Horse Show Health Tips: Part 2

Colic and respiratory disease hit at shows.

This is the last of a two-part story. Need to review Part 1?

Colic is the second major cause of illness at horse shows. Colic is not a disease but rather a variety of abdominal pain that causes excessive gas, blockage or twisting (strangulation), and/or cramping of the intestines. In a well-managed horse on a good parasite control program, colic is most often due to inadequate water consumption, a change in feeding schedule or a change in feed.

Horses are browsers, designed to graze forage 14-18 hours a day. Their intestinal tract is designed for constant use, not high-concentrate meals once or twice a day. However, there are a number of things that can be done to prevent colic in show horses or horses that are stalled most of the time.

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For most horses, 15 to 20 pounds of good-quality grass hay alone meets energy requirements and provides plenty of fiber to keep the horse’s intestinal tract working properly. If grain must be fed to maintain body weight, divide it into three or more small servings a day so the horse doesn’t have to process a heavy load of concentrates all at once.

Keep the horse’s feeding program consistent: same hay, same grain, same amount and same times of day. Provide your horse with plenty of exercise and keep his work routine regular: same time every day, same amount of work.

Provide plenty of fresh, clean water and make sure the horse is drinking. If the horse is a finicky drinker and it’s not practical to bring water from home, learn to camouflage the taste of unfamiliar water by mixing ¼ cup of vinegar, molasses or a package of Kool-Aid mix in five gallons of water at home for a week or so before the trip. The horse will become accustomed to the new flavor, which can then be used on the road to mask the taste of strange water.

Remember that maintaining a horse’s routine and consistent monitoring are the keys to keeping him healthy on the road.

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