Preventing cold weather colic

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Cold weather is often associated with an upswing in the number of horses that colic. This is most likely due to a decrease in water intake causing dehydration and slowing the passage of dry food through the intestinal tract. The following are suggestions to prevent dehydration and colic during cold weather:

1. Keep water troughs and buckets unfrozen. If the surface freezes you will need to break it frequently. You may also try bucket heaters or adding buckets of hot water to troughs. Warm water may encourage horses to drink.

2. Add warm water to your horse’s grain ration to make a mash at each meal. This will increase water intake in a delicious way!

3. Add an electrolyte supplement to each feeding. This is easy when the feed is mixed with warm water! Electrolyte supplements are readily available at your local feed store. You could alternatively use 1-2 tablespoons of table salt. Avoid adding salt or electrolytes directly to your horse’s water bucket as this could decrease intake if they decide they don’t like the flavor change.

4. The horse’s intestinal tract is influenced by movement (think horses in the wild, moving constantly as they graze). It may seem kind to to keep you horse in the barn during a storm but exercise is important too. Consider turn out during the day or in an arena.

5. Some horses enjoy “molasses tea”: 1 gallon hot water, 1 tbsp molasses, 1 tablespoon salt, and a handful of any grain or alfalfa pellets. Stir it all together and then fill the rest of the bucket with lukewarm water. (Thanks to Dr. Bochynek Saltz of Atlas Veterinary Services).