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ColiCare™ Presents: Colic 101

Everything you need to know to help keep your horse’s digestive system balanced and healthy.

What is colic?

Colic is a general, catch-all term used to refer to any sort of abdominal pain in horses (in layman’s terms, it’s a belly ache).

While some cases may be so mild that you don’t even notice, a severe case of colic is a medical emergency. In fact, colic is responsible for more deaths in horses than any other condition.

Yikes! What can I do?

The best thing you can do for your horse is get educated (this article is a great place to start!). Knowing the risk factors can help you make smart management and dietary changes. Learning the warning signs can help you catch an episode early on, improving your horse’s chances of recovery. Last but not least, there are several supplement ingredients that have been clinically studied for their effect on digestive health.

Is my horse at risk?

The following risk factors have been proven* to increase a horse’s chances of experiencing a colic episode.

RISK: Increased stall time

A sudden increase in stall time, like an injured horse put on stall rest, can cause disruptions in normal digestive processes.

Smart Tip:

Maximize turnout time to keep your horse moving (and ideally grazing) to support normal gut motility. If you can’t turn out, try hand-walking and hand-grazing to mimic that natural meandering behavior.

RISK: Hay and grain changes

Changing your horse’s grain (type or amount) increases his risk of colic up to five times, while changes in hay increase the risk of colic a startling 10 times!

Smart Tip:

Keep your horse’s diet as consistent as possible. If you have to change feed or hay, make the change as gradually as you can (ideally over 7-10 days), and look for a digestive health supplement with yeast, probiotics and enzymes, which help keep the microbes of the hindgut happy during feed transitions.

RISK: Parasites

Heavy parasite loads may cause intestinal inflammation, predisposing horses to GI disturbance.

Smart Tip:

Keep your horse on a deworming program tailored to his individual needs.

RISK: Change in activity level

Changing your horse’s exercise routine (whether increasing or decreasing workload) has been linked to digestive upset.

Smart Tip:

Once again, it’s best to make changes as slowly as possible, and consider adding a digestive health supplement for support.

RISK: Ingesting sand

Horses turned out on sandy soil can accidentally take in sand, which builds up in the horse’s digestive tract and may cause loose stool and other digestive upset.

Smart Tip:

Research shows providing psyllium together with probiotics and prebiotics (like the combination in SmartSand Purge improves fecal sand clearance.

RISK: Dehydration

Healthy hydration is essential for healthy digestion. Without adequate water intake, horses may be at a greater risk for GI trouble, including impaction.

Smart Tip:

Make sure your horse always has clean, fresh water. If he’s a poor drinker or heavy sweater, add salt or an electrolyte like SmartLytes® Pellets.

*Cohen ND, Factors predisposing to colic, 8th Congress on Equine Medicine and Surgery, 2003 White NA, Equine Colic II: Causes and risks for colic, 52nd Annual Convention of AAEP, 2006.

Research shows that…

…prebiotics can reduce disruption in the cecum and colon and inhibit the absorption of harmful bacteria in the hindgut.

digestive enzymes can increase the proper digestion of sugars and starches in the foregut, reducing the incidence of hindgut acidosis (which may lead to colic and laminitis).

…yeast can improve fiber digestion and assist the beneficial bacteria of the cecum in adjusting to feed changes.

Warning signs of colic

Tell-tale signs of potential GI upset:

  • Pawing
  • Looking at, kicking or biting abdomen
  • Repeatedly lying down and getting up
  • Sitting in a dog-like position or lying on the back
  • Lip curling (Flehmen response)
  • Lack of bowel movements
  • Reduced or absent gut sounds
  • Not eating or drinking
  • Stretching out as if to urinate
  • Elevated respiratory rate
  • Elevated heart rate

Digestive Support Just Got Smarter

Now that you know more about the risk factors and warning signs of colic, learn how you can help keep your horse’s digestive system healthy.

Order SmartDigest Ultra in SmartPaks

and your horse may be eligible for up to $7500 of colic surgery reimbursement.

SmartDigest® Ultra Powder

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(746 reviews)

What we put in:

  • Expertise from vets, nutritionists and supplement experts
  • Dozens of palatability tests to ensure it pleases picky eaters
  • Probiotics, L-Glutamine and other specialized ingredients for a healthy and balanced digestive tract
  • Clinically studied ingredients:
    • Preboitics, proven to reduce disruption in the cecum and colon
    • Yeast, shown to improve fiber digestion and assist the beneficial bacteria of the cecum
    • Enzymes, demonstrated to increase the proper digestion of starch in the foregut

What you get out:

  • A supplement rated 4.7 stars based on over 450 reviews
  • A comprehensive digestive health supplement that 95% if riders would recommend to a friend
  • Up to $7500 of colic surgery reimbursement. Learn more at
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26 comments on “ColiCare™ Presents: Colic 101
  1. Elisha Trombley says:

    My 17 year old TB gelding has several gas colic episodes every winter. He is on pasture and we try to keep everything the same food wise all year round. Last year we started adding alfalfa pellets for the antacid effect and this year I’ve added U-guard to my SmartPaks (vet’s suggestion), but he just had his second episode this winter. Would SmartGut or SmartDigest be a better choice…and what is the difference between the two?

