Colic is a relatively common disorder of the equine digestive system. The term colic is used to describe a symptom of abdominal pain, which in horses is usually caused by problems in the gastrointestinal tract.

There are a wide variety of intestinal problems that can cause colic symptoms, including impactions or blockages, gas build up, and displacement or twisting of the intestine. The majority of colic cases will resolve with medical treatment but around 10-20% will require surgical correction.

Early diagnosis and treatment of more serious cases of colic is one of the most important factors in giving horses the best chance of recovery.


Horses will typically display some or all of the following:

In mild cases:

  • Lip curling
  • Watching their flank
  • Kicking up at their abdomen
  • Restlessness
  • Pawing the ground

In moderate cases:

  • Posing to urinate frequently
  • Lying down and getting back up
  • Lying on their side for long periods

In severe cases:

  • Violent/panicked rolling 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Injuries to body and face from rolling and thrashing around

Colic is a potentially life-threatening illness and if a horse displays moderate or severe symptoms they will need urgent veterinary attention.

For more detailed information about Colic, go to our Vet REACT Colic Champions page.

If you think your horse is showing signs of colic please contact your veterinary surgeon.