What to do When Your Horse is Colicking

You finish up your ride, but your horse has seemed off all day. You’re on high alert, but when he returns to his stall, he eats and his vitals are normal, so you finish your barn chores and head home. Later, you get a NIGHTWATCH® alert that your horse’s heart rate is elevated, higher than normal, and continues to stay that way — he’s obviously in distress. You call the barn manager who heads out to the barn confirms every horse owner’s worst fear — your horse appears to be colicking. 

You move quickly. Time can make all the difference in sudden onset illness cases, especially colic occurrences. While some cases of colic can be mild and managed with veterinary consultation via the phone or minimal intervention, this case is obviously more serious. It’s important to know that no matter how severe or casual the symptoms your horse has, it’s always best to be safe and call a certified veterinarian. With the vet contacted and on the way, you get to the barn and find your horse sweaty, obviously agitated and uncomfortable. What should you do while waiting for veterinary care? 

  1. Contact your veterinarian

No matter how mild the case may seem, it’s best to speak with a certified professional. They can help distinguish between colic and other ailments, and can walk you through what to do until help arrives.

  1. Keep the horse from rolling

Lying down is fine if it keeps the horse calm, but if your horse tries to roll, don’t allow it. If this means light hand-walking, go for it. Colic can ease up from walking, but be careful not to exhaust the horse. You don’t want to stress your horse any more than he is already.

  1. Offer your horse water

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”? Not drinking enough water is the number 1 cause of colic, and dehydration is a likely cause of your horse’s colic, but since he’s sweating and in distress he may enjoy some now. 

  1. Don’t try to medicate on your own

Don’t administer anything to the horse before the vet arrives. This could negatively impact the horse or cause a bad reaction if the vet wants to administer medication.

Colic doesn’t discriminate on breed, age, sex, discipline or even environment. Every horse is different and will exhibit different signs and require different treatment. Unfortunately, there’s not a one size fits all approach to colic care. While some horses can be walked, others can be tubed. While others recover quickly on their own, some will need major surgery and a lengthy recovery. 

Knowing the signs and jumping in early matter, so always remember to have your vet’s phone number on-hand and an emergency plan in place. By sending you alerts of distress and unusual activity right to your smartphone, NIGHTWATCH® can be your most valuable tool in emergencies and getting your horse the help he needs faster.

NIGHTWATCH® is the world’s first smart halter™. By acquiring and analyzing your horse’s individual biometrics and behaviors, the smart halter™ is smart enough to recognize changes that correlate with pain or distress, such as elevated heart rate, increased respiration, or excessive rolling. NIGHTWATCH® is ultimate peace of mind when you cannot be there. We don’t have to worry about checking on our horses all the time, that’s what the smart halter is for. To order your own NIGHTWATCH® smart halter™ bundle, click here.