    • Bo says:

      Hello, I saw your question and thought maybe this could help. I would make sure he is blanketed well, and has access to safe shelter (e.g. no one hogs it from him), and a heated water trough. (They say horses prefer to drink more warm water in winter). Try soaking his feed and adding wet hay stretcher pellets and put it in a large, wide flat ground bucket (vs. a deep bucket too high up). It could help food go down much more naturally. Good luck! 🙂

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Elisha, thanks for your question. We’re glad to hear that you are working closely with your veterinarian to address your horse’s digestive issues. In regards to SmartGut compared to SmartDigest, these two formulas work on different parts of the digestive tract. SmartGut is intended to support stomach health and normal healing of the stomach lining, whereas SmartDigest is targeted towards hindgut health and supporting normal digestion. Based on your description, we would recommend you consider SmartDigest Ultra, which provides a comprehensive selection of ingredients to help manage digestive stress. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

      SmartDigest Ultra:

  2. Crystal says:

    My mare has had issues with impaction colic twice this year. Before it happens she slows down on water intake and will not drink amything. Is it ok to add both the SmartLytes and SmartDigest Ultra? She isn’t on any other supplements. I soak her hay and she has salt and water available at all times and isn’t stalled.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Crystal – Thanks for your question. SmartLytes and SmartDigest Ultra can be fed together, and in fact many of our customers do feed both products for healthy hydration and happy hindguts.

  3. Kate says:

    Hi, my ottb just had an impaction colic episode. We were told that supplements like smartgut, smart digest and smart lytes would be good for him. After a scope we found out he has ulcers too. Is it okay to feed him smartgut, smart digest and Ugard pellets ? Along with his electrolytes?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Kate – We’re glad to hear that you’re working closely with your veterinarian to address your horse’s health issues. For comprehensive hindgut support, we recommend you consider switching to SmartDigest Ultra, which offers a higher level of active ingredients for horses with sensitive digestive tracts. For gastric or stomach issues, we also recommend that you consider switching to SmartGut Ultra, rather than adding an additional supplement such as U-Gard. This research-backed formula offers the ultimate level of support for horses with gastric issues. Both of these products can be fed in addition to SmartLytes. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your program further, please feel free to contact our Supplement Experts at 1-800-461-8898.

  4. Glorya says:

    I have purchased a new horse and I will be moving here in a week and a half. I have made arrangements to get a 2 bags of her current feed and 2 bales of her current hay. Is there any product that you would suggest that would help with her transition?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      First of all, good for you for realizing that a change of barns and feed can put extra stress on your horse! Where these changes can pose certain risks, we would strongly encourage you to be in close contact with your veterinarian during your horse’s transition, so that you can establish the best program for slowly introducing him to his new home and food sources. You could also consider adding a digestive health supplement like SmartDigest Ultra ( which provides ingredients like prebiotics which have been proven to reduce disruption in the hindgut. I’ve also included a link to our Webinar talking all about digestive health in horses! ( I hope that’s helpful! – SmartPaker Casey

  5. Julie Jolma says:

    Hi —

    I have a uveitis affected horse that is on 1 gram of bute every day. I feet him smartgut each day. My second horse always has had a gurgle sound (loud) in his gut. I added Smartgut to his feed too. Should I be giving him Smartdigest instead? I am feeding the buted horse Smartgut to prevent ulcers. Any ideas? Thanks!!!

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Julie, thanks for your question! In regard to your horse receiving Bute every day, it’s smart of you to consider the potential ramifications on the stomach. The SmartGut you are feeding is designed to support stomach health, so that selection does make sense. Just make sure your veterinarian is in the loop about your horse’s situation and the best way to manage him or her. For your second horse, you actually should be able to hear some of those ‘gut sounds’, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing that you are hearing a gurgling sort of noise. Of course, the best solution is to have a conversation with your veterinarian about what you are noticing in your horse, so if you haven’t already spoke with your vet, we would recommend you start there! – SmartPaker Casey

  6. Caitlin says:

    I have a horse on stall rest. The vet prescribed him Omeprazole in order to ward off ulcers. I would like to give him Smart-Digest Ultra as well, but is it ok to give it to him in combination with Omeprazole?

