Winter Weather Increases Risk of Colic in Horses: Part 3–Feed
- January 13, 2017
- By Kristin Danley-Greiner for The Fence Post
The choice of feed and transition of feeds can also affect a horse’s chances of developing colic. The change from a high-moisture feed like grass to drier hay, or even changing from grass hay to alfalfa hay or vice versa can upset a horse’s stomach.
“You’re going to have trouble with colic if you change the type or quality of feed too rapidly,” said Bass. “If you can’t get the feed you used to, you need to plan ahead, stockpile it, then gradually transition into the new feed over a two- to three-week period.”
Stricklin recommends feeding a mix of alfalfa and grass hay so the horses get used to both.
However, supplemental feed needs to be carefully considered.
“If the weather is cold, plenty of good hay is fine. They get plenty of calories from that. They may sometimes need additional calories, but it depends on your overall feed program,” Stricklin said. “I think a person has to be careful with finely ground up feeds like sweet feeds and pellets. They’re more prone to getting compacted with those because they’re finer.”
Stricklin suggests warm, wet, soupy bran mash when it’s extremely cold, so horses get more water in their system.
Bass and Stricklin both recommended adding powdered electrolytes to grain or water to help reduce the risk of dehydration. Stricklin prefers adding it to grain so you can make sure they eat it all. If they object to the taste, it may actually discourage a horse from drinking water, so it should be added a little at a time, and the owner should carefully monitor the water intake.
The vets also said a salt block can help encourage a horse to drink more, but can cause problems if sufficient water isn’t available all the time, Stricklin said.
Atwood, Colo., is home to a horse breeding operation run by horseman Dale Schnee. Since 1989, Schnee has raised highly sought after horses from the Driftwood bloodline, but has never had trouble with colic, particularly in the winter.
Schnee agreed with the vets about the management practices to reduce the chances of colic, but he adds another element to his recipe for success—Mrs. Stewarts Bluing—a laundry additive he puts in his horses’ water. “I don’t have any problems with pneumonia, sickness, snotty noses or a tinge of any type of sickness,” he said. “If used properly, it’s terrific. I’m a strong believer in it.”
“I’ve been so fortunate that I’ve raised as many as 115 head of horses at one time and never had a single case of colic,” he said.