Answer colic threats for an issue-free cold season
Keep horses' feeding and watering routines regular to limit their digestive woes this winter
Colic is the most likely cause of death in horses. It is a blanket term for any disease that causes abdominal pain and can occur all year round in all types of horses. However, horse owners and vets have always noted a link between certain types of colic and the time of year.
Between 2003 and 2006, the University of Liverpool conducted one of the biggest ever studies into colic. Twenty-three private equine hospitals and university clinics based in Britain, Ireland and the USA collaborated in this study and were responsible for notifying the university researchers of colic cases, while the owners and carers of 182 horses and ponies, which had undergone surgery for colic in these clinics, also agreed to participate in the study.
A further 665 questionnaires were completed by the owners and carers of other horses and ponies and used as a comparison to the research.
As part of the study, all the cases of colic were admitted to the University of Liverpool over a 10-year period to see if there were any seasonal patterns in hospital admission that consistently occurred each year.
The study found that colic admissions to the hospital and those treated medically or surgically showed a consistent peak in admissions in the spring and autumn months, coinciding with times of the year when changes in horses' stabling, turnout and feed are most likely to occur, together with changes in pasture quality.
Admission of horses with large colon impactions showed a peak in the winter months. This coincides with periods when horses are more likely to be stabled for longer and is a known factor that places horses at an increased risk of this type of colic.
Similar studies in the United States have also highlighted the increased risk of impaction colic in colder months.
It appears that the onset of cold weather causes three significant things to happen, and the combination of all three sharply increases the risk of impaction colic, which is often described as constipation in horses.