Updated: Sep 24
Few things in the equestrian world evoke as much concern and anxiety among horse owners as the dreaded term "colic." And for good reason. Colic stands as the leading cause of death in horses worldwide, making it a paramount concern for anyone who cares for these majestic animals. The causes of colic are as diverse as they are perplexing, ranging from relatively straightforward issues like a blockage, a spasm in the colon, or excess gas buildup to more complex and often life-threatening conditions such as torsions in the digestive tract. Perhaps most concerning of all, the majority of colic cases fall into the category of idiopathic, which means that veterinarians often struggle to pinpoint the exact cause behind these painful and potentially lethal episodes. In this blog, we will cover the basics of equine colic and exploring essential prevention strategies to safeguard your beloved horses.
Types of Colic
No root cause determined and accounts for 80% of all colic diagnoses.
Gas - Over-fermentation of food and causes gas or excess fluid to build in the digestive tract. Creating a very uncomfortable situation for the horse.
Impaction - A blockage caused by the accumulation of debris, dirt or sand in the colon making it difficult or impossible to dispose of waste. An impaction is the easiest to form to prevent by simply monitoring and maintaining the horse’s feed.
Cause is clinically verifiable.
Intussusception - This form is very dangerous as the intestine can double back on itself and cause blockage and blood-flow issues. Most commonly caused by parasites like tapeworms and easily avoided by maintaining hygiene and diet.
Gastric rupture - Fairly rare, the gastric rupture takes place when an impaction makes its way to the horse’s stomach and causes excess gas to force the stomach to dilate.
Strangulation/torsion - Perhaps the most fatal forms of equine colic, torsion is a twist in the small intestine or colon which can cause the blood supply to be cut off and result in necrotic tissue or stroke.
Ways to Prevent Colic from Occurring
Reducing the risk of colic doesn't have to feel like a daunting task when you adhere to these veterinarian-recommended guidelines. By incorporating these simple yet effective strategies into your horse's daily care routine, you can significantly enhance their overall well-being and minimize the risk of colic:
Feed Smaller and More Frequently: One of the fundamental principles of colic prevention is to feed your horse smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. This approach allows starches and grains to digest properly before they reach the equine hindgut. By preventing undigested starches from entering the hindgut, you can reduce the risk of hindgut acidosis, which often serves as a precursor to colic.
Prioritize High-Quality Forage: Providing your horse with ample access to high-quality forage is paramount. Forage, such as hay and pasture, should constitute a significant portion of your horse's diet. Reducing the reliance on feed concentrates can help maintain a healthy digestive system and lower the risk of colic.
Slow Food Intake with Chaff: To further minimize the risk of colic, consider adding chaff, which is essentially chopped hay, to your horse's meals. Chaff serves as an effective means of slowing down your horse's food intake. This can be particularly beneficial for horses that tend to consume their meals too rapidly, as slower eating helps prevent digestive upsets and reduces the likelihood of colic.
While veterinarians acknowledge the pivotal role that diet plays in colic prevention, it's essential to recognize that it cannot single-handedly address all potential risk factors. In recent years, the realm of equine health has witnessed significant advancements, particularly in the use of alternative therapies like acupressure and red light therapy. These holistic approaches have shown promise not only in alleviating colic but also in preventing its occurrence. By integrating these complementary therapies into your horse's wellness regimen, you can take proactive steps to safeguard their digestive health and overall vitality.
Acupressure to Prevent Colic in Horses: A Holistic Approach
Colic in horses can be a distressing and life-threatening condition. While various factors contribute to its development, the use of holistic therapies like acupressure has gained recognition as an effective method to prevent colic and support overall equine health.
Acupressure is a traditional Chinese healing technique rooted in the principles of acupuncture. It involves the application of manual pressure to specific points on the horse's body, known as acupoints, to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. Acupressure is non-invasive, safe, and can be performed by horse owners with proper training.
How Acupressure Works to Prevent Colic
Acupressure is based on the concept of balancing the body's vital energy, known as chi. When chi flows harmoniously through the body's meridians, overall health is maintained. However, disruptions or imbalances in chi can lead to various health issues, including colic. To prevent colic, acupressure focuses on several key principles:
Promoting Digestive Health: Acupressure can help stimulate proper digestion and alleviate gastrointestinal discomfort. Specific acupoints target the digestive system, supporting the smooth passage of food through the equine digestive tract.
Relieving Stress and Anxiety: Stress is a known contributor to colic in horses. Acupressure techniques can help reduce stress and anxiety, ensuring that your horse remains calm and relaxed.
Enhancing Blood Circulation: Proper blood circulation is crucial for maintaining the health of all bodily systems, including the digestive system. Acupressure can improve blood flow to the digestive organs, promoting their optimal function.
Balancing Energy: By addressing imbalances in the horse's energy meridians, acupressure helps maintain overall health and prevent the development of colic.
Points You Can Do at Home
Incorporating acupressure into your horse's daily routine for colic prevention can be both simple and effective. On the acupressure chart provided in this blog, you'll find key points that, when gently held for 30 to 45 seconds each day, can help maintain your horse's well-being and digestive health. It's essential to remember that acupressure operates in 24-hour cycles, making consistent daily sessions crucial. By dedicating a few minutes each day to these targeted acupressure points, you can actively contribute to your horse's overall health and reduce the risk of colic. This holistic approach, when combined with proper nutrition and management, offers a proactive and natural way to support your equine companion's well-being.
BL 20 - 3 cun lateral to the dorsal midline, in the last intercostal space on the ribs. A cun is a measurement in acupressure for the width of the 17th rib.
BL 21 - 3 cun lateral to the dorsal midline, wetted the 18th thoracic vertebra and 1st lumbar vertebra.
ST 36 - 1 finger width from the head of the fibula, on the lateral side of the tibia.
ST 25 - 1.5 - 2 cun lateral to the umbilicus.
These points are located on both sides of the body. So, be sure to keep your horse balanced and do both sides of your horses body. By utilizing key points along the horse’s nervous system and digestive tract we use acupressure and red light therapy to address current colic symptoms as well as prevent possible future colic episodes.
Want to learn more about acupressure and how to locate points on your own horse? Check our events page to find a clinic taught by one of our Nationally Certified Acupressure Practitioners. Contact us if you would like to host a clinic at your barn!
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