In the simplest sense, colic is abdominal pain that can range from very mild to life threatening. Generally, colic can be classified as a result of impaction, as spasmodic or as tympanitic (gaseous).
Any horse can suffer from colic, but some appear more prone to the condition. The following have been identified as risk factors:
The primary function of the large intestine is to host a microbial population that degrades feed that is not digested in the small intestine. Bacteria, protozoa and fungi live in the large intestine and use fermentation to break down fiber for nutrients. Normally, the large intestine houses many species of microbes that are responsible for digesting fiber to volatile fatty acids. These fatty acids are readily utilized by the horse for energy and not harmful to the microbial population.
When sugar and starch reach the large intestine, it is rapidly fermented to lactic acid which increases acidity levels detrimental to the microbial population. The increase in acidity and resulting microbial die-off contribute to colic and laminitis. This is one reason why we recommend feeding small meals, and keeping an eye on starch and sugar intake.
Unlimited access to good quality forage and water
Forage plays a vital role in maximizing digestion and preventing episodes of colic. Make sure to provide at least 1.5% of the horse’s bodyweight per day in forage. Keep in mind that the more forage a horse consumes, the more water is needed for proper digestion. Sufficient water intake is crucial to gut health.
Limit access to rich pasture
During the spring, when pasture grasses begin to grow rapidly, it may be necessary to manage horses prone to colic by limiting grazing. In addition, limiting the time on pasture when the grasses are highest in fructan levels is advisable by allowing horses to graze overnight or early morning and removing them from pasture by mid-morning.
Choose commercial grains with <20% starch, high in digestible fiber and fat
When grain is necessary for additional calories, be sure to limit high starch ingredients (like oats and corn) and use fat and fermentable fiber sources when available (i.e. beet pulp).
Provide Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast
The addition of live yeast improves overall nutrient digestion of lesser quality forage, and potentially limits the extent of undesirable changes associated with starch overflow into the large intestine.
Feed small, frequent meals
Limit starch to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight per meal or less. For a 1,100 lb. horse, that would mean limiting starch to no more than 500 grams or 1.1 lbs. of starch per meal.
EQ8 products include moderate starch and sugar as a highly-digestible extruded nugget. The EQ8 products are high in fiber and include 8% or 10% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
SAFE 'N EASY PERFORMANCE is low in starch and sugar (no more than 12.5%), high in fiber and contains 10% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture.
SAFE 'N EASY Senior is extruded, low in starch and sugar (no more than 14.5%), high in fiber and contains 10% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture.
SAFE 'N EASY Pelleted contains no more than 12.5% starch and sugar. It is high in fiber and contains 6% fat.
SAFE 'N EASY Textured contains moderate starch and sugar (no more than 16%), is high in fiber and contains 6% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture.
CADENCE contains moderate starch and sugar (no more than 25%) and 10% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture.
CADENCE Ultra contains moderate starch and sugar (no more than 20% starch), is high in fiber and has 14% fat. This feed also contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast culture.
Always make dietary changes gradually, especially for horses that are prone to colic. This gradual change over for feeding forage is often overlooked. Forage accounts for the largest portion of the horse’s diet and rapid changes (amount or type) can cause significant disturbances to hind gut bacteria. As a guide, change feed over seven to ten days, exchanging one pound of existing feed for new feed every other day. You may need to extend this period of adjustment for sensitive horses.
Find the right feed for your colic-prone horse below or contact us to discuss the best BUCKEYE Nutrition product for your horse’s needs.