Okay you have observed some funky behavior from your horse: aggressive rolling (such as rolling when you are trying to lead him); biting his sides, pawing, dull eye seems unfocused, pale gums, horse is not grazing when hay or grass is offered, and seems dull and lethargic overall.
Here’s what to do if you suspect a colic episode:
1.) CALL THE VET. Anything you can do won’t be enough. Medical expertise will be needed. Be sure to tell the vet all you know and ask what you should do while you wait.
2.) STAY CALM. Your horse will pick up your agitation so stay as calm as possible. Talk firmly and quietly. Don’t make sudden movements that would startle or upset your horse. Stay focused on what you need to do. It’s best if you can have someone with you, who can field questions, call the vet, etc… while you deal with your horse.
If people are around you that cannot stay calm, remove them from the area. Take your horse to a peaceful place in view of his friends. Your horse should not be in stall at this point.
3.) WALK THE HORSE ONLY IF YOUR HORSE IS UP FOR IT! Too many people keep forcing the horse to walk when he is totally exhausted from the pain. If your horse is willing to stand quietly or even LAY DOWN WITHOUT ROLLING that is okay!
Too many folks have it wrong about the horse laying down. If your colic episode has been going on for a long period of time, your horse needs his rest.
4.) GUT SOUNDS. By all means listen, but unless you are a vet take it all with a grain of salt. Only a vet – or a VERY EXPERIENCED horse person is going to know what those sounds mean. Honestly, I’ve had people tell me all sorts of crap about gut sounds that was totally wrong. You can take other vitals while you wait: respiration, temp, and look at gums.
5.) DON’T GIVE YOUR HORSE ANYTHING — UNLESS THE VET HAS OKAYED IT. When you talk with the vet let him/her know what you have on hand, if anything. Always ask if what you want to do is okay. Generally, they will tell you no and ask you to wait for their arrival.
I would have been authorized to give Banamine to Dear One during her episode because the vet knew me and knew we were in a dire attack. However, most times the vet does not want anything given as he/she wants to expect the horse completely w/o any artificial changes.
6.) TTOUCHES that might help (Linda Tellington-Jones). These are easy to learn and you can’t “goof it up” so they are worth knowing. Ear strokes (activates acpuncture areas that relieve pain and deal with shock); Nostril work (helps horse breath and relax, while aiding in placing the tube later); Mouth work (relaxes horse and helps them release pain); tail work (can relax the hindquarters and rectum); belly lifts (takes two people and a towel, can relax and release pain in the gut as well as provide support); and Laying Leopard TTouches on the stomach and ribcage (can help relax and release pain).
7.) If you suspect this is a LIFE THREATENING COLIC – get someone to start hitching up the horse trailer. A stock trailer or another that is large where your horse can move around is preferred over a narrow stand up trailer. Having the trailer ready to go once you and your vet makes the decision to transport would make things go faster, and if later you have to unhitch well that isn’t a big deal!
What to expect when the Vet arrives:
1.) Listen to the gut
2.) Listen to respiration.
3.) Take temperature.
4.) Inspect the gums.
If you know your first aid for horses you can do some of this yourself although the vet will re-check it all.
Once he/she makes an evaluation, and if this is a mild attack, most likely this is what wil happen:
1.) Horse is given Banamine.
2.) Horse is “oiled” – where a tube is slid down the nostril and the throat to introduce oil into the intestinal tract.
3.) Observation. Mostly a horse will return to normal at this point. However, with Banamine, you need to keep the horse isolated from his buddies, and observe for the next 8-12 hours. I like to put the horse into a dry lot where I can observe passing of stools, as opposed to a stall where he could get cast or go down without help.
Although colic IS scary, most cases recover quickly. The big thing is to catch it early and if possible change the environment so the chance of it happening again is reduced.