flax is reported to destroy that poison. But... I have also read that the stomach acid will also destroy it and that is why you can grind it fresh and feed it ground without cooking. So talk with your vet about how to use it as well. On the internet the most common method is ground or cooked.

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