BarnManager Horse Health Series: An Owner’s Guide to Colic Surgery Recovery

Every owner dreads having to decide whether or not to send their horse onto the surgical table for colic surgery. Before that difficult moment occurs, it is important that the horse’s owner or caretaker understands what to expect throughout the recovery process. Keep reading to find out what you need to know about colic surgery recovery from board-certified equine surgeon Dr. Weston Davis of Palm Beach Equine Clinic in Wellington, FL.

Stages After Surgery

Immediately Post-Surgery

As soon as a horse is up and returns to its stall at the veterinary clinic where the surgery was performed, careful monitoring begins, including physical health evaluations, bloodwork, and often, advanced imaging. Physical exams will be conducted at least four times per day to evaluate the incision and check for any signs of fever, laminitis, lethargy, and to ensure good hydration status. An abdominal ultrasound may be done several times per day to check the health of the gut, and a tube may be passed into the stomach to check for reflux and accumulating fluid.

Before the horse can be discharged, it must be regularly passing manure and back on a semi-normal diet.

Returning Home

Veterinarians often recommend the use of an elastic belly band to support the horse’s incision site during transport from the clinic and while recovering at home. Different types of belly bands offer varying levels of support. Some simply provide skin protection, while others are able to support the healing of the abdominal wall.

Two Weeks Post-Surgery 

Photo by Jump Media

At the 12-to-14-day benchmark, the sutures will be removed from the horse’s incision site. The incision site is continuously checked for signs of swelling, small hernias, and infection. 

At-Home Recovery

When the horse is home, the priority is to continue monitoring the incision and return them to a normal diet if that has not already been accomplished.

The first two weeks of recovery after the horse has returned home is spent on stall rest with free-choice water and hand grazing. After this period, the horse can spend a month being turned out in a small paddock or kept in a turn-out stall. They normally return to full turnout during the third month. Hand-walking and grazing is permittable during all stages of the at-home recovery process. After the horse has been home for three months, the horse is likely to be approved for riding.

Generally, when a horse reaches the six-month mark in their recovery, the risk of adverse internal complications is very low, and the horse can return to full training under saddle.

When to Call the Vet?

After colic surgery horses should be monitored closely throughout all stages of recovery for signs of unusual behavior. Decreased water intake, abnormal manure output, fever, pain, or discomfort are all signals that a veterinarian should be consulted immediately.

Long-Term Care

In most cases of colic surgery, patients that properly progress in the first two weeks after the procedure will go on to make a full recovery and successfully return to their previous level of training and competition.

Depending on the specifics of the colic, however, some considerations need to be made for long-term care. For example, if the horse had sand colic, the owner would be counseled to avoid sand and offer the horse a selenium supplement to prevent a possible relapse. In large intestinal colic cases, dietary restrictions may be recommended as a prophylactic measure. Also, horses that crib can be predisposed to epiploic foramen entrapment, which is when the bowel becomes stuck in a defect in the abdomen. This could result in another colic incident, so cribbing prevention is key.

Generally, a horse that has fully recovered from colic surgery is no less healthy than it was before the colic episode. While no one wants their horse to go through colic surgery, owners and caretakers should understand the recovery process to help ensure the horse successfully returns to health.

NOTE: These guidelines are only suggestions, and you should always follow the specific instructions from your veterinarian.  

Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

What to Get the Horse Mom in Your Life This Mother’s Day

Horse moms are still moms, right? While you’re out searching for the perfect Mother’s Day gift for all the mothers in your life, here is a list of things that horse moms everywhere would love to receive this Mother’s Day.

1. Photography session.

Contact a local photographer and schedule a photo session, whether it be horse and rider or just the horse on a black or white background. Professional photos are something a horse mom treasures forever, and photographers can be quite brilliant when it comes to capturing the unique bond between a horse and its person.

2. Subscription box.

These have taken the world by storm, and the equestrian world has caught the bug lately. Give the gift that keeps on giving by having a subscription box sent every quarter with fun surprises in it each time. These often include items you can’t find in stores, so she’ll be getting something unique in the mail for herself or her horse.

3. Graphic tee.

Lots of up-and-coming brands in the equestrian world are making fun tee shirts with horse lingo and creative designs. Find one that you think will really speak to your favorite horse mom and that best matches her style. Some brands also offer other items, like socks, stickers, and mugs that can complement a tee.

4. Custom artwork.

This one takes some planning ahead, but there is something so special about receiving a piece custom art depicting the animal you love most in the world. Contact an artist to have an equine portrait made. Different artistic media are usually different price points, depending on how much you want to invest. You can let the horse mom in your life choose the photo she likes best to have turned into a portrait, or you can surprise her by choosing yourself and gifting the finished product.

5. Engraved jewelry.

Many tack websites will make custom leather bracelets with a horse’s name on it, or you can go the Etsy route and have a piece of fine jewelry custom made with a horse’s name or initial engraved on it. Either way, this is a great way to gift something special that holds more meaning than just another piece of pretty jewelry.

6. Horse treats.

Because every horse mom needs horse treats. How else are we supposed to spoil our horses? You can find horse treats in all shapes and flavors, and they’re the perfect way for horse moms to reward horses for a great day of riding or just a fun surprise. There’s nothing quite like the way a horse looks at you when it knows you have a treat.

7. New tack or apparel.

There is probably something the horse mom in your life needs or wants around the barn. Pay attention to whether she complains about any tack that breaks or is on its last leg. Or go on a whim and buy her something new and trendy she may not otherwise try. Just remember to save receipts in case it isn’t the right size or her style.

8. Horse show photo.

If the horse mom in your life competes, visit official photographers’ websites to find competition photos from the year. Choose a favorite to have enlarged and framed for her home. This will serve as a fun reminder of a great competition or a great memory with her horse and will be a conversation piece to hang in her house, as well as something to be proud of when guests come over.

You can’t go wrong with any of these gifts, but if you came up with something not listed, let us know in the comments. We would love to hear about special gifts horse moms received this year, and you might encourage someone reading this to follow suit.


Have questions about utilizing BarnManager or want to give it a try for yourself? Request a live demo here!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!