Colic (Horse Diseases)

Colic - Horse Diseases Health & Nutrition


Horse diseases such as Colic due to impaction can sometimes be successfully handled surgically.

Levi is living proof of that!

What is Colic?

The horse disease known as Colic can be put simply as: abdominal pain.

Before we go on, let me have you meet Leviticus.


Breed: Warmblood anglo arab cross
Age – 2002
Color: Gray
Height: 15-3 hands
weight: 1100
Job: 3 day event horse

Levi came to us …

when he was 5 years old. He was not always the kind gentle soul he is now. At 5 years old he was very jumpy, and would agitate easily. It seemed he would spend most of his time worrying about everything around him instead of concentrating on his job. He was owned then by a very nervous woman. One that had great intentions but was not experienced enough to handle a young athletic horse. It seemed that all her insecurities passed right on to Levi. Even at this time though I noticed he had a kind eye. The lady and her trainer sold Levi to me and soon after that he started his training.

In 2012, when Levi was 10 years old he underwent colic surgery. Before I get into his story…

Lets talk a bit more about this health isssue.

The digestive system of the horse is very delicate. Abdominal pain is one of the most prevalent horse-diseases. Abdominal pain can be caused by a number of factors. The majority of deaths in horses are due to colic. In the case of this horse-disease the most important thing is to catch it in its early stages.If this is done and the cause of the abdominal pain can be diagnosed quickly, than treatment is more likely to have positive results. It is important to know early on if surgery is required or not. If surgery is required and it can be preformed quickly, the treatment has a much better chance of succeeding.

Signs that your horse has abdominal pain

  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing
  • Stretching
  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Flank watching: turning of the head to watch the stomach and/or hind quarters
  • Biting or nipping at the stomach
  • Pacing
  • Repeated lying down and rising
  • Rolling
  • Groaning
  • Excess salivation
  • Decreased faecal output
  • Increased pulse rate

Types of Colic and things that cause it


Is a blockage in the digestive tract. This may be caused by: digesting large amounts of bulk food.

Sand impaction falls into this category. Ingesting large amounts of sand or dirt while grazing or eating can cause a blockage in the digestive tract.

Improper worming schedule. A build up of parasites such as tapeworms and roundworms can cause impaction colic.

Improper dental care. The horse can not chew his food properly.


Is a buildup of gas in the horse’s digestive tract.


is a twisting of the gastrointestinal tract. This is usually caused by poor digestion.


Ulcers, which are commonly found in horses, can cause stomach pain. These ulcers can be caused by stress, lack of exercise, poor feeding habits and excessive anti inflammatory drugs.


Enteroliths are round balls of mineral deposits that can form around something that was accidentally ingested. This could include grain of sand or gravel. These balls grow in size as more and more mineral deposits form around the ball. When the ball moves from its original location it can cause an obstruction. This type of impaction colic is rare but the only way to correct colic caused by Enteroliths is through surgery.

Now back to Levi’s story….

Remember Horse Nutrition fact – If your horse is not hungry he is probably sick.
Levi did not even look at the fresh hay much less attack it with his usual voracious appetite!

Remember Training tip – Know your horse
Levi was sulking in the corner and totally disinterested in the hay or the morning activities.

I stood and observed him for a few minutes. He kept looking back at his stomach and stomping his foot. His eyes were only half open and his ears were droopy.

Remember Health tip – Know your horses temperature,respiration and heart rate.
I took his vitals and noted an elevated temperature and heart rate.

I took him out of his stall, to the indoor arena where there was lots of room should he start trying to lay down and roll or thrash around.

I called the vet and gave him Levi’s symptoms and vitals. From my observation and the discussion with the vet we could tell the symptoms causing this horse-disease needed immediate attention. I loaded Levi in the trailer and within an hour we were at the surgical center. After initial diagnostic tests Levi was prepped for surgery. During surgery they removed an enterolith the size of a large grapefruit! This had caused an impaction which gave way to the signs of colic. The surgery was lengthy but quite successful.

Almost everyone has had to deal with this one!

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