Is the Winter Weather Increasing Colic in Horses?

Written by Friday, 08 January 2016 11:22

We’ve heard reports from a number of horse owners that colic levels have risen recently with many blaming this on the large amounts of rain we’ve had.

Is the large amount of raining causing colic?

We’ve conducted some research into this ourselves and here are our findings:

• Whilst there appears to be no evidence that links excessive rain with colic, temperature changes and the winter weather cause horses to change their routine and eating habits.  Also temperature changes can effect the sugar levels in grass which can effect the gut.  These changes can then lead to colic.

• Winter is a time where colic can increase. The main reasons for this are: changes to the horses diet, water that’s too cold, and reduced movement/exercise time.

• The subject of water consumption appears to be a significant factor.  It’s essential that horses have access to water 24/7 and that the temperature of the water is not too cold. If water temperature is below 7 degrees, a horse will tend to consume less water.  This can then lead to decreasing water and lubrication in the gut, increasing the chance of impaction-induced colic.

• “Stress caused due to the rain” does also appear a factor which can lead to colic.

Tips to reduce the changes of colic in colder months:

• Give horses 24/7 access to water that is at a temperature between 7 – 18 degrees if possible and add more water to hard feeds if possible.

• Keep an eye on the weather. If sudden drops in temperature look likely, manage your horses appropriately i.e. put a rug on them, or bring them in. Equally if temps go up make sure they're not over-heating in too many rugs, as this can lead to dehydration.

• Be aware of how temperature is affecting your pasture. Frosted grass or grass under snow pushes out a lot more sugars. Also, because of unseasonably warm weather we've had in much of the UK the grass has been flushing. It's not only horses prone to laminitis that need to be careful either, as sugars effect the balance of bacteria in the gut.

• Ensure there is access to good shelter.

• Give your horses plenty of good quality roughage. Standing for long periods in the stable without food isn't good for them as horses are trickle feeders and their digestive systems are adapted to be digesting constantly. Hay is also an effective heating fuel.

• Make sure your horses teeth are checked regularly.

• Think about adding a gut balancer which contains pre and pro-biotics to your horses feed as anything that stresses the horse, including changes to management and diet, can change the bacteria population in the horse's gut leading to colic.

• Avoiding long periods in the stable and ensuring that your horse is getting plenty of exercise will help the digestive system stay healthy.


From our research we can't find any evidence to prove that increased rainfall is causing more colic. However, winter weather often changes how we manage our horses and causes them to change eating and drinking habits and this can therefore promote colic. Changes in temperature can also change sugar levels in the grass - so that is something definitely worth monitoring.

Be savvy, keep a close eye on them for any changes in behaviour and ensure your horse has a good water supply, gets enough quality roughage and has plenty of exercise during the winter months.

Abi Rule


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