Disruptions in gut function can be a major contributor to the incidence of colic, and the bacteria in the horses’ hindgut don’t adapt to feed changes rapidly.
A 2012 study found that 42% of colic cases had an environmental change one week before the incident. And while most owners are cognizant of making changes to equine grain intake very slowly, they often do not consider the same should occur for forage.
Making slow changes over at least two weeks, gives the bacteria in the hindgut a chance to adapt.
“The majority of colic incidents can be avoided by employing wise stable management practices,” says Gayle Ecker, director of Equine Guelph. “We are currently putting the finishing touches on our next online short course, Gut Health and Colic Prevention.”
Parasite pick up on your pasture
If pasture management has sunk to the bottom of your to do list during the colder temperatures, it may be time to prioritize picking up the pitchfork. Once temperatures reach 6 – 10 degrees Celsius conditions become more favorable for parasite eggs to hatch.
“It is known that a high parasite burden in horses can be a contributing factor to colic,” says Dr. Andrew Peregrine of the Ontario Veterinary College.
Picking up manure twice a week (more in wet conditions) can have a massive impact in decreasing parasite populations, Peregrine said. Rotating pastures and avoiding overstocking are also among pasture management recommendations. Peregrine advises horse owners to discuss the right parasite control program with their veterinarian to be sure they are following an individual program that is right for their horse, and to start with a fecal exam to learn if the egg count warrants action.
Check out Equine Guelph’s Colic Risk Rater.