When I lived just north of Santa Barbara, California in the Santa Ynez Valley, it was commonly called pneumonia junction or the colic capital. The vast changes in weather and temperature that have now made this area one of the premier wine appellations in the state, used to routinely wreak havoc with the horses that were so prevalent there in the 1980s-2000s.
In fact it wasn’t the weather changes that cause colic in the horses but the ways in which the horses (and their people) changed their behavior.
- Drinking less. The number one thing to remember is when you have a drastic temperature drop be sure your horse is drinking. When the temperature suddenly drops and buckets freeze (or the water in them gets very cold), horses don’t drink as much. Dehydration can be a major factor in impaction colic. An easy fix is to give your horses warm water. This can be accomplished by using a heated bucket, an immersible livestock water heater or if you have hot water in your barn attach your hose to the faucet and give them a nice warm drink.
- Eating less. A sudden heat wave or cold front can make horses uncomfortable, and if they have changed their drinking pattern they may also they may pick at their hay instead of eating at their normal pace. Horses are grazers and they need a constant influx of the fiber they get from hay or grass.
- Moving less. An overheated horse is likely to move less, as is a horse who is stalled more than normal due to bad weather. Again horses are natural grazers and they need movement to keep their food moving through their digestive system. You may not feel like riding when it is really cold but at least get your horse out and walk it will warm you and your horse even if it is just up and down the barn aisle.
- Feeding more grain. People tend to think their horses needs a little something extra in a cold snap and we have a tendency to increase horses’ grain rations too much in response to cold weather. A slight increase can be helpful to older horses or those with high metabolisms. But a diet suddenly high in concentrates can have a negative impact on your equine friend’s digestive system.
Temperature changes don’t cause horses to colic, but a drastic temperature may change a horse’s eating, drinking, and movement patterns to alter dramatically.
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