ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Colic Can Kill Your Horse

Updated on April 1, 2014
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.


One of the most heart breaking experiences, in my career with horses, was on an Arabian farm when a gallant champion gelding was taken with a fatal case of colic.

Good management is the best preventive of colic

photo by Donna Campbell Smith
photo by Donna Campbell Smith

A Personal Story

Star was once a National Champion Park Horse. He was a spirited and powerful horse, and he was well aware of his power. No one could really "handle" him, they just hung in there for the ride.

When I met Star he was retired and enjoying a life of leisure. He had mellowed in his old age. During those days I was his groom and he kindly tolerated me. I could catch him in the pasture only after all the other horses had been caught and he didn't want to stay out there alone anyway. Whenever we walked through the barn he'd cast a suspicious glance at the wheelbarrow, and hesitated walking into the wash rack, just a little.

His muscles were still strong and firm, even though he was in his twenties. His coat sparkled in the sun like a brand new penny. He had a beautiful arched neck and refined head that affirmed his Arabian heritage. An intense, bright look in his eyes indicated he was extremely intelligent.

When he first became sick it didn't seem too serious. He exhibited some signs of mild colic; looking frequently at his side and exhibiting some restlessness in his stall. The vet treated him, and by the time I left for the evening he seemed much improved.

But the next day when I returned, I saw immediately he was still uncomfortable. His nervous circling in the stall led to lying down and getting up repeatedly. I immediately reported my concern to the owners.

Again the vet came and again after treatment Star seemed better. But by evening his symptoms returned again. Every time I went out of his sight he'd whinny and call me back, as if he expected for me to relieve the discomfort.

Now, Star wanted to lie down and roll, a dangerous situation because in rolling the distended intestines can become twisted, causing a permanent blockage and certain death. What we didn't know at that time was that the intestines were already blocked.

Waiting for Star's owners to arrive, I was able to keep him walking until time for his next dose of medication. He stood still long enough for me to give the shot and then began to crumple to the floor. I got him to get back up and walked him until the owners arrived. They immediately recognized the hopelessness of the situation and made the decision to have Star euthanized. The three-hour trip to the nearest veterinarian hospital would only be further torture; we knew he couldn't survive the long trailer ride.

I will never forget the courage and determination Star showed in his last hour. But I knew his pain must be awful. His teeth showed in a grimace as he'd lie down, stretch out and moan. Then he was quiet except for the sound of his shallow breathing. After resting a few moments Star stood back up, and was on his feet when the vets truck rolled into the stable yard.

He quickly examined Star and assured us were making the only humane decision. I led Star out into the stable yard for the final injection.

Colic: Causes and Prevention

What is colic? What is the cause and what can you do to prevent your horse from colicing?

A twisted intestine caused Star's fatal case of colic. In his case it had nothing to do with management. Sometimes a loop of intestine can slip into an opening in the mesenteric tissue and not come back out. This is what the necropsy revealed had happened to Star. Even if we had lived near a large animal hospital I am not certain surgery would have saved his life, because of his age.

However, good management can greatly reduce the likelihood of your horse getting colic. What is colic exactly? It is not a disease specifically. The word colic refers to abdominal pain, which can have many causes. The pain can be caused by a concentration of gas, feed or fluid in the intestinal tract due to a blockage or failure in the natural movement of the tract.

The most common source of blockage is parasite infestation. Some statistic show that ninety percent of all colic cases are caused by parasites. Regular deworming can prevent colic by internal parasites.

In areas that have sandy soil, sand colic is common. It is caused by horses being fed hay off the ground or grazing on over-grazed pasture. They pick up and swallow small amounts of sand with the food. After doing this for an extending period of time the sand builds up in the intestinal tract until it forms a blockage. As much as fifty pounds of sand has been found inside horses that have died of this type of colic. In addition to causing a blockage the sand also irritates the wall of the intestines and can kill the tissue.

To prevent sand colic do not feed hay to your horses on the ground or let him drink from a muddy water source. If you live where the soil is very sandy a feed additive can be mixed with the horse's ration that contains pysllium. This product turns into a gel that traps the sand and moves it out through the digestive system.

Star showed the classic symptoms of colic. Other signs include pawing and kicking, sweating, biting at the side. Rapid breathing and heart rate are signs of pain.

The best advice is to call your veterinarian as soon as you see signs of colic. His first task is to try to determine the cause. Mild cases usually respond to immediate treatment. But even a mild case of colic can become serious if ignored. Controlling the pain is important to prevent the horse from going into shock, but this is not a cure. Drenching with mineral oil is a common remedy for mild colic and various drugs are used cautiously. In the most severe cases surgery may be required to remove the blockage, a very expensive and risky procedure.

The old adage, "an inch of prevention is worth a pound of cure" certainly applies when dealing with colic. A proper deworming program is the best defense against parasites causing colic. Good nutrition, plenty of clean water to drink, a clean and safe environment and a well conditioned horse all contribute to a healthy animal and the prevention of most cases of colic.

(The story of Star is a true story based on an actual experience. Names and places have been changed for the sake of privacy.)

Colic in Horses


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Rick Benningfield profile image

      Rick Benningfield 

      20 months ago from North Texas

      Sabrina, I am very sorry to hear of the loss. In such cases I keep a bottle of Banamine on hand. 10cc's of Banamine will usually do the trick but I still walk the horse for about 30 minutes. I also do this at the first signs of Colic and since I stay near them most of the day I have been able to catch it first hand. A horse stresses very easy and stress will definitely bring on Colic and sometimes rather quickly. Even a change of food can trigger the malady!

    • DonnaCSmith profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      5 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Sabrina, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. That is heartbreaking, I know.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      24hours ago I fed my horses their two scoops of pellets...when I got home from work today the mare was dead...I believe from colic but saw no signs whatsoever...I still cannot believe it...I could see she had struggled to get back up...I have had her for fourteen years...she was so beautiful and I loved her and still can.t believe she's Gone...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Really good informative hub. I lost my 28 year old horse to colic (twisted gut) as well, the stables rang me too late and it was just heart breaking knowing there was nothing that could be done. Knowing the first signs could save quite a few horses. Have voted you up!

    • MegStarr profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for this Hub. I myself have had to do the same to one of my lesson horses. The hardist part was not letting her go in peace but, knowing that the next day she would not be there waiting for her kids to come to there lessons. It hit everyone hard the next day. I had closed the barn of all lessons and even the most loud and rambucnes horses were quite that day as if in rememberence of Patches.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)