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Caitlin, it’s fantastic that you’re working with your veterinarian to help support your horse through stall rest. There is no reason why you couldn’t combine SmartDigest Ultra with an omeprazole product like GastroGard, just do realize that they would be targeting different areas of the horse’s digestive tract. SmartDigest Ultra contains ingredients such as prebiotics, yeast and enzymes to help manage digestive stress in the hindgut. This type of support would absolutely be appropriate for a horse that was about to undergo a change in activity level by going on stall rest. – SmartPaker Casey

  7. claudia says:

    Smart digest ULTRA have a 29 year old gelding had diagea bad and I have to say after I called you people and got told take smart digest ultra it worked with in one day. He is so happy now and I am so happy that I could help him. Thanks smart Pack

  8. claudia says:

    smart digest Ultra works wunderfull

  9. Roger says:

    I have to keep my horse in a stall for until we sale our home and buy a place with pasture. He has no known health problems but I have lost 4 horses to colic in the past six years. All of them were stall kept show horses. I feed Three flakes of hay two times per day along with two scoops of feed per day. I also keep their water fresh and full. Would you recommend that I use smart digest just for pre cautions

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Roger, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with colic. Any time you’re concerned about your horse’s health, it’s crucial to be working with your veterinarian. That being said, digestive health supplements can help to manage digestive disturbance in the hindgut, and so these products are excellent to have on board to support healthy digestive function in your horse. Some other strategies you can consider are trying to extend how many hours per day your horse has hay in front of him, or trying to slowly introduce more turnout. Horses are “trickle-feeders” meaning they’re designed to eat small amounts over long periods of time, so you might have luck with something like a small hole hay net to slow down his eating and extend how long the forage is in front of him. You mentioned that you’ll eventually be moving your horse to where pasture turnout is accessible which is great! Just keep in mind that changes in activity level (like a sudden increase in turnout time) as well as feed changes (like going from little or no pasture, to full pasture) will both increase a horse’s risk of colic. Try to introduce these changes gradually, and that would also be an excellent time to support your horse with a digestive health supplement! – SmartPaker Casey

  10. Melanie says:

    I have always been a believer in probiotics. I add for times of stress, when giving antibiotics or bouts of diarrhea. But I have always wondered how they work when the high acid of the stomach kills most, if not all microorganisms. How do they make it to the hind gut to be of use?


    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Melanie, what a thoughtful question! Think about it this way: foals are born without hardly any microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoa) in their intestines to help them break down food. However, through the process of coprophagy (eating feces) and just having their mouths on the ground, their mom, and other surfaces, they ingest lots and lots of “good bugs” which colonize the stomach, small intestine, cecum, and large colon. If stomach acid killed most or all microorganisms, horses would have sterile GI tracts and not be the excellent hindgut fermenters they are! – SmartPaker Casey

  11. Annie says:

    Hi my horse does not have issues with colic but I’m always petrified when I leave the stable he’s gonna get it he is 30 years old and a Tennessee walking horse at my stable you have to pay extra to have the stable hands feed your horse something special (like a smartpak) unless if it is truly needed such as a supplement or two but I can’t afford paying for it while paying for my lessons and board but I can’t get a job because I’m under 16. Help please.

  12. Annie says:

    Hi my horse is a 30 year old Tennessee walking horse but he doesn’t have colic trouble but every time I leave the stable I’m petrified He is gonna get it and at my stable you have to pay extra for the stable hand’s to feed your horse something special like a smartpak unless if it’s a supplement only if it’s truly needed and only like one or two but I can’t afford it while paying for board and my lessons but I can’t earn money well because I’m under 16 and can’t get a job. please help.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Annie, we’re sorry to hear about your predicament! You’re clearly doing something right to have a 30 year old horse that is still going strong! Even if supplements are not a part of your horse budget at the moment, there are still things you can do to help support his digestive health. Like the article talks about, be sure to make any feed changes gradually, try to avoid drastic changes in exercise, and keep an open line of communication with your veterinarian. Another option you could consider is SmartDigest Ultra Paste (, which you could give to your horse for extra support on days when there is extra stress, such as when you leave the farm. – SmartPaker Casey

  13. Annie says:

    Hello again, my grandmother’s birthday is coming up and she really likes smartgut and smartdigest ultra for her horse but I don’t know which one would be better for her horse he is a 11 year old Missouri fox trotter.

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Hi Annie,
      We’re thrilled to hear that your Grandmother likes SmartGut and SmartDigest Ultra! In order to make sure she has the perfect supplement for her situation, she should really call in for a supplement consultation. Thanks again and have a great ride – Dr. Lydia Gray

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