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Colic in Horses: Feeding Recommendations for Resolving ImpactionsBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · May 17, 2016

As if acute colic episodes involving rolling, sweating, pawing, and an emergency visit from the veterinarian aren’t bad enough, many owners manage horses unlucky enough to suffer colic on a regular basis. With neither rhyme nor reason to their flare-ups, how can owners best feed horses experiencing recurrent impactions of the large intestine to mitigate their discomfort and minimize their frequency? According to equine specialists from the University of Florida, diet plays an important role in achieving both of those goals.

“Nutritional management of these cases is often based on previous experience combined with recommendations from evidence-based literature,” wrote the researchers in a recent publication*.

After reviewing the available literature on recurrent impactions, the researchers made the following recommendations:

  1. Restrict feeding until manure output and rectal examinations indicate that offering feed will not add to the impaction.
  2. As the impaction resolves, begin reintroducing hay in small feedings, approximately 4-6 times per day. Begin by offering several handfuls to one-quarter flake of hay and increasing the amount offered to the horse over 2-4 days until returned to maintenance feeding levels.
  3. Weigh the hay to ensure an appropriate amount is offered. Maintenance rations of forage may be as high as 2% body weight per day depending on the size of the horse. A single flake of hay can vary in weigh from 2-3 lb (1-1.4 kg), depending on forage type and baling differences.
  4. Eliminate concentrates, if they are offered, for approximately 3-7 days, then reintroduce slowly to the diet.
  5. Just like hay, offer smaller meals more frequently until complete resolution of impaction.

“Horses experiencing stress combined with limited feed intake are at risk for the development of stomach ulcers. When appropriate, consider offering products to support gastrointestinal health. RiteTrac, available in the U.S. and other markets, quickly neutralizes excessive gastric acid, protecting the stomach lining and restoring the normal gastric environment,” advised Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a Kentucky Equine Research nutritionist.

Australian horse owners are advised to look for these research-proven gastrointestinal-support products.

*House, A.M., and L. K. Warren. 2016. Nutritional management of recurrent colic and colonic impactions. Equine Veterinary Education. 28(3):167-172.