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Colic or Flies? Why is my horse rolling so much today?

Whenever you change the environment around your horse(s), it's important to keep close observation of their behaviors. On Sunday, I trailered Roy and Wyatt on a 5 hour trip from MN to ND. They left an overgrazed and dry pasture where they were limited to a couple hours a day. The horses arrived around 5:30 and were allowed to graze a newly fenced in area that has been growing grass and weeds all summer. They were brought into a dry lot around 9pm.

In my teacher voice: "Who can tell me what changed in the horses environment?"

"And what might you observe or need to watch for in their behavior?"

It is pretty clear that the abundance of vegetation is different in the new pasture, but we also need to take into consideration different types of grass and weeds that the horses may not be accustomed to eating. They also got more time on the pasture than the recent MN schedule, however, they had adjusted to full days on grass earlier in the summer when there was better growth.

Not only do we need to pay attention for colic symptoms, but the stress of moving may also cause ulcers in some horses.

Roy and Wyatt in their fly gear

Roy and Wyatt in their fly masks, fly boots and fly sheet.

The next morning, Roy and Wyatt were turned back out to pasture. Towards the early afternoon, the sun came out and it started getting hot. I noticed Wyatt rolling. Then I saw him rolling a second, and then a 3rd time. The horses were stomping and biting at flies quite a bit, so I could have just assumed that was the only problem. However, after all the changes that were made, I needed to make sure. I got all their fly gear out and they were happy to come up to the dry lot and let me put everything on. Normally, I would not put a fly sheet on in this heat, but I needed to see if it would make a difference. With the horses out of the tall grass and decked out in fly gear, Wyatt was not so bothered. What a relief!

Colic Symptoms

If you are not experienced in treating colic, call your vet right away if your horse shows these symptoms.

*rolling or laying out of their normal activity

*looking, kicking or biting at their belly, side or flank

*not eating or drinking

*not passing manure

*lack of gut sounds

For more information on colic, visit


Stomach ulcers can also be a problem and are often diagnosed after changes in behavior, such as being "cinchy" or bucking under saddle. The horse may also frequently look at it's side, and be sensitive to the girth area.

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