The Gallop Report

The Pressure’s On

August 18, 2009

Barometric pressure changes make both me and my horse uptight.

Holly Clanahan

Holly Clanahan

As I type, the TV weatherman is talking about how it’s “raining buckets” outside. This is where forecasters have a 100 percent success rate: They can correctly look outside the window and tell me what’s happening. What isn’t quite so obvious, but what my senses tell me and Weather Underground confirms, is that the barometric pressure is on the rise. So is my guard.

“Junior” has historically been sensitive to barometric changes. Not every one, of course. I suppose if I kept better data, I’d know: If there’s a X percent change, be on the lookout for a gas colic. But when my horse is in the throes of a painful gas colic, I’m no longer worried about the weather. I just know there’s a correlation. And Junior, bless his heart, isn’t exactly stoic. When his stomach is gassy and crampy, he’s miserable and wants everyone to know it.

(News flash: Chad just came in from checking on the ponies; they’re all fine.)

So far as I know, there aren’t any studies showing that pressure changes cause colic. It’s one of those anecdotal things. Dr. Jennifer Schleining fielded a question about weather-related colics on the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ “Ask the Vet” online feature. Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m sure any equine veterinarian will tell you that when the weather does weird things, horses colic. I’ve practiced in three distinctly different geographical areas of the United States, and it doesn’t seem to matter where I’ve been, storms and weather changes result in more emergencies.

“It’s anyone’s best guess as to how a drastic change in barometric pressure causes horses to develop signs of colic. And since colic is not preventable, the best we can do is keep our management practices consistently up to snuff, make sure our horses have access to clean, fresh water and quality hay or pasture and have a veterinarian’s phone number handy for those times when, despite our best efforts, our horses colic.”

Water tank: recently cleaned. Check.

Pasture: still amazingly lush, thanks to similar rain showers lately. Check.

Vet’s phone numbers: posted in the barn and in my cell phone’s address book. Check.

Other precautions: routine dewormings, periodic doses of Farnam SandClear. Check.

And, because I do know that colic is neither preventable nor predictable, my paranoia … er, conscientious observations … will be on high alert for the next day. Check that.

Happy riding!
Holly Clanahan
Editor, America’s Horse magazine

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