Spring is the epitome of change. It is common knowledge that the horses gut does not cope well with quick change. One documented study states 42 percent of colic cases had an environmental change one week prior to the incident (Malamed et al 2012). Equine Guelph's free healthcare tool, The Colic Risk Rater, kindly sponsored by Intercity Insurance Services Inc. and Capri Insurance Services Ltd. helps horse owners look at their management practices to reduce the risk of colic in every season.
Getting to the guts of the matter
We know disruptions in gut function can be one of the major contributors to the incidence of colic and that bacteria in the horses' hindgut don't adapt to feed changes rapidly.
Feeding management is a prime consideration to maintain healthy digestive function. Most horse caregivers are cognizant of making changes to grain very slowly but 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." This future offering will be available at TheHorsePortal.ca and taking the Colic Risk Rater assessment is the first required reading and discussion point.
Parasite pick up on your pasture
"It is known that a high parasite burden in horses can be a contributing factor to colic," says Dr. Andrew Peregrine, Ontario Veterinary College. 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.
In a past article, Parasite Control With Dr. Peregrine, picking up manure twice a week (more in wet conditions) was one tip that can have a massive impact in decreasing parasite populations. Rotating pastures and avoiding overstocking were also among the 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.
Colic is a word that strikes fear in any horse owner. Mike King, National equine industry program manager for Intercity/Capri is familiar with both the financial and emotional costs involved and fully supports colic prevention through education. "With decades of insurance underwriting and claims experience in the horse industry across Canada, we can think of no better risk management tool to prevent colic, than education."
Don't let the number one killer of horses (other than old age) threaten your horse's health. On topics including: feeding, housing, stress, dental care and parasite control, there is much the horse caregiver can do to minimize the risk of colic.
Check out the Equine Guelph's Colic Risk Rater tool and take the ten minute assessment to reduce your horse's risk.
(with files from Equine Guelph)