Equestrian: Deadly danger of colic

A change of diet can bring about colic in horses

A change of diet can bring about colic in horses - Credit: thinkstock

Colic is better known as excessive crying in babies, but is also a common adominal condition in horses. The British Horse Society has launched a campaign to help both the public and horse owners stop and spot the potential animal killer

Colic accounts for one in three emergency veterinary call outs to horses. At least one in 10 of these cases is critical and up to 80 per cent of critical cases results in death or the horse being euthanised.

The British Horse Society and University of Nottingham have teamed up to help horse owners combat this life-threatening condition, with the launch of the REACT Now to Beat Colic campaign. A series of leaflets, online information and a poster have been produced to ensure horse owners are aware of how to spot the early signs of colic and act on it in an appropriate way.

Do’s & Dont’s

The British Horse Society is urging the public not to feed grass cuttings to horses, because it can prove fatal. While those who enjoy seeing horses might think feeding them is a fun and generous thing to do, feeding garden grass cuttings can cause colic. Colic is an abdominal pain that most people associate with babies, but is very common in horses. Any sudden changes in a horse’s diet can cause the condition, and this includes grass cuttings.

Most cases of colic can be resolved relatively quickly with appropriate treatment, but some will be critical with potentially severe consequences. Colic can become a race against time, and the earlier the problem is recognised and treated, the better the chance of survival.

Nottingham University research found that 90 per cent of horse owners do not feel confident spotting the early signs of colic. The British Horse Society has created a simple acronym, REACT, to help them spot early signs of the condition:

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R – Restless or agitated

E – Eating less or droppings reduced

A – Abdominal pain

C – Clinical changes

T – Tired or lethargic

Emmeline Hannelly, BHS Welfare Education Officer, said, ‘We know how daunting colic can be for horse owners and a lot of people don’t know how to spot its early signs. That’s why we have created helpful, clear guidance on all aspects of colic with the University of Nottingham. The guides will support horse owners in dealing with colic – from its prevention to the worst case scenario of emergency decision making.’

To find out more about colic, including a video on the topic produced by the British Horse Society, visit bhs.org.uk/colic.

A British Horse Society Hertforshire quiz night takes place at 7.30pm on November 3 in the Mops & Brooms, Borehamwood. The event aims to raise £1,000 for the society’s work in the county. To take part, visit bhs.org.uk.