The leading cause of death in horses is colic. Colic is a general term that means abdominal pain. This can range from relatively simple gas build up in the intestines to impactions and serious torsions and obstructions that can require surgery. A horse that will not eat is often the first thing that may be noticed. Sudden changes in management are often to blame for colic (these include changes in the feed or water or exercise). I recommend the following steps for colic prevention.
First, establish an effective deworming program. This should include fecal tests to determine the eggs per gram of each individual horse, and strategic use of appropriate deworming products (see recommended deworming schedule). Twice weekly paddock cleaning will also reduce the parasite load.
The second step to help prevent colic is ensuring that the horse continues to drink a sufficient amount of water, even when the weather and exercise programs change. This is accomplished by making certain that salt and fresh water is always available for the horse. Loose table salt should be added to the feed if the horse does not consume the salt voluntarily. A horse might need up to 4 tablespoons of salt daily. A fist sized chunk of mineral salt in the feed dish can encourage salt consumption for horses that do not like to lick a block of salt.
The third preventative step is regular oral exams and corrective dentistry, if needed, to ensure that the horse is able to grind his food effectively. Preventive dentistry is one of the most valuable things that can be done to safeguard a horse’s long term health.
The fourth step is promoting gut health with psyllium. Psyllium acts as a colloid that helps regulate water balance in the intestinal tract, and also is the most effective prebiotic for horses. It is commonly marketed as a sand treatment. A regular preventative dose of psyllium weekly ("Psyllium Sunday") and additional doses of psyllium whenever the weather changes or a change in manure is noticed could help prevent colic.