A horse is a gut on legs. Not only because they eat so much but because their gut is SOOO sensitive. How many times do you hear or read that a wonderful horse had to be euthanasied because of colic? Too many, and the worse part is that, in most cases, this could be avoided. However we do not want to get to the point when the horse has been rolling in pain for hours, causing an irreparable twisted bowel, we want to never go there.

Avoiding Digestive Problems

Daily Care
For a daily care of the horse’s gut it is a good idea to add half a cup of cider vinegar to the horse’s feed once a day. Make your own herbal vinegar, if you are growing your own herbs, this is a good way to use the surplus, or buy them dry so they are always handy. The idea is to put the herbs in an empty bottle and when it is full of herbs, fill it again with the vinegar. The best herbs for the digestive system are:
Wormwood (*)
St Mary’s Thistle
Dandelion Leaf
Sage (**)
You don’t need to put all of them in the bottle a combination of three will be fine.

CAUTION: * Wormwood is excellent for both digestion and to keep worms at bay, but don’t put more than 20gms of Wormwood to 2 litres of vinegar. **If you have a breeding mare, go easy on the Sage because of its oestrogenic qualities.

By the way While you are mixing the cider vinegar potion, add a bulb or two of GARLIC, roughly crushed, or a cup of garlic granules. It is a wonderful antibacterial and keeps worms at bay and worms damage the gut.

Depending on the amount of feed and the condition of your horse, give him/her a quarter of a cup of OIL (sunflower, maize or olive –depending on the state of your bank account) with the feed once a day. This stimulates bile release and therefore improves digestion.

Don’t use bran! Bran is a calcium antagonist and the gut needs proper calcium intake to function properly. So, if your horse has a sensitive gut, don’t give him/her bran.
Don’t use molasses! Molasses increase the sugar content in the gut, causing fermentation and therefore colic. It does not matter that molasses is rich in vitamin B, a sensitive gut should never have molasses.

Improve the gastrointestinal flora Once or twice a year, your horse should get a course (1 kilo) of probiotics (such as Protexin) to make sure his gut has a good population of the good flora. Give quarter of a cup with each feed until you’ve completed the course.

The travelling blues I don’t know about your horse, but my Andalusian gelding, Don Diego, is a really, really cool horse, not much fazes him (after all he is a horse). However, even this phlegmatic creature used to get a serious case of the runs whenever we went to a clinic. So I devised this little protocol:

The day before the trip, feed the horse no grain but stew about one kilo of apples in a little water and add about five Cinnamon quills. Cool down, remove Cinnamon and add to chaff.
During the clinic, keep using the cinnamon, by simply making a tea with five quills in a mug of boiling water. If there are facilities to cook apples, use them and give him half a kilo of stewed (not raw) apples per day.

Boiled Barley, because of its high mucilage content is very soothing to the gut. Use steam flaked barley (the one without molasses), and soak it in hot water overnight, to release the mucilage. This is a better grain to take to a clinic and it will keep your horse relaxed too.

Keep up the stewed apples/cinnamon/barley regime for a day or two when you are back home.

My beautiful Diego has never soiled his beautiful Andalusian tail since!

Crisis treatment What if it is too late for prevention? Your horse is lying down, with laboured breathing, and no sound emerges from its belly. While you are waiting for the vet, you know to walk your horse, but what you can also do is present her/him with “a cup of tea”. There are three herbs that will stimulate digestion in this case: chamomile, peppermint and fennel. My favourite is chamomile because it relaxes the gut and stimulates digestion.

Boil one litre of water and pour it over two handfuls of chamomile or peppermint or fennel.
Let this brew for 15mns.
Strain, add two tablespoons of honey, add another three litres of room temperature water and offer to the horse.
Keep walking.
DON’T give the horse oil, usually it only compounds the blockage.

If you have access to an equine acupuncturist, call them, in my experience colic, in its early stages, is really helped by acupuncture.
The gut and laminitis There are many causes of laminitis, but we all know that a greedy pony will founder. The reason is that excessive sugars in the gut cause a build up of toxins which in turn disturb the circulation causing peripheral inflammation, ie: laminitis. To keep your horse safe from nutritionally induced laminitis, it is important to keep his gut working well and free from inflammation; therefore all of the above information on the gut should be observed for laminitis prevention.

Dr ET Brightlight
Elyane is available for telephonic consultations: 02- 9389 6344
Copyright Dr Brightlight (C) 2004

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only – and is not intended to replace your vets advice or services. Country Park strongly urges that if your animal is sick, showing signs of colic or any distress you contact your vet straight away.

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