Can a Trailer Ride Cure Equine Colic?
You may have heard equestrians claiming that a trailer ride has cured a bout of colic. Simply loading a horse in a trailer and taking it for a ride resolved the problem. But could that really be true?
Typically, a story of a trailer ride curing a horse will involve the horse having shown the common symptoms of colic. It is then taken for a spin and passes a pile of manure. The horse appears to have recovered and this is attributed to the shake up in the trailer and the passing of the manure. But colic isn’t that simple. It is a term which refers to a variety of issues which can cause abdominal pain. A horse’s prognosis will depend on what the cause of the problem actually is.
More than 50% of horses showing signs of colic improve on their own, with little or no help from anyone. About 70% of horses showing the symptoms of colic will improve after being given pain relief. If the colic resolves with no treatment or after only simple treatments, the issue was likely just gas accumulation or a spasm in the GI tract as opposed to a serious obstruction or twisting of the intestines.
So Why the Trailer Legend?
If instances of abdominal pain resolve themselves quickly then it makes sense that a horse could enter a trailer in pain and exit following their ride feeling better. The improvement may have had nothing to do with the ride and any recovery was simply the result of time having passed. The passing of manure during the loading process or the ride itself is often nothing more than a red herring. Horses will pass manure as a reflex reaction to nervousness. The equine colon is very long so the passing of manure doesn’t mean that any issue has been resolved. A blockage may still exist.
The trailer ride might loosen up a little gas and help but that would probably have happened anyway. If the cause of the colic was a serious underlying problem, a trailer ride would not have done anything to help, no matter how bumpy it was! Horses die when owners waste time driving them around instead of seeking help from their vet.
Veterinary Help for Colic in Horses
You should ALWAYS contact your veterinarian at the first sign of colic. Your vet will recommend the appropriate treatment and that probably won’t involve a trailer. Your vet will also be able to investigate any management and dietary issues which could have contributed to the horse developing colic. This will reduce the likelihood of a repeat performance.
There are situations in which taking your horse for a ride could be better than doing nothing, but it is vital to call the vet first. The quicker your horse receives attention, the quicker you can ascertain what the underlying issue is and address that instead of hoping that it is just gas.