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We’ve gotten two horses in here in a row suffering from a very basic failure in equine maintenance: They are full of sand. As a result, they had/have diarrhea and are skinny and look hideous, and it’s kind of a miracle they haven’t colicked and died yet.

This is NOT normal. Horses do not just have diarrhea for no reason.

This is NOT normal. Horses do not just have diarrhea for no reason.

If you’re in a climate with sandy soil, there are two ways it will go:

1) You will treat for sand, or
2) Your horses will have a gut full of sand that causes a variety of health problems, and can cause death.

Part of the reason we see so many problems with polo ponies is that there’s this tendency to just put them “out to pasture” for months at a time. Out to pasture usually means out to pasture in Indio, a.k.a. the desert. It’s called the desert for a reason – it’s full of sand. Yes, underneath those lovely irrigated grass pastures, is a whole lot of sand and if you throw a herd of horses out on a field there for 3 or 4 months and the field gets grazed down, they will start desperately trying to eat every bit of vegetation left. Since horses are not the pickiest eaters, this means they will ingest plenty of dirt and sand along with the grass. That sand won’t just come out the other end. It has a tendency to settle in their intestines and clog up the works. Imagine dumping a scoop of sand down your sink’s drain.

There’s also a tendency to house horses in pipe corrals that do not have any bedding or mats in them. They may have feeders, but we have all seen horses pull the hay out of the feeders and throw it on the ground to eat. This is because horses prefer to eat off the ground, so that they can naturally shake the dust and dirt off the hay as they eat it instead of getting all of that up their noses. Despite all the various feeders and nets devised to keep hay off the ground, most horses are experts at putting it there and then eating from that location.

The end result is that many horses collect incredible amounts of sand in their intestines and colic, and this is a common cause of death.

Horse intestine full of sand

Losing a horse to sand colic is the financial equivalent of blowing the engine on your luxury car because you never got the oil changed. It is dumb. It is avoidable. There is a cheap, easy, reliable way to clear out sand called psyllium.  You don’t need a prescription for it.  You can even get it at Costco if your horses don’t mind orange flavor.

Much, much, much cheaper than a vet call or losing a horse!

One week out of the month, you feed your horses a half cup of psyllium once a day. You mix it with something tasty like senior feed and soak it and mix it together. This solves the problem 99% of the time.

If you are going to participate in a sport that involves live animals, it is your responsibility to understand and provide appropriate care to keep them healthy. Do not assume your pro knows best and will tell you what your horses need. Some people with high polo ratings would be a -1 if rated on horse care, whereas some -1’s are absolutely knowledgeable and meticulous. Talk to the vet yourself. Learn what good health looks like – what a wormy horse looks like, what a horse full of sand looks and acts like. Don’t blow the transmission because you never check your fluids — you’re smarter than that with your car, so be just as smart with your horses!

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