Shedding light on deadly colic

01 Sep 2016 17:10:42.277

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New research by The University of Nottingham has found that more than 90% of horse owners did not feel confident in spotting early signs of colic.

Now, The British Horse Society (BHS) and The University of Nottingham have teamed up to help horse owners combat the life-threatening condition at today’s (1 September) launch of the REACT Now to Beat Colic campaign.

The evidence based research, revealed today at the BHS’s 2016 welfare conference, also found that colic accounts for one in three emergency veterinary call outs. At least one in ten of these cases may be critical, and up to 80% of these critical cases result in death or the horse being euthanised.

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In a bid to prevent colic reaching critical stages, the two institutions aim to educate horse owners about the wide range of issues relating to colic, in particular identifying the more subtle, early signs of colic. A comprehensive library of new resources has been produced to support horse owners in being prepared should colic occur.


The charity has also created a simple acronym, REACT, to help horse owners spot any early signs of colic:

  • R – Restless or agitated
  • E – Eating less or dropping reduced
  • A – Abdominal pain
  • C – Clinical changes
  • T – Tired or lethargic

Professor Sarah Freeman, from The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “For the past five years we have been conducting systematic reviews of the evidence on risk factors for colic as well as different diagnostic tests. We have also generated new evidence on what happens when vets first see horses with colic and have run surveys, workshops and consensus voting to ask vets and horse owners about their experiences and opinions of colic. We have identified where more research is needed and generated important new information to inform this campaign.”

Emmeline Hannelly, BHS Welfare Education Officer, said: “We know how daunting colic can be for horse owners, and a lot of people don’t know how to spot its early signs. That’s why we have created helpful, clear guidance on all aspects of colic with The University of Nottingham. The guides will support horse owners in dealing with colic; from its prevention to the worst case scenario of emergency decision making.”

Further information and downloadable materials can be downloaded from the BHS website:


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Sarah Freeman in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 6422,

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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