How to Prevent a Horse From Colicking

Two Methods:Making Changes to Their DietMaking Other Changes

Colic is a horse-owners worse nightmare; it's quick to appear and difficult to deal with. Keep your horse healthy and reduce the need for an expensive vet bill by taking the necessary steps to prevent colic in your horse.

Method 1
Making Changes to Their Diet

  1. 1
    Give your horse a high fiber diet. Intestinal blockages from poor diet can cause your horse to colic. Make sure your horse is getting plenty of fiber by giving them at least 60% of their daily nutrition in hay, and keeping pasture grazing to a minimum.[1]
    • Hay and grass should be the basis of your horse's diet, with grain in the least amounts.
    • Do not give your horse non-soaked sugar beet.
  2. 2
    Don't allow your horse to eat rich diet. Too much alfalfa or too much grain, and your horse will colic. Introduce new diets gradually, over the course of 2 weeks. If you put your horse on pasture that's 50% alfalfa, it's going to get colicky. If your horse is gradually introduced to a field, and still colic, that's a sign that his/her diet is still too rich, and that that horse will never become adjusted to that diet.
  3. 3
    Keep your horse from becoming overweight. If you notice your horse is beginning to get fat, begin increasing their physical activity and adjusting their diet to lose weight.
  4. 4
    Don't allow your horse to get too thin. Similar to being overweight, a horse that is too thin is in poor physical condition and will be more susceptible to physical ailments. Build muscle mass by increasing exercise over time, and improve their overall diet in order to put on healthy weight.
  5. 5
    Always feed your horse fresh food. Moldy hay, insects, and bits of plastic or twine put your horse at risk, if caught in their hay or other feed. Don't let their food sit around for too long, and if you do always check for the aforementioned items. Scoop paddocks of old hay after a few days or a heavy rain to reduce the risk of mold and insect growth.
  6. 6
    Add digestive supplements to their diet. Just like humans, regular supplements that add vitamins and nutrients to the horse's diet are beneficial in minimizing health risks. Look for supplements which increase levels of healthy bacteria (like probiotics).
  7. 7
    Make sure your horse's diet isn't being interfered with. Put a notice up on the horse's stall door telling guests not to feed your horse, if it is kept at a place where visitors can come and may feed them treats. Being fed too frequently and with unhealthy foods can make a horse more likely to colic.
  8. 8
    Use feed pans for feeding. It is important for the horse to eat in the natural head-down position, but without consuming other harmful things in the process. Feed pans can be used to allow your horse to eat as naturally as possible, while minimizing the likelihood of the consumption of sand, manure, and shavings.[2]

Method 2
Making Other Changes

  1. 1
    Keep a constant supply of fresh water available. One study showed that horses without access to fresh water for longer than two hours were at a significantly higher risk of colicking. Keep water available, and use filtering systems in troughs to prevent insect growth.
    • Make sure water is not too cold in the winter, as very cold water can cause colic.
  2. 2
    Keep up worming and parasite control. Keep up regular medication to prevent worm and parasite growth in your horse's intestinal system. Anything that might cause a blockage of the intestine - such as certain worms and parasites - can cause colic.
  3. 3
    Keep your horse's living quarters clean. Manure piles and old hay are highly likely to grow mold, bacteria, worms, insects, and other parasites that are harmful to your horse. Make sure to pick your horse's living area of manure regularly, and remove any old or wet hay. Replace shavings in their stalls on a regular basis to prevent bacteria growth from urine buildup.
  4. 4
    Schedule regular dental exams. When your horse's teeth get out of shape and worn down, your horse has a much harder time fully chewing (and therefore digesting) their food. Make sure your horse's teeth get examined every six months or so, and floated when necessary.
  5. 5
    Adjust your feeding schedule. Horse's should be fed several smaller meals over the course of the day, rather than one large grain-rich meal. Move their feeding schedule around a bit so that eating is broken up over several hours, and occurs after (rather than before) heavy exercise.
  6. 6
    Increase the amount of daily exercise. Horses that are stalled for eight hours a day or aren't able to have a large space to run around in are at a much higher risk of colicking. Ride or lunge your horse on a daily basis if they can't run around, and put them out in a paddock when you're able to.[3]


  • Check your pasture for alfalfa or other grasses/legumes that will cause colic.
  • Consuming sand is a cause of colic, so feed your horses away from sandy areas.


  • If your horse is showing symptoms of colic, call your veterinarian immediately and walk them around until they arrive. Prevent them from eating or drinking anything while waiting for the vet.

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Categories: Horse Health