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What to Do If Your Horse Has Colic

Nobody wants to be faced with a horse suffering from colic (severe abdominal pain). This condition can be extremely distressing but for the sake of your horse, you must keep calm and follow the right procedures. There are several different reasons for equine colic but here are some of the first things you should do.

Calling the Vet

The first thing you should do when you suspect colic is call the vet. The quicker you act the better chance your horse has. When you summon the vet, provide accurate directions to your stables and leave your contact phone number. If your stables are particularly difficult to find, ask someone to stand by the road near a landmark which you have identified to the vet so they can flag them down and direct them to your horse.


If your horse is clearly suffering with severe pain, you should confine them to a safe area as they may try to get down and roll. An arena or a well-bedded stable are the best choice. If you put your horse in an arena, then keep it on the lunge. Remove any buckets or equipment that your horse could injure themselves on. If your horse lies down this is unlikely to make their condition worse. It is best not to enter the stable for you own safety as your horse’s movements could be unpredictable.


If your horse is in pain, then it might help to slowly walk them for a few minutes. It is important that they only walk and do not break into a trot or canter. Do not walk your horse for more than 20 minutes until they have been examined by your vet. Don’t force your horse to exercise if they are trying to go down as this will be exhausting. If your horse is exhausted, their recovery from an anaesthetic could be impeded should they require surgery.

Feed and Water

You should remove any feed, hay or water from the stable as consuming food or water may cause more harm depending on what the cause of colic is. It is best to wait for the vet to arrive and take advice before offering your horse anything. If they are in pain they are unlikely to want to drink or eat.

Being Prepared

Be prepared to transport your horse in case you need to take them to a clinic. If your horse is seriously ill, it is vital to minimise delays so have a plan in place. Check your horse box, trailer and towing vehicle to ensure that the vehicle will start and that there are no other issues including flat tyres.

If your horse is insured, then check your cover as you will have decisions to make about treatment. If your vet wishes to refer your horse to a clinic, get an estimate of costs and an assessment of the possible complications and your horse’s chances of survival. Inform your insurance company of what is happening.

Check that you have accurate directions to the clinic that you have been referred to and the telephone number. Keep the clinic updated if there are any issues on route or delays to your journey.

Your horse’s survival could hinge on your actions. Being prepared, keeping calm and ensuring that you act quickly will give your horse the best chance of recovery.

Of course prevention is better than cure -.


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