When your horse is col­ick­ing, it can be nerve-rack­ing to watch him suf­fer while wait­ing for your vet­eri­nar­ian to ar­rive. Your im­pulse, of course, is to try to make your horse more com­fort­able, per­haps by giv­ing him some left­over Banamine or an­other painkiller—but that’s a bad idea. You can mask the horse’s pain and re­duce his fever so that the vet­eri­nar­ian can­not ac­cu­rately as­sess the sever­ity of his con­di­tion. In­stead, fo­cus on do­ing the fol­low­ing:

Chances are, your col­ick­ing horse won’t be in­ter­ested in eat­ing or drink­ing any­way, but any­thing he con­sumes will only in­crease the pres­sure be­hind an im­paction. ap­pro­pri­ate. It’s a myth that all horses with colic must be walked. If your horse is stand­ing or ly­ing qui­etly, just leave him alone. Also, if your horse is ag­i­tated or thrash­ing, keep your dis­tance un­til help ar­rives; pain se­vere enough to make a horse vi­o­lent isn’t likely to be eased by walk­ing any­way.

An­other pos­si­bil­ity to con­sider is that your horse’s pain may be the re­sult of some­thing other than colic. Horses with con­di­tions like low-level lamini­tis or hoof ab­scesses can look like they are col­ick­ing, but walk­ing will only ag­gra­vate their pain.

That said, a col­ick­ing horse who is rest­less, get­ting up and down re­peat­edly, or at­tempt­ing to roll may ben­e­fit from hand­walk­ing to help fo­cus his mind and set­tle him down. In some cases, a lit­tle walk­ing may help the horse to pass a gas bub­ble or im­paction that is caus­ing a milder colic. But pay at­ten­tion: If walk­ing seems to make the horse’s pain worse, or if he is re­luc­tant to move, then don’t force him.

like pulse, tem­per­a­ture and rate of breath­ing can give your vet­eri­nar­ian valu­able clues to your horse’s con­di­tion. If your horse will al­low you to do so safely, check his vi­tal signs ev­ery few min­utes. Make notes of your read­ings, along with the time you took them. Also jot down ob­ser­va­tions such as un­usual be­hav­iors, in­creased sweat­ing, etc. Col­lect and save any ma­nure

he passes. Your vet­eri­nar­ian may want to ex­am­ine it and pos­si­bly take sam­ples for test­ing. Pre­pare for a trip to the hos­pi­tal.

If your vet­eri­nar­ian sug­gests that your horse’s life de­pends on emer­gency surgery, his chances for sur­vival will be much greater if the pro­ce­dure is not de­layed. While wait­ing for the vet­eri­nar­ian, hook up your trailer or start mak­ing calls to friends if you need to bor­row one. Also gather in­sur­ance in­for­ma­tion, Cog­gins pa­pers, your phone and charger, and any­thing else you might need. slower gut motil­ity---the speed with which in­gested food moves through the in­tes­tine---than do horses kept on pas­ture. And it is well es­tab­lished that horses who spend more time in stalls are more likely to colic than are those who are turned out. The con­tin­u­ous ex­er­cise from walk­ing and graz­ing helps to keep the con­tents of the gut mov­ing smoothly.

Even through­out the win­ter, let your horse have as much turnout as weather per­mits. Separat­ing hay feed­ers and wa­ter sources by some dis­tance will en­cour­age horses to keep mov­ing even when graz­ing is lim­ited. But use your best judg­ment if you have older, more in­firm horses---you don’t want to make win­ter even harder on them.

• En­cour­age hay dunk­ing. A wa­ter bucket full of hay is a headache at chore time, but con­sider it a worth­while mess. It means your horse is hy­drat­ing in a healthy way. Don’t try to dis­cour­age this be­hav­ior; just keep scrub­bing that bucket.

• Con­trol in­ter­nal par­a­sites. A heavy par­a­site bur­den can dam­age a horse’s in­testi­nal walls, caus­ing a num­ber of health is­sues in­clud­ing an in­creased risk of im­paction colic. Your vet­eri­nar­ian can help you de­vise an ap­pro­pri­ate de­worm­ing sched­ule, based on fe­cal egg counts and other tests, for each horse in your care. Your goal is to pro­tect your horses while also lim­it­ing the de­vel­op­ment of re­sis­tance.

A 2011 study from Eng­land showed that horses who spend most of their time in stalls have slower gut motil­ity—the speed with which in­gested food moves through the in­testines—than do those kept on pas­ture.

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