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Colic is one of the most common emergency problems in the horse.

Despite many years of research and development of new methods of diagnosing and treating colic, it remains a major cause of death in the horse. It is one of the few conditions in the horse that is a genuine emergency.

Most cases can be resolved relatively quickly with appropriate treatment, but some will be critical with potentially severe consequences. Conditions that affect the blood supply to the intestine become a race against time, and the earlier the problem is recognised and treated, the better the chance of survival.

The information below discusses the wide range of issues related to colic and has been produced from the evidence, recommendations and involvement of veterinary surgeons, horse owners and original research conducted by The University of Nottingham.

The Welfare Team and the University of Nottingham are delighted to offer a new pocket-sized reference guide for our REACT Now to beat Colic campaign. Request yours please contact the Welfare team on 02476 840517 or email


Warning: some leaflets contain surgical photos

Recognising the signs of colic

What is colic?

Recognising the signs of colic
Reducing the risk of colic

Emergency decision making

Normal temperature, pulse and respiration parameters in adult horses

Waiting for the vet to arrive

What will my vet do if my horse has colic?

What will my vet do if my horse has colic?   Rectal examination
  Nasogastric intubation


What happens at referral?

How to help your horse - a quick guide

Poster and emergency numbers




The British Horse Society and The University of Nottingham thank all those involved with the production of the colic information. The leaflets have been written and reviewed by:

  • Professor Sarah Freeman, Dr John Burford, Dr Adelle Bowden and Professor Gary England – School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, The University of Nottingham
  • Professor Tim Mair – Bell Equine Clinic
  • Professor Debbie Archer – University of Liverpool
  • The British Horse Society Welfare & Education Teams

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