How to prevent sand colic in horses

walmart psyllium fiber therapyWhen we first moved to Florida, I gave the horses sand colic remedies for the first few months. These are expensive products you buy from the feed store and add to their grain for one week out of the month. I tried a few products – Sand Clear, Sand Relief and Natural Psyllium Fiber. Other horse owners told me about using the Walmart brand Metamucil knock-off, claiming the horses liked the sugar-free orange flavor best. But my horses disliked the flavor of all the remedies and would not eat their feed. So I was wasting money on sand colic preventatives and losing money on uneaten feed.

My new neighbor from New York is extremely concerned about sand colic in her Arabs. Wouldn’t you think Arabs would have some kind of hereditary predisposition to deal with sand?

But my neighbor’s concerns rubbed off on me and I got worried too.

Yesterday I decided to research this topic in earnest and learned to my delight the very best preventatives for sand colic are:

a. feeding off the ground in feeders and buckets
b. constant free feeding of hay which is much higher in fiber and more digestible than psyllium seed husks

I discovered a very good article by Sandi Lieb, PhD, Associate Professor Emeritus University of Florida regarding a study conducted by the University of Florida on sand colic in horses (http://www.ecmagazine.net/health_pdfs/preventing%20colic.pdf). Some excerpts -

“Studies have shown that traditional methods of preventing sand colic are no more effective than simply feeding an adequate amount of hay.”

“In some areas like Florida, it is almost impossible to keep a horse free from some sand intake. Therefore, the most effective and economical method for keeping sand moving through the horse’s GI tract and to prevent sand buildup is to make sure that their daily feed ration contains a minimum of 1.5% BW (body weight) hay intake (15 lbs/1000 lb horse). Feeding of 20+ lbs (2+% BW) is even more effective and free choice feeding of the forage (pasture or hay) is the best and most natural and has many behavior benefits. If you know that a horse has taken in and is carrying an excess sand load, then it is best to remove the horse from access to any sand and keep it on an ample hay diet for a period of a week to give the accumulated sand time to be evacuated. No advantage was found for applying the three common sand removal treatments tested (mineral oil, wheat bran or psyllium) over a diet of sufficient hay. So save your money trying to use these methods and put it into buying more hay!

hay feeder boxSo, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing – free feeding in my hay feeder and from the net. In addition, I may purchase a rubber mat to put their feed buckets on so when they spill grain they can easily pick up from the mat instead of off the ground (will keep my eyes and ears open for sales on mats).

Here’s info about my feeder: http://www.tricknclick.com/hay-feeder-box/ for anyone who wants to try this less expensive, more natural and proven effective preventative for sand colic.

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