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a Senior Horse
Hill doesn't do endorsements!
I've received quite a number of questions over the last few months about feeding
psyllium for sand colic prevention.
Sand colic is an intestinal irritation or impaction caused by a horse ingesting
sand or dirt along with its feed. It is most common in regions with sandy
soils and with horses that graze sandy pastures or are fed hay on the ground.
Horses naturally rid their intestines of a certain amount of sand with the feces.
However, when the amount of sand ingested is greater than the natural elimination
process can handle, mechanical obstruction or inflammation can occur.
Symptoms of chronic sand colic are usually mild: depression, slightly elevated
heart and respiratory rates. There may be diarrhea, restlessness, pawing,
laying down, rolling, kicking, biting flanks or abdomen or sweating. The
horse might assume the urination posture without urinating or might not eat, drink
or have normal bowel movements. Acute sand colic symptoms are an intensification
of the above symptoms. A veterinarian should be called in all cases of acute
To prevent sand colic, provide a large sand-free eating area. Areas directly
under feeders should be concrete, planks or preferably, rubber mats. All
hay should be carefully inspected for dust, dirt, and mold. Horses should
be provided with clean, fresh drinking water at all times and have access to salt
Does your horse eat sand? One way to find out is to collect one fecal
pile that has not contacted the soil. This is best accomplished from a stall
with rubber mats (its OK if bedding is stuck to the feces) or when the horse is
in cross ties on mats. Place the feces in a five gallon pail and fill it
with water. Stir with a sweat scraper until the feces has broken apart and
is uniformly distributed through the water. Tip the bucket, letting the
green slurry go down the wash rack drain. Stop when you reach the solid
material at the bottom of the bucket. Repeat the washing and dumping process
until all that you have is sand at the bottom of the pail. If you come up
with 1/8 cup of sand or more from one bowel movement, don't you wonder just how
much more sand is still at the bottom of your horse's intestine?
Many veterinarians in the sandy areas of the Pacific Coast, Florida and the southwest
prescribe periodic doses of psyllium husks products as a preventive measure.
Because Psyllium Hydrophilic Mucliloid contains 80% water soluble fiber, it has
the potential to capture and move sand through a horse's digestive system.
Although there is no research to date that proves or disproves the effectiveness
of psyllium in collecting and removing sand from the intestines, many veterinarians
(including mine!) say that besides proper management, the only tool we have is
On contact with fluids, psyllium swells and becomes a bulky, mucous mass.
That's why grain should never be wetted in an attempt to get the psyllium to "stick"
to it. The result would be an ineffective gluey mass which 99% of all horses
would refuse anyway. The hydrophilic characteristic of psyllium is also
the reason feeders require more cleaning when psyllium products are fed.
The horse's saliva starts the gel-making process and the feeders invariably get
a tapioca-like coating. To prevent choke when feeding any psyllium product,
a horse should have access to water and horses that bolt their grain should be
slowed down with large stones or wafers in the feed.
Psyllium products should be stored below 86 degrees Fahrenheit and the jar or
bucket should be sealed tightly to prevent moisture absorption from humidity.
The psyllium regimen I use is 4 ounces per day, 5 days in a row, once a month.
Psyllium comes in pellets (Equi-Aid), crumbles (Farnam's SandClear 99), flake
(Gateway SU-PER Psyllium), or powder. Pellets are convenient but some horses sort
them out or leave the entire grain ration. Flake and powder sift to the bottom
and are often left in the feed dish.
You can bind psyllium flake or powder to the grain ration with 2 ounces of molasses
or corn oil but never water or you'll get a gluey mess. The best sequence I've
found is: measure grain into pail, add oil, stir so oil is distributed uniformly
over the grain, then add the psyllium flake or power. Stir until it sticks
and feed right away. Buy a small amount of a psyllium product at your feed
store, tack store, or through a mail order veterinary supply catalog. Try
it out on your horse to be sure he will eat it before you purchase a large quantity.
I've been asked if you can use the human product Metamucil and you sure can but
it is more expensive and might not be palatable for your horse. There are
a number of equine psyllium products on the market that are more cost effective.
Once you find a product that works for you, you can buy it in 20-50 pound containers.
Additional tip: For applying corn oil to grain so the psyllium flake
you sprinkle sticks, set up a 40 or 50 oz. ketchup bottle with a large pump.
Keep your eye on the large ketchup bottles in your grocery store. Sometimes
they will come with a pump taped to the side of the bottle, other times there
will be an offer for you to send $1 for a pump to fit the bottle. It is
a handy way to serve up a measure of oil without mess.
After 5 days of feeding the psyllium, be sure to scrub the grain pails and feeders.
OUR RECENT ARTICLES
a roundup of the most recent articles by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh, the
1999 Horse & Rider:
"Winter Horse Care" p. 38
1999 Western Horseman: "Wise Up on Winter Blanketing"
1999 Horse & Rider:
"To Clip or Not to Clip" p. 30
1999 Horse & Rider:
"Planning an Indoor Arena" p. 66
2000 Horse & Rider:
"Save That Tail" p. 41
Whew! I got tired all over again writing about all the work we have been
doing, but you know, even though I have my share of sore muscles this week, it's
worth it. As far as I am concerned, life with horses is the best one going
and there is nothing so satisfying as a job well done.
my Senior Horse
My reward and one of my favorite things to do each day is to take a relaxing ride
on my 25 year old mare Zinger (more on her in the April newsletter).
Regular work at the walk is one of the best exercise programs for the senior horse.
About mid-morning, I saddle up Zinger and we mosey for about 45 minutes. We check
fences in our foothills pastures, enjoy the wildlife and scenery, and I warm up
for more active riding on other horses later. It is one of my favorite times of
the day and I am providing Zinger with a regular exercise program that keeps her
interest and strengthens her against injury.
Hill doesn't do endorsements!
I don't accept payment to recommend or endorse any horse products in my
articles, books or this newsletter. I do, however, mention names of products
that I am currently using and find satisfactory. I do this to give you a
starting point or help narrow the field. Often finding the right product
or piece of tack the answer to your training or horsekeeping problem.
The Senior Horse
it for this month.
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