I have had horses and ridden for over 30 years now ( my how the time flies:). It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned firsthand the worry about colic. I had horses for years with never a twitch- then within about 6 weeks of each other, both of my horses colicked, and I lost both of them. Wookie and Autumn were both racehorses, thoroughbreds, that I took directly out of the slaughter house. Autumn was about 2, and Wookie was about 7. Autumn had been severely abused and was lame, Wookie should have been lame- but vetted out 100% sound. I never regretted that commitment, and both of them had very good homes for over 20 years.
Anyway- Both of the boys colicked for different reasons. And I don’t find it unusual that they chose to go within a few weeks of each other. They had been together for 20 years, and like twins, brothers or an old married couple- had a bond. I almost felt the three of us shared a bond, and was painfully “left behind” with both of them gone. I couldn’t even bear to walk into the empty barn, where I could still feel the echoes of their individual last days, and still see tiny smears of blood on the wooden post: from the nasal tube, as we tried to treat Wookie’s colic. But the call or Horse is strong in some of us, and it wasn’t too long before I found myself peeking around, and found CANTER, and three new idiots trampled down the ramp and into my heart- sparkling and shining, literally, right off the race track. I remember my first thoughts: oh, so THATS what a clean horse looks like. 🙂 I dare to say, they have never been quite so sparkly clean since their first day here, but I would dare to say they are quite a bit happier. 🙂
And I have a deeper education about many things now, and apply a lot of holistic techniques, from home-made lineaments w/ herbs and essential oils, laminitis, and genera health:)
But I now have a good understanding and appreciation for what colic can do to a horse, and how quickly something can go from seeming minor- to a huge problem. In these instances, I don’t think any amount of time, or prevention would have made a difference- but what I have learned and now apply to my 3 new OTTB’s.. has been very invaluable.
Firstly- the gut needs to be maintained with plenty of healthy bacteria that help to break down and digest foods. The basics of good hay, plenty of fresh water- especially in winter.
I make a point of adding pro-biotics to their food on occasion. I don’t know if there is an optimal spacing for this. Once a week or so is probably fine, and can be adjusted to personal preferences. I also toss in a little raw goats milk once in a while- which they really like. Again, the raw milk has a LOT of healthy bacteria and enzymes.
If you have a horse that has a predisposition to colic, I think some things should be done regularly. Preventatively. In winter, I add a handful of bran into their grain. Roughage. I also add linseed (flaxseed) as it is a rich addition of nutrients and also mucilage (it gets a “gooey” factor). This gooeyness or slippery-ness helps to coat and soothe the intestines and support it in flushing out obstructions.
Adding a small handful of salt during winter is also beneficial, as this will encourage them to drink more in the colder months when they may not care for the colder water. Adding apple cider vinegar to their water is beneficial. It helps body PH levels, and has a lot of beneficial healthful qualities overall.
In the event of a stomach ache.. the distress that indicates a colicky situation.. I administer a recipe/ concoction of a few herbs. I have yet to need to call the vet- this is especially true when caught early on. This is why it is so important to know your horses- to recognise something unusual. My one horse, Jazz, tends to get a colicky condition- and he will stand for a few minutes with one of his back legs out at an odd angle. when I see this, I reach for the herbs immediately.
The nice thing about using herbs to treat conditions, is that in most instances, using the herbs is not going to do harm. If the horse does not have colic, the herbs are still beneficial for their body. The worst I have had happen is a slight bout of watery manure.. as all of the lubricating herbs worked their magic. This was more in the beginning, when Jazz was having an episode, and I continued to dose him lightly every 30 minutes for 2-3 hours, until I saw complete recovery.
What I use:
there are 3-4 herbs that have very good mucilaginous properties. Comfrey root is probably the best. If you dig up a comfrey root, you will understand this immediately. put a little piece in your mouth. It feels, well.. like snot. that slimy-gooey but not greasy feeling that’s just plain.. weird!
Marshmallow is also good. It is also mucilaginous, but not quite as much as comfrey. So is slippery elm, which I also use. Both comfrey and slippery elm, also have a LOT of nourishing aspects- rich in minerals and other healing properties. All of them coat, soothe, repair and restore.
The other plant I use as slightly separate component is peppermint. Peppermint helps to break up gas.Ginger is also a good herb to add into the mix. Ginger is warming and stimulating as well as soothing. These two combine well together.
If I am using just two herbs- it’s comfrey and peppermint. Those two are the base and staple for treatment. I generally try to keep a quart mason jar of each set up- especially during the winter.
Setting up herbs is very easy- forget all the intricate instructions you might read about ratios etc. Get a mason jar, fill it with Comfrey root, chopped into small pieces preferably. Fill jar with brandy. do NOT tighten lid for the 1st 24 hours, just in case. This is especially true if you buy/ use dried herbs. Dried herbs expand, and can/ will burst the jar.
I usually use just comfrey root for colic- but the leaves also contain a good amount of goo-factor.
I generally set up jars for each herb/ plant separate- but there is no reason you can’t combine a formula into one jar. The jar usually needs several weeks for the brandy to draw out the properties. You can test them yourself. The tincture/ extract will begin to taste more like peppermint, or ginger, or slippery.. than brandy.
BTW- the brandy is also warming and stimulating and helps treat the colic as well. The tinctures/ extracts have a shelf life of several years.. I believe 5 yrs is the standard accepted shelf life. I think they are still good beyond that.. but they may lose a little of their potency the longer they are left to sit after that. Store the jars away from direct sunlight, or in opaque, non-clear glass.
IN A PINCH- if you have a colic and do not have “seasoned” ready herbs.. I have taken the plants, and sped up the process, by placing the plants with brandy, into a cuisinart and pureeing the crap out of it… and using the concoction right in the moment. Again, you can do a taste-test to check.
I bought a 1 OZ syringe from… somewhere I can’t remember. most vets should have them, online suppliers should also have them. I can dig up resources if needed. Administering them is pretty easy. And Jazz in particular now knows that the syringe will be Brandy, and not something nasty or unpleasant.. (we can have the AA intervention later:) so getting it into him is not as difficult as one might anticipate. Administering is pretty similar to a wormer.. with less argument once they know this is waayyy better than wormer paste. 🙂
Depending on the severity, and how quickly I have caught the colic, I might start with 1 oz every 15 minutes to 30 minutes. Again- I think every horse is different and that each owner needs to find the combo and dosage that is optimal.
Additionally- I will also rub down sides and belly with lineament- as this is also stimulating, and can help to break up gas and ease the distress. Rubbing and massaging can also help in the process, provided the horse is not in extreme, kicking, frantic distress– in that case.. dose horse, call the vet.
I am an Education Specialist, Health Coach and Author. I work with aspects of the teachings I have learned from Andean shamanic and cosmology, to health, nutrition and education. Everything is energy. Energy must flow. Like water, when it does not flow, it stagnates and is not healthy. These techniques help your life to flow. I have been initiated into many of the ancient lineages and learned ceremonies, rites of passage and healing techniques. I have worked as a healer and done workshops and taught some of these aspects – passing the teachings on.